From Inspiration to Innovation: Raymond’s UROP Experience at ARMI

11 Jul,2024

From Inspiration to Innovation: Raymond’s UROP Experience at ARMI

As one of the few non-biologists who have participated in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) program at ARMI, Raymond Zhang brought a unique skillset to match his unique experience as a UROP student. Studying a double degree in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering and Science (majoring in Physics) at the time, Raymond was inspired by his sister and driven by a passion for computational research to dip his toe into the field of biomedical research.

Inspiration to Apply for UROP

Raymond’s decision to apply for the UROP program was profoundly influenced by his sister, who works in healthcare. “I remember on a Saturday morning she had accidentally slept in and was going to be late for work. After she hurriedly left the house, I remember wishing that I could do something for her so that she doesn’t need to work overtime as much or at least have time to properly eat a meal,” Raymond recalls. This moment of empathy and a desire to contribute to healthcare inspired him to seek out opportunities where he could make a meaningful impact.

Drawn to the Chow Group at ARMI

Raymond was particularly attracted to the Chow Group at ARMI for its computational focus, which did not require an extensive background in biology—a subject he had last studied in 2017. Meeting with group leader Renee, further solidified his interest. “She was able to articulate the project very clearly to me and sparked my curiosity in heart valve disease research,” he explains.

An endearing coincidence also played a role in his decision. Renee’s middle name bore a striking resemblance to the Chinese names of his two sisters, 慧 (Wei) and 欣 (Yan). Although he never confirmed if they were the same characters, this coincidence felt significant to him, adding a personal touch to his professional pursuit.

Enhancing the Phase Matching Algorithm

During his time with the Chow Group, Raymond worked on enhancing the Phase Matching algorithm used in a previous study by Renee. His key contribution was streamlining the MATLAB code to make it fully automated, reducing the likelihood of manual errors. Additionally, he developed a MATLAB GUI that could be downloaded as standalone software, designed to be user-friendly for other researchers. This innovation not only improved the efficiency of the algorithm but also expanded its accessibility.

First-Author Paper

Raymond’s hard work and dedication culminated in the publication of a first-author paper. “It was quite exciting. And given that I’m not sure if and when I’d return to academia, I cherish this opportunity given to me to publish this paper,” he shares. This accomplishment is a testament to his contributions to the field and the opportunities provided by the UROP program.

Beyond the Classroom

Participating in UROP added a new dimension to Raymond’s education. He highlights the development of scientific communication skills as a major benefit. “It exposed me to different mediums from writing a protocol, to giving a presentation, to documenting my code,” he notes. This experience made him more meticulous in explaining ideas to ensure they were accessible to a broad audience.

Additionally, Raymond expanded his MATLAB skills, learned to use its inbuilt app designer, and managed a repository through GitHub. These skills are invaluable in both academic and professional settings, showcasing the practical benefits of research programs like UROP.

An Open Door to Biomedical Engineering

Currently, Raymond is working on the Level Crossing Removal Project, a role quite different from his UROP experience. However, the recent merger of his organisation with the Victorian Health Building Authority presents potential opportunities to re-engage with the health sector. Reflecting on his UROP experience, Raymond acknowledges, “UROP has opened me up to the potential of going down the biomedical engineering pathway.”

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