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Canterbury PhD student to study control engineering

Canterbury PhD student to study control engineering to help people

June 16, 2014

A University of Canterbury mechanical engineering PhD student is heading to Princeton University to study dynamic modelling and control engineering in a bid to improve people’s health and quality of life.

New Zealand faces challenges with fewer resources than many other countries and Rebecca Gray says the role of any engineer is to solve problems using the skills and technology available.

“We don't know what challenges New Zealand will face in the future. Our research at Canterbury is helping people with some of New Zealand's current major medical issues such as diabetes,” Gray says.

“What really drives me is wanting to learn more about the world I live in and the more we know about the problem, the more equipped we are to face it. Dynamic modelling and control engineering is a branch of engineering that allows us to study problems in areas outside of traditional engineering as we are limited only by what we can or can't model mathematically.

“I'm really interested to learn the fundamentals of controls and dynamics and how to apply what I learn to a variety of situations to help people which is why I chose Princeton, as they have a reputation for being more theory-based.

“My research at Canterbury looked at improving the way we fit our mathematical model to real life situations. My supervising lecturer Professor Geoff Chase has studied individual patients by using information collected from them and applying that to mathematical modelling. His project uses computer models of human physiology to improve diagnosis and therapy.

“At Princeton I want to use engineering to study and learn more and provide solutions to non-engineering problems. There are researchers in the US using control engineering and dynamic modelling to study things such as the human brain, flocking behaviour and communication in animals and human decision making.

“I have always found it amazing that there is still so much we don't know about our own bodies and how control engineering is helping us to learn more. I have always been really curious about the world around me and I would love to be a part of a community that is contributing to learning more about the world,” Gray says.


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