Sandeep Reddivari, a professor of computing at the University of North Florida, usually assigns his undergraduate students a project for which they must write programming.
But UNF senior Jason Smith, a computing and information sciences major, already had a project in mind.
“He expressed the idea to me,” Reddivari said. “I just helped him to brainstorm the idea. He is the first undergraduate to propose his own project”
Smith’s idea was to create a virtual reality tool called VRvisu, which would allow someone to visualize large and complex sets of medical data by creating 3-D representations of MRI and CT scan images of brain tumors with the medical data attached. Someone wearing virtual reality goggles could not only view the images and the data but could manipulate them by hand.
“I found it novel and creative,”Reddivari said. “Nobody has done it before.”
Smith first had to write a program using data he obtained from the from National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research. That was a time-consuming task involving writing 10,000 lines of programming.
They then had to figure out how much the virtual reality equipment including goggles would cost. Having decided they needed $2,000, they submitted a request to the UNF Office of Undergraduate Research, which gave them the money.
Going forward, Smith’s project may prove useful to people doing research on brain tumors.
But the fact that the UNF computing program now has the virtual reality equipment should have ongoing ramifications for many other projects, Reddivari said.
Already Reddivari has talked with the people in UNF’s Brooks College of Health about a virtual reality project that would look at the question of what is the proper amount of anesthesia that should be used on people undergoing surgery.
He has talked with people in UNF’s Construction Management program, part of the College of Computing, Engineering & Construction, about what useful applications virtual reality might have for its students.
He is planning to assign five projects involving virtual reality to groups of four or five students when fall classes begin.
He’ll also incorporate information about the applications of virtual reality to health care during a course he’s teaching next semester on health-care informatics, a class aimed not at UNF students but at people working in health care. Among the potential medical applications of virtual reality, Reddivari said, are virtual robotic surgeries and other procedures as a training tool, relaxing patients with chronic illnesses and helping hospitalized children feel like they are home.
Smith, who will graduate in December, is not your typical undergraduate. After graduating from Ridgeview High School in Orange Park he joined the Air Force. His goal was to see the world. Instead, he said with a wistful smile, he spent four years at Moody Air Force Base outside Valdosta.
He now lives in Orange Park with his wife and two children and commutes to UNF, where he recently completed a 10-week internship with the Florida Data Science for Social Good program. Students worked with the Mayo Clinic, Changing Homelessness and Yoga 4 Change, tackling problems such as public health, homelessness and post-traumatic stress.
He’s planning to pursue a master’s degree in data science or computing at some point, he said.
“Data science is just really appealing to me,” he said.
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413