Patrick Gabbidon and Raymond Tu

The abundance of innovative research that occurs all across campus is a distinguishable feature of the University of Florida. From finance to medicine, UF faculty members conduct research on a daily basis, with the help of undergraduate students. The Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program allows students like Patrick Gabbidon and Raymond Tu the opportunity to attend the University of Florida and conduct research with UF faculty mentors.

In collaboration with doctors and researchers associated with the UF Movement Disorders Clinic, Gabbidon and Tu worked on a project that looked at treatments for Parkinson’s disease (PD) and essential tremor. Current treatments for PD often involve the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS) systems. The initial goal of the research project was to come up with a more effective, portable version of electrode stimulation, one that allows the user to send electric waves himself, rather than an automated timed wave. Because most patients recall that they can sense the onset of a stroke or a loss of motor function in the hands, researchers seek a way to help them have control over electrode stimulation from a device.

The scholars were assigned the task of developing sensors that are able to pick up abnormalities, such as an increase in heart rate and perspiration, which would allow the device to inform the patient or discharge the electrode itself. Dr. Jack Judy, the Director of the Nanoscience Institute for Medical and Engineering Technologies shares, “If the gait of patients could be captured with body-worn inertial sensors and that information could be conveyed to the implanted DBS system, then the stimulation could be used only when needed.” These more efficient sensors would lead to an improvement in the outcomes of neuromodulation therapy. Dr. Judy also says, “the exploratory work done by Patrick and Raymond was a first step in this direction.

Gabbidon and Tu attribute part of their success to the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. The removal of stress that comes with financial burdens allows the scholars the same opportunities other UF students encounter. Both scholars are eternally grateful for the support the MFOS program has given them as first-generation college students at the University of Florida.

“If it wasn't for the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship, I probably would not have time to focus on my studies. My parents worked day and night to save up for my college education, and when we received word that I was eligible for the scholarship, you would not believe how happy my parents were. It took away so much stress from them. I am very humble and thankful for MFOS in granting me this scholarship and allowing me to experience this opportunity.” –Raymond Tu

“The opportunity to work on such a fascinating project was pretty extraordinary. None of which would have been possible without MFOS. The Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship is more than just someone holding out their hand to help you get on your feet; it is a strategic support system to help us achieve our dreams. MFOS to me is the first engineer in my family. MFOS gave me the time I needed to focus on my studies, craft my resume, and pursue my professional and academic future. MFOS alleviated me of the stress and burden of financial problems I faced as I entered college and allowed me to have so many great opportunities at the University of Florida. I am so very grateful to be a part of such an amazing program.”  –Patrick Gabbidon