At the Center for BioMicrosystems in the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Staphany Park spent the summer of 2013 using MATLAB to analyze neural signals recorded by planar microelectromechanical (MEMS) probes. When processing neural signals, noise is first separated from the viable signals (spikes), which are then clustered by their neuron of origin. This cluster data, in conjunction with the geometric specifications of the probe used, permits an estimation of the relative locations of the cells and probe in order to generate a 3-dimensional map of the cells “seen” by the probe.
The variety of probe structures, however, is a limitation to many sorting and localization algorithms, which may be tailored for use by a single type of probe. Staphany’s objective was to create analogous signal processing algorithms that could be applied to the MEMS probes. She called it “a perfect marriage of software engineering and biology.The type of work I did this summer turned out to be an incredible fit with my personal and academic interests.”
Cultural adaptation & self-empowerment
Staphany’s interests meshed well with the projects of the lab, but a successful internship also hinged on her ability to adapt to a very different work culture. “The balance of tenacity and versatility that I developed over the course of my MIT undergraduate career were truly put to good use as I initially struggled to adjust to my new environment. Ultimately, the success of my MIT training in tiding me over the first few difficult weeks gave me a sense of self-confidence that I could never quite achieve while at MIT.”
By the end of what she called “the most liberating and self-empowering summer of my life,” Staphany had succeeded in immersing herself in—and thriving in—a culture that prioritizes strong personal relationships at work. “The bonding experiences I had with my lab mates, which I have never had with my lab mates in the U.S., have taught me to be more social and outgoing in my daily life."