Meet Paul Dominick Baniqued, Newton Fund grant awardee.
Research topic: Development of a multimodal immersive approach to hand rehabilitation by integrating soft robotics, brain-computer interfaces and virtual reality
Host institution / UK university: University of Leeds
Home institution: De La Salle University – Manila 
Degree programme: PhD Mechanical Engineering
February 2020

Describe your PhD research in simple terms.

The goal of my PhD research is to improve the accessibility and functionality of medical robots for neurorehabilitation (i.e., stroke and other brain injuries) by integrating soft robotics, brain-computer interface- and virtual reality in a modular and multimodal system.  

Because interventional therapy relies on both repetitive and intensive tasks, a patient’s active participation and emotional involvement play an integral part in the motor re-learning process. However, there is no single effective strategy in stroke and injury therapy. Clinicians implement different approaches to treatment on a case-to-case basis which contributes to its increasing societal and economic costs. By engineering these three immersive technological solutions, we can make therapy accessible to as many cases as possible.

What is the relevance of your study to the economic development, welfare and poverty issues in the Philippines?

The rehabilitation of brain injuries such as stroke is still a burden among Filipinos because of our limited access to healthcare services. The development of immersive technologies such as robotic devices and virtual reality can enhance the patient’s overall therapy experience by providing rich and engaging stimuli during exercises. This, in turn, would lead to increased effectiveness in therapy and eventually, reduced rehabilitation costs. In a wider scope, I also aim to develop a model for accessible and cost-effective medical device that Filipino researchers can use in the future.

How can your UK education contribute to your future career as a researcher?

The training and support that I am receiving from the University of Leeds allow me to be a forward-thinking and well-rounded researcher. Aside from access to top-notch facilities in the fields of robotics, medical engineering and cognitive neuroscience, I get to work within a team that has expertise from various disciplines. One of the many advantages of this is the culture of collaboration which helps provide different perspectives to solve the everyday problems that I face as a PhD researcher. Furthermore, this expansive network has allowed me to work beyond the four walls of our laboratory which proved to be very advantageous when there is a need to generate new ideas for my study.

How has the commitment of the UK in science and technology influenced your decision in choosing the Newton Fund?

The United Kingdom’s commitment to providing a world-leading standard for education and research has made it a prime destination for prospective international students. It has fostered many marvellous scientific discoveries and inventions and that has inspired me to strive for excellence in what I do. What is unique about the Newton Fund Programme is its commitment to back science and technology research with implementation and policy making. Not only does it help us solve real world problems, it also makes a significant impact on our respective communities.