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Daniel Leong

Biomedical engineer

Biomedical engineering PhD student Daniel Leong has always dreamed of controlling devices with his mind

Futuristic movies and games inspired Daniel to study biomedical engineering and delve deeper into how to make his dream a reality.

After graduating from high school and studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Daniel moved to Sydney to do a master’s degree at the UTS Computational Intelligence and Brain Computer Interface Lab.

For his master’s project, he worked on decoding the signals that people’s brains produce when thinking about navigation. For example, whether to go left or right.

This led into his PhD project, which uses a brain-computer interface to control Defence robots such as drones and small land vehicles.

Daniel says the system isn’t ‘magic’, but responds to a specific stimulus in the brain. The user wears a virtual reality headset and thinks about where they want the robot to go. The brain machine interface decodes the brain signal and transmits it wirelessly to the robot.

“It’s been developed for Defence use, but could also help people with disabilities,” Daniel says.

Not just the brain

Daniel specialises in brain signal processing, but biomedical engineers also tap into the signals in other parts of the body.

“Biosignal processing is not just about brain signals, but muscle signals and heart signals,” he says.

For brain signal processing, Daniel says coding skills are a must, and it’s a good idea to keep up with the latest developments in AI and machine learning. If you’re more interested in understanding how the brain works, neuroscience may be your perfect fit.

And there are plenty of opportunities to make your mark in overcoming the challenges of decoding brain signals to make mind-controlled devices accessible to everyone.

“We are still pretty far off – this is ongoing research,” Daniel says. 

Daniel’s STEM study and career path

  • Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne
  • Master of Science (Biomedical Engineering), UTS
  • PhD, UTS

This article first appeared in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2023.

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