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Sam Mansfield: Graduate Student

Computer Science and Engineering
Degree Program: 
Ph.D., Computer Science and Engineering
Berkeley, California
Undergraduate Institution: 
UC Berkeley
Katia Obraczka
Sam Mansfield

Sam Mansfield is a graduate student in computer science, and recently received a scholarship from the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation for his research into ways to improve healthcare with objective health measurements. His current project aims to prevent pressure injuries through a Connected Health platform that automatically analyzes the pressure and mobility of a patient in bed.

What drew you to computer science? 

So what drew me to computer science is a little bit of a story, but I started out in university when I was 18 as a music major. I was studying classical violin, but I didn’t really want to be a performer. The only other thing I could think of was being a music teacher, but that didn’t really inspire me very much. So I thought about it a lot and I did that for two years, but then I decided one of the questions I had always wanted to know was how does a television work, or how does a computer work? That got me into electrical engineering… and that ended up being a lot of particle physics, getting down to the really low level and a lot of math equations, but I realized I was really more interested in the digital aspect, and that digital aspect brought me to computer science. 

Tell us about your current research.

My research revolves around preventing pressure injuries, which are these horrible open wounds that develop for patients who can’t move in bed, like the elderly and disabled. A lot of research is about developing a specific new technology that will prevent pressure injuries, but I am kind of taking a more system approach for which you can use any technology and apply it. So if a new technology comes out, you can plug it into this system architecture I am developing to try it out to hopefully better prevent these injuries. I am basically abstracting the different essential components of a generalized system to monitor any kind of condition, but we are using pressure injuries as the case study. So essentially there is some medical device that is collecting some kind of sensor information and sending it, and then there is kind of a gateway that receives that information and sends it up to a server for processing, and then there is a server that should be doing the heavy lifting with a focus on objective health measurements, but also being able to display those objective health measurements for the clinician through visuals. 

When we were talking with more medical people, like the bioengineering researchers, their expertise is really on the medical side, so they talk about proteins and all these things… but then when it gets to the technological side they are not using the latest stuff that would be a better fit for what they are trying to achieve. So we really felt like there is this gap here we wanted to address and then hopefully have it as an open source project so that future researchers can contribute as well. It is really interesting. The problem was originally brought to us by UCSF, and we kind of went running with it. 

What has it been like applying your research to a health care setting?

The biggest thing I have found is that the language is different when I am presenting to more medical people versus engineering people. On the engineering side there is a really heavy focus on what is the new, special, novel thing you are doing technological-wise, and they don’t ask me many questions about the medical problem. Then on the medical side they understand the pressure injury concerns, but on the technology side they don’t ask a lot of questions. It is kind of nice because I have a balance, but the tricky part is having to change how I talk depending on my audience, and I am still learning how to do that. 

What are your hobbies?

My fiancé is a chef and she has this company, Hanloh Thai Food, that does popups and so I help her with that. I also train jiu jitsu in Santa Cruz at Sandro Batata BJJ, and I am a tea and espresso enthusiast. 

What do you hope to do when you graduate?

I kind of want to move more into the more biochemical space. I have developed a lot of skills on the computer science and engineering side, but I really feel that the new frontier is the human body and there are a lot of interesting things going on there so I really want to transition to that space a little bit, using the skills that I have. I would like to stay in research, but we will see.