Nicole Dusang Ph.D. '21, an electrical engineering concentrator who spent 11 years in the Air Force which included four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, has been named one of 60 Tillman Scholars for 2019. Tillman Scholars are united by their military service, academic passions, and desire to make an impact, creating a growing network of leaders who are dedicated to service beyond self.
Dusang commissioned in the Air Force following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. She was motivated to serve by a desire to defend values that she holds dear – liberty, diversity and equality – as well as to be part of something greater than herself. An electrical engineer by training, her initial specialty was as a Developmental Engineer, but she had the distinct opportunity to serve as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer during her last seven years in the Air Force.
Her experiences during her service taught her the meaning of character, grit and sacrifice. During Dusang's service, she witnessed fellow service members suffer a variety of combat-related injuries to include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. This has shaped her aspirations to engineer better technologies that address the therapeutic and assistive gaps available to veterans with neurological disease or injuries.
"When I completed my military service, I wanted to do something to improve the current technologies used for diagnostics and rehabilitation of these afflictions," she said.
As a research assistant with Brown's BrainGate lab, her current focus is to develop a brain-computer interface (BCI) for the rehabilitation of upper limb movement in stroke patients. In addition to her research, she is passionate about increasing diversity in STEM fields. Dusang has served as a mentor in the New York Academy of Sciences' 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program, and currently serves as a coordinator of Brown University's Graduate Women in Science and Engineering student organization. Upon completion of her Ph.D. from Brown, she intends to continue to pursue the research and development of assistive and rehabilitative BCIs.
"I'm obsessed with how we can interface with the brain and use different types of engineering therapies to help alleviate some of these issues. Brown is one of the premier institutions for BCI research," she said.
Dusang earned her BSEE and MSEE from Texas Tech University prior to joining the U.S. Air Force. The Pat Tillman Foundation supports the Tillman Scholars with academic scholarships, a national network, and professional development opportunities, so they are empowered to make an impact in the world.