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Angelica Ruszkowski, a MASc student working with Dr. Tim Salcudean, recieved the Microsoft Graduate Women’s Scholarship to support her research in ECE’s Robotics and Control lab.
The focus of Angelica’s research will be on augmenting the sensory perception of a surgeon performing telesurgery with robotic surgical systems. Robotic surgery enhances a surgeon’s performance by improving patient outcomes, reducing complications and relapses, and by decreasing the cost of surgery through reduced operation times. Incorporating the sense of touch or enhanced visual perception will provide information useful for surgical guidance, allowing the surgeon to complete an operation more knowledgably, with greater efficiency, and with fewer complications. Angelica's goal is to make surgical tools more effective to offer greater benefit to patients.
Angelica’s research uses the da Vinci robot – a surgical system that allows complex operations to be performed without open surgery on the patient. Laparoscopic surgery only requires a few small incisions to be made so that surgical tools can be inserted into the body. In such a setup, the patient suffers significantly less trauma and has a faster recovery time. The da Vinci Surgical System differs from previous laparoscopic setups, as the robotic arms/tools correspond to the surgeon’s commands exactly and filters out hand tremors, smoothing out the tool tip trajectory.
However, the da Vinci Surgical System was not designed to incorporate the surgeon’s sense of touch. Haptic feedback, uses measurements of force to mechanically simulate the sense of touch. Force measurements are critical because in order to provide haptic sensation, one must first determine the magnitude and locations of where these sensations should occur. Adding external force sensors adds complexity and drives up the cost of the robotic system. At other institutions, research has been done using "sensory substitution" - i.e. using visual or auditory cues to relay the force information to the surgeon. However concerns of sensory overload have been raised making this an active area of study into how best to improve robotic surgical systems.
This scholarship was created by Microsoft to encourage women in their program. It is a one-year scholarship program for outstanding women in their second year of their graduate studies. Angelica is the only recipient from a Canadian university to have received the scholarship this year. Along with being an outstanding student, she is also active in the community – volunteering for the ECE Graduate Student Association as an ice skating instructor.