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Careers in BCI technology (Brain-Computer Interfaces)

  1. Aug 19, 2013 #1
    I just withdrew from my civil engineering program at my school and am using this time off to select a career path more suited to my personal interests.

    I have finished 1 year of university civil engineering, I am twenty (20) years old.

    Here's what I know:

    Differential and Integrable Calculus of the single Variable
    Linear Algebra (Matrix Manipulation and Vector Spaces)
    Physics (Classical Mechanics - 1st year University Level, Force, Momentum, Energy, Kinematics)
    Chemistry (Atomic, Molecular, Stoichiometry, Electrochemistry, Solutions, Gases, Redox, Organic)
    Biology (Biochemistry, Mendel Genetic Theory, Cellular Anatomy, Macroscopic Anatomy, Basic Neurochemistry)

    What I do not know much of:

    Multivariable Calculus
    Abstract Algebra
    Set Theory
    Graph Theory
    Differential Equations
    Quantum Mechanics
    Relativity (Don't see how it applies but whatever lol)
    Electrical Engineering (Circuits, Electromagnetism, etc.)
    Computer Science (I am very ignorant in this subject)
    Software Engineering and Programming (I know MATlab and HTML code lol)
    Fluid Mechanics
    Complex & Real Analysis
    Chaos Theory
    Advanced Neurology
    Quantum Electrodynamics (whew thats a mouthful)

    100s of other subjects that I will not post here to conserve space

    I am very interested in bioelectronics, particularly involving the central nervous system. I love stuff like this


    ^ Mind controlled bionic limb.

    I would love to study how to create human telepathy systems via bioelectronics (sounds like science fiction, but I am willing to invest my life's work into developing a communication system such as this.

    Thanks for reading!

    - Ryan
    University of Waterloo Engineering
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2013 #2
    My main question is: what areas of scientific/mathematical knowledge should I invest my time into most?
  4. Aug 21, 2013 #3


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    Education Advisor

    Hi Ryan. From your signature below I notice that you are a student at the University of Waterloo who just finished one year of civil engineering. If your interests is in the areas you described (which sounds like an interface between electrical engineering and biomedical engineering), my suggestion would be for you to transfer into the Systems Design Engineering program.


    (for those not familiar, Systems Design Engineering is a unique interdisciplinary engineering program offered at the University of Waterloo which emphasizes principles of design and systems theory -- somewhat similar to the engineering science/physics programs offered elsewhere, although there isn't necessarily a focus on physics).

    From what I understand, in that program you have options in pursuing courses and projects in human systems engineering which cover at least some of your interests. Furthermore, you will have a broad-based education which should allow you flexibility in case your interests change again.

    [Disclaimer: Even though I'm not Waterloo alumni, several of my friends were graduates of this program and they have all done very well in a variety of careers.]
  5. Aug 21, 2013 #4


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    Science Advisor

    That looks great! I think it's a different approach from a BCI, since the interface is peripheral. I'd try to contact the researchers for advice. They may respond to a courteous and to-the-point email. Some of the work seems to be associated with UNB .

    For basic neurobiology Thomas Weiss's biophysics text is an excellent introduction. Signal processing and control theory (eg. Kalman filtering and its descendents) are also probably important. Oppenheim and Willsky for signals and systems is a bit hard to read, but it's a standard text. Dan Simon has a quite friendly book on Kalman filtering. From the basic science point of view it doesn't hurt to know electromagnetism at the level of Dugdale or Haus and Melcher.

    I'm not sure whether the researchers of the present technology would consider these related, but you may wish to look at older interfaces which have been clinically successful such as the bladder prostheses. I believe Medtronics and Finetech make such devices.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  6. Aug 21, 2013 #5


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    Science Advisor

    I do research in neural imaging and integrated readout for electrophysiology. As you can imagine these are BIG areas and there is room for a lot of contribution from a lot of different areas. Besides neuroscience, there is a lot of work for EEs both on the signal processing side (atyy is quite right that Kalman filtering is widely used) and on the hardware side (where I work).

    If you aren't interested in that, there is a TON of work too for nanotechnology (basically an offshoot hybrid of condensed matter physics and physical chemistry), mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, and robotics.

    Lastly, probably the biggest contributions are on the software side. These systems work with a lot of data that needs to be analyzed quickly. We do a lot of collaboration with research groups that work on algorithms for things such as fast approximate solutions to systems of differential equations, stuff like that.

    My point is there are a LOT of areas where you can get involved and contribute. Probably the easiest way to get into it is through Engineering. This stuff isn't big commercially yet, so most of the work is done at Universities or big research centers like HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute).
  7. Aug 22, 2013 #6
    Thanks for the input guys, I have much to learn and want to spend my 20s learning as much as I can about the human body/mind, electromagnetism, software, computer science, mathematics, and social sciences. Total of about 3400 days until I turn age 30. I must use these days as productively as possible.

    My plan is that by age 30 my ideas about this BCI stuff (which run through my head nonstop) will transition from the imaginary world to the world we live in today, clearing the fog of ignorance and showing our species the true path to enlightenment.

    I invite you all to share this journey with me, for this is not only for the betterment of myself, but the betterment of the human race.
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