Engineering science master's student Jordan Lui, who is on a research placement in Rome, Italy, met German astronaut Thomas Reiter at a European Space Agency event.

Internship in Italy combines passions for engineering science student

April 04, 2017

Engineering science master’s student Jordan Lui got more than he bargained for when he embarked on a research placement with the Università degli studi Roma Tre (Roma Tre University) in Rome, Italy.

Not only is he working on novel electronics research with top Italian researchers, he has also rubbed shoulders with famed European astronauts at the European Space Agency in Germany.

“Things that previously seemed completely unobtainable are now reality,” says Lui, a self-confessed space buff who specializes in biomedical engineering at SFU.

Lui joined the research team in Rome in January this year, after organizing the placement with his SFU supervisor, professor Carlo Menon, and a visiting PhD student from Rome.

Since then, he has been exploring how ordinary light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs can be used as a tool for disability rehabilitation.

The eight-month internship builds on his research in professor Menon’s lab, where he is designing a wearable device to track arm movements, which helps stroke patients monitor their rehabilitation progress from home.

At Roma Tre University, where Lui will conduct his research until August, he is taking this one step further by employing a new breakthrough in communication technology known as light fidelity, or Li-Fi.

The system uses LED bulbs as an information signal, much like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, to transmit motion-capture data to a receiving device.

“In addition to the wearable wrist device that senses the movement of a person’s arms during exercise, this Li-Fi technology could increase the system’s capabilities, enabling broader exercise tracking and even location tracking of the user in a room,” says Lui.

Applications could include rehabilitation in the clinic and at home, as well as motion tracking for athletes in training.

The internship has given Lui the opportunity to broaden his horizons in the research lab, in Europe—and beyond.

Lui hopes his international research exchange will set the stage for future collaboration between the SFU and Roma Tre University .

Last month, he was invited to a satellite launch event at the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany, where he met Europe’s most experienced astronaut Thomas Reiter, who has clocked up more than 350 days in space.

“It was very surreal,” says Lui. “You’re in the mission control room, surrounded by the scientists who built the rocket, but everything is so normal – you’re all sitting around, munching on pretzels, waiting for the satellite to launch.”

The experience fulfilled a lifelong ambition for Lui, vice president of SFU’s Satellite Club. He has dreamed of exploring space since childhood. In fact, he has already thought about how to marry his passion for space and electronics in his future career.

“The common ground is optical imaging, specifically the software and electronics components,” says Lui. “At the moment, I’m doing it for biomed for rehabilitation sensing, but I’m learning about infrared, which could also apply to satellites and the space industry, along with image processing and machine learning technology.”

Lui plans to continue working with his colleagues from Roma Tre University when he returns to SFU in August, and hopes his exchange will set the stage for future collaboration between the two universities.

“The world keeps expanding as you look outwards,” says Lui. “My advice to anyone who wants to study and see the world is to do both at once. Meet new people, see a new place, learn a new language, and hopefully, expand your career horizons.”