Grad Student Profile: Meet Mahshid Mansouri
Mahshid Mansouri is a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, and is now working in the Human Dynamics and Controls Lab with Professor Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler. During her undergraduate studies at Sharif University of Technology, Mahshid was drawn to the areas of biomechanics and controls and took several classes focused on spine biomechanics and automatic controls, in which she learned of force estimation in musculoskeletal systems and participated in a project in the field of controls which could have biomedical applications.
Fascinated by the area of controls, Mahshid pursued other projects in the field, and worked on an undergraduate thesis project titled, “Design and Fabrication of a Magnetic Setup for the Control of the Motion of a Swimming Fish-Like Robot in the Water.” The project utilized a magnetic setup, called a Helmholtz setup, consisting of two perpendicular pairs of magnetic coils in x and y directions with a 3D printed fish-like robot made of PLA in a dish of water in the center of the space between the coils. The robot consisted of a body and a hinged fin with a magnetic cylinder placed in the hinge. The electromagnetic torque generated by changing the current amplitude and frequency in the coils acting upon the magnetic cylinder in the hinge of the robot caused the tail to move and propel the robot forward. Mahshid’s group was ultimately able to control the motion of the robot with a level of precision that allowed them to make the robot swim in an M pattern. Their work could have biomedical applications such as drug delivery and non-invasive surgeries at the micro-scale.
In Hsiao-Wecksler’s lab, she is working on a project titled, “Autonomous Morphing Bed Mattress for ALS Patients with Limited Movement Ability project.” ALS, (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), is a disease that causes the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in the brain and the spinal cord. When the motor neurons die, the brain can no longer control muscle movement, which results in muscle weakness, disability, and eventually death of the patient.
Patients with limited mobility conditions, including ALS, cannot adjust their body position to relieve pressure concentrations, which can lead to pressure ulcers or bed sores. Care of these patients is estimated to cost between $9B and $11B annually in the U.S., and the physical demands involved in their care are leading causes of musculoskeletal injuries in caregivers.
Mahshid and Hsiao-Wecksler’s team are working to develop an innovative bed mattress that can autonomously and continuously identify pressure concentrations to reduce pressure on the body, reposition patients, and move the patient to the edge of the bed without the assistance of a caregiver. The goal is to create a mattress consisting of soft air cells that will be able to autonomously change the surface of the mattress to pressurize and depressurize specific areas as needed to prevent bed sores and also roll the patient over from one side to the other side without the assistance of a caregiver. This has the potential to provide comfort and improvement in the quality of healthcare for immobile patients, as well as an increase in quality of life for the caretakers.
Mahshid was one of only four recipients of the Roy J. Carver Fellowship awarded by The Grainger College of Engineering for the 2019-2020 academic year. “It’s absolutely an honor for me to be the recipient of this fellowship as an Iranian and as a woman.” In her spare time, she likes to cook, swim, dance, and hang out with her friends.