Jeremy D. Brown, John C. Malone Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been named a scholar to the Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Engineering Research Career Development Program (IREK12), funded through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant. He also received an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance dexterity in telerobotic systems.

The mission of the IREK12 program is to recruit and train scholars with engineering and other quantitative backgrounds to become successful rehabilitation scientists in basic, translational and/or clinical research.

Brown’s research uses methods from human perception, motor control, neurophysiology, and biomechanics to study the human perception of touch, especially as it relates to applications of human-robot interaction and collaboration. His lab, the Haptics and Medical Robotics (HAMR) Laboratory, currently focuses on various projects ranging from haptic feedback in upper-limb prostheses to surgical skill assessment and skill augmentation in robotic minimally invasive surgery. The lab also has a keen interest in understanding the utility of haptic perception in dexterous manipulation, and consequently, in understanding sensory impairment and recovery following neurological injury or disease.

As an IREK12 scholar, Brown will receive a financial award that includes one year of salary support and funding to build his research program in rehabilitation science.  Additionally, he will meet regularly with his clinical mentor, neurologist John Krakauer (JHMI), and engineering mentor Marcie O’Malley (Rice University), and participate in other career development opportunities.

“The funding provided by the award will support my research efforts to investigate sensory impairment and sensory recovery following stroke. Being selected for the IREK12 program will help accelerate my work in the medical rehabilitation sciences through highly structured clinical and engineering mentorship,” added Brown.

In addition to the IREK12 grant, the NSF recently awarded Brown a three-year grant for a related research project titled “Understanding Environment Perception and Task Performance in Human-in-the-Loop Tele-robotic Systems (HiLTS).”

Minimally invasive surgical robots, bomb disposal robots, and prosthetic limbs are just a few examples of human-in-the-loop telerobotic systems (HiLTS) designed to extend the dexterous capabilities of their human operators. Enabling dexterity, however, requires that these telerobotic systems provide human operators with high-fidelity haptic feedback of the robot’s environmental interactions. Unfortunately, high-fidelity haptic feedback causes control instabilities in these telerobotic systems that ultimately degrade their performance and safety.

Brown’s project seeks to understand how the trade-off between control stability and haptic feedback fidelity affect the user’s physical understanding of a remote environment, as well as their ability to perform dexterous tasks in that environment.

“Overall, this research will lead to telerobots that come closer to supporting human-like dexterity, and will lead to improved human-robot collaborative capabilities in HiLTS that will have benefits for many industries including healthcare, defense, and manufacturing,” said Brown.

Brown is a member of the Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare and the Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics (LCSR).  He joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University in 2017, after a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Brown received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He also holds B.S. degrees in Applied Physics and Mechanical Engineering from Morehouse College and the University of Michigan, respectively, as a graduate of the Atlanta University Center’s Dual Degree Engineering Program.