Nandakumar Rajalakshmi, an India-born research scholar from the University of Washington, has made the country proud by winning the Paul Baran Young Scholar Award for 2018. Her research was dedicated to using smartphones to detect life-threatening symptoms.

“Nandakumar Rajalakshmi is the winner of this year’s Young Scholar Award for her outstanding research work in detecting life-threatening symptoms using smartphones,” the California-based Marconi Society, which has instituted the award, told IANS.

The 28-year-old used a smartphone and turned it into an active sonar system to detect physiological activity like movement or respiration in a human body by a remote device. “Rajalakshimi’s system works by transmitting inaudible sound signals from a smartphone’s speaker and tracking their reflections off the human body. The reflections are analysed by algorithms and signal processing techniques,” Marconi Society said in the statement.

“I wanted to find a way to detect physiological signals, like pulse and heart rate, which are used for healthcare applications. When I found that many consumer electronic devices have speakers and microphones, I decided to study if inaudible signals could help detect physiological movement,” Rajalakshmi told IANS

Rajalakshmi’s Apnea App detects sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that affects millions of people, but remains undiagnosed.

The Society will honour Rajalakshmi with the award on October 2 at Bologna, Italy. The prize consists of $5,000 (Rs 362,500) and expenses to attend the annual ceremony.

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“More than the prize, Young Scholars are offered mentoring and guidance by the Society’s distinguished roster of engineering greats,” added the statement.

Rajalakshmi went to the US in 2013 after two years of work as a research assistant at the Microsoft India Research Centre in Bengaluru during 2011-13.  She graduated in B.Tech from Guindy College of Engineering in Chennai after studying at TVS Lakshmi School in the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Her parents run a healthcare devices firm in Madurai. “My father was in the healthcare sector when I grew up and spent a lot of time in these environments. The best part of my work is seeing the people using my technology and knowing that it benefits their well-being. As a computer scientist, I find it very fulfilling,” said Rajalakshmi.

Feature Image Credit: Economic Times

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