“I noticed assistive applied sciences — developed by scientists and engineers my buddies and I by no means met — which liberated us. My dream has all the time been to be a kind of engineers.” Hermus says. Credit score: Tony Pulsone

By Michaela Jarvis | Division of Mechanical Engineering

Earlier than James Hermus began elementary college, he was a cheerful, curious child who cherished to study. By the top of first grade, nonetheless, all that began to vary, he says. As his schoolbooks grew to become extra superior, Hermus may not memorize the phrases on every web page, and faux to be studying. He clearly knew the fabric the instructor offered at school; his academics couldn’t perceive why he was unable to learn and write his assignments. He was accused of being lazy and never making an attempt laborious sufficient.

Hermus was lucky to have mother and father who sought out neuropsychology testing — which documented an unlimited discrepancy between his native intelligence and his image decoding and phonemic consciousness. But regardless of receiving a analysis of dyslexia, Hermus and his household encountered resistance at his college. In response to Hermus, the college’s studying specialist didn’t “consider” in dyslexia, and, he says, the principal threatened his household with truancy fees once they took him out of faculty every day to attend tutoring.

Hermus’ college, like many throughout the nation, was reluctant to supply lodging for college students with studying disabilities who weren’t two years behind in two topics, Hermus says. Because of this, acquiring and sustaining lodging, akin to prolonged time and a reader, was a continuing battle from first by way of twelfth grade: College students who carried out nicely misplaced their proper to lodging. Solely by way of persistence and parental assist did Hermus reach an academic system which he says all too usually fails college students with studying disabilities.

By the point Hermus was in highschool, he needed to develop into a powerful self-advocate. With a purpose to entry superior programs, he wanted to have the ability to learn extra and sooner, so he sought out adaptive know-how — Kurzweil, a text-to-audio program. This, he says, was really life-changing. At first, to make use of this program he needed to disassemble textbooks, feed the pages by way of a scanner, and digitize them.

After working his solution to the College of Wisconsin at Madison, Hermus discovered a analysis alternative in medical physics after which later in biomechanics. Curiously, the steep challenges that Hermus confronted throughout his training had developed in him “the precise ability set that makes a profitable researcher,” he says. “I needed to be organized, advocate for myself, hunt down assist to unravel issues that others had not seen earlier than, and be excessively persistent.”

Whereas working as a member of Professor Darryl Thelen’s Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab at Madison, Hermus helped design and take a look at a sensor for measuring tendon stress. He acknowledged his strengths in mechanical design. Throughout this undergraduate analysis, he co-authored quite a few journal and convention papers. These experiences and a want to assist folks with bodily disabilities propelled him to MIT.

“MIT is an unimaginable place. The folks in MechE at MIT are extraordinarily passionate and unassuming. I’m not uncommon at MIT,” Hermus says. Credit score: Tony Pulsone

In September 2022, Hermus accomplished his PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT. He has been an creator on seven papers in peer-reviewed journals, three as first creator and 4 of them printed when he was an undergraduate. He has received awards for his teachers and for his mechanical engineering analysis and has served as a mentor and an advocate for incapacity consciousness in a number of completely different contexts.

His work as a researcher stems instantly from his private expertise, Hermus says. As a scholar in a particular training classroom, “I noticed assistive applied sciences — developed by scientists and engineers my buddies and I by no means met — which liberated us. My dream has all the time been to be a kind of engineers.”

Hermus’ work goals to analyze and mannequin human interplay with objects the place each substantial movement and power are current. His analysis has demonstrated that the way in which people carry out such on a regular basis actions as turning a steering wheel or opening a door may be very completely different from a lot of robotics. He confirmed particular patterns exist within the conduct that present perception into neural management. In 2020, Hermus was the primary creator on a paper on this subject, which was printed within the Journal of Neurophysiology and later received first place within the MIT Mechanical Engineering Analysis Exhibition. Utilizing this perception, Hermus and his colleagues applied these methods on a Kuka LBR iiwa robotic to study how people regulate their many levels of freedom. This work was printed in IEEE Transactions on Robotics 2022. Extra lately, Hermus has collaborated with researchers on the College of Pittsburgh to see if these concepts show helpful within the improvement of mind laptop interfaces — utilizing electrodes implanted within the mind to manage a prosthetic robotic arm.

Whereas the {hardware} of prosthetics and exoskeletons is advancing, Hermus says, there are daunting limitations to the sector within the descriptive modeling of human bodily conduct, particularly throughout contact with objects. With out these descriptive fashions, creating generalizable implementations of prosthetics, exoskeletons, and rehabilitation robotics will show difficult.

“We’d like competent descriptive fashions of human bodily interplay,” he says.

Whereas incomes his grasp’s and doctoral levels at MIT, Hermus labored with Neville Hogan, the Solar Jae Professor of Mechanical Engineering, within the Eric P. and Evelyn E. Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation. Hogan has excessive reward for the analysis Hermus has carried out over his six years within the Newman lab.

“James has achieved very good work for each his grasp’s and doctoral theses. He tackled a difficult downside and made glorious and well timed progress in the direction of its answer. He was a key member of my analysis group,” Hogan says. “James’ dedication to his analysis is definitely a mirrored image of his personal expertise.”

Following postdoctoral analysis at MIT, the place he has additionally been a part-time lecturer, Hermus is now starting postdoctoral work with Professor Aude Billard at EPFL in Switzerland, the place he hopes to achieve expertise with studying and optimization strategies to additional his human motor management analysis.

Hermus’ enthusiasm for his analysis is palpable, and his zest for studying and life shines by way of regardless of the hurdles his dyslexia offered. He demonstrates the same type of pleasure for ski-touring and rock-climbing with the MIT Outing Membership, working at MakerWorkshop, and being a member of the MechE neighborhood.

“MIT is an unimaginable place. The folks in MechE at MIT are extraordinarily passionate and unassuming. I’m not uncommon at MIT,” he says. “Practically each particular person I do know nicely has a singular story with an unconventional path.”

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