MRN Moving into Neurosystems Engineering

One of the more interesting developments on campus this year is the growth and change at The Mind Research Network.

Technically MRN is an independent non-profit entity, located in Pete and Nancy Domenici Hall on the UNM north campus.  However, work at MRN is closely entwined with the university community; it hosts professors, many of whom hold dual appointments in UNM departments such as electrical and computer engineering, and is a laboratory in which 20 graduate students work with researchers.  There are also more than 100 undergraduate students currently volunteer at MRN; these students work with a principal investigator throughout the academic year.

Last spring MRN hosted the “Domenici Neuroscience Symposium on Neuroscience for National Security”  in Washington.  The purpose was to raise the profile of MRN in Washington D.C. and to let the public know that MRN is now doing research in neurosystems engineering in addition to its research into brain disorders.  MRN drew a number of speakers from industry and research entities and showcased MRN researchers in a variety of areas.

UNM worked with MRN to produce audio recordings of the conference.  Here’s a great chance to hear about everything from the latest research in Traumatic Brain Injury to new training techniques that may allow soldiers to quickly identify threats.  Just putting together the audio lectures was a fascinating experience.  It made me want to learn more about work at MRN.

Neuroscience for National Security

Normally this kind of research is done by individuals at various institutions.  MRN is trying to concentrate a group of researchers working in neurosystems engineering.

Financially, things are going well at MRN.  The non-profit corporation has over $75 million in active awards, about $10 million in pending grants, and several active applications for grants in progress.  Research collaboration with organizations like MRN is what makes UNM a more interesting place to be and lots of fun to write about.

UNM ECE – We’ve Got Game

This morning, the UNM Electrical and Computer Engineering Department fired up its yearly Video Game Competition and review. Unlike other video game competitions, this features games that are designed and programmed by students in ECE Professor Pradeep Sen’s Introduction to Computer Graphics class.  Students in this class learn the basics of developing video games (usually for the Xbox platform) and for their final project they have to design and create a video game.

UNM Professor Pradeep Sen explains the ECE Department's yearly video game competition to Channel 13.

Students, staff and faculty then get to playtest the games at the end of the semester in a daylong game-o-rama.  The games are later judged, and awards and feedback are given out at the end of the evening.

This is the third year of the program by professor Sen, who came to UNM from Stanford, and is working to create a Computer Graphics program at UNM that mirrors the one he saw at Stanford.

One of the video games displayed at this year's video game competition at UNM

This year, many of the student groups worked with electronic artists to add better visuals and music to their games.  This is also the first year for the department to offer an advance computer graphics class at the same time.  Many of the students in this class took the intro class last year, and spent this class better refining the games they had created for this class.

After the semester ends, students are also encouraged to license their games and provide them to the greater public on Xbox Live.

I’ve attended each of the three competitions (I was one of the judges last year) and it’s been great to see how the program has grown and the variety of games being offered each year.  If you have time today (Thursday, Dec. 10) you should swing by the ECE building and check out some of the cool work these students have done.

– Benson