Thinking bigger.

Some people say, “Think Big or Go Home.” We ignore those people. At UT Dallas, we think big when we are at home—multidisciplinary programs, cutting-edge research and collaborations with top corporate partners. It’s not just what you learn in a classroom that counts. It’s learning how to think big in an environment that inspires and rewards curiosity and ingenuity.

Innovation through Collaboration

Faculty members at The University of Texas at Dallas are passionate about research, discovery, innovation and, most importantly, collaboration. Their multidisciplinary work in labs and in the field is not only beneficial to corporate partners, it is equally critical to the learning experience provided to students. This commitment to taking the time to help students get their hands dirty results in graduates who are capable of recognizing and seizing opportunity—to launch a new company, to make a scientific breakthrough, to change the world for the better.

Dr. William Katz uses an electromagnetic process that lets patients view 3D images of their own tongue movements so they can learn to speak clearly again. The interactive device (seen in the background) is positioned like a shower head above the patient.

UTDesign helps companies expand their resources by taking advantage of the skills, energy and enthusiasm of talented engineering and computer science students. The program connects companies to teams of seniors from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. These students are eager to find solutions to companies’ problems, offering fresh ideas and bold creativity. Each UTDesign team is coached by two advisors: a corporate mentor, who acts as the technical point of contact for the company; and a faculty advisor, who is an expert or has some degree of technical familiarity with the project. At the end of the project, which serves as the capstone of students’ undergraduate education, all results are turned over to the corporate partner.

UTDesign coordinates approximately 80 capstone design projects each year in the areas of biomedical engineering, computer science/software engineering, electrical engineering/computer engineering/telecommunication engineering and mechanical engineering.

Similarly, issues involved in communication disorders are so complex that cross-disciplinary efforts are often required to figure out solutions. To inspire and nourish crossover projects, the University launched the Communication Technology Center, a collaborative effort among the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and the School of Arts and Humanities. The center provides space and tools for research and the sharing of ideas among scientists, clinicians and students who use their expertise to invent and assess new technologies and treatments for people facing communication challenges.

“While science and art traditionally are thought of as separate and different, everything is connected today,” said Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities. “UT Dallas is becoming a place where ideas converge to create an entirely new perspective.”

One project underway at the Communication Technology Center—a tool to treat apraxia of speech—benefits from the efforts of communication scientists, computer scientists and animators. Apraxia of speech, often the result of brain damage caused by stroke, affects the timing and placement involved in speech movements. Dr. William Katz, BBS professor, employs electromagnetic articulography to allow patients to view 3-D images of their own tongue movements on a computer screen while they’re speaking. The interactive device is positioned like a shower head above the patient, and sensors are placed on the person’s tongue.

Katz’s research was enhanced by the work of a team led by Dr. B. “Prabha” Prabhakaran, a computer science professor in the Jonsson School. The team helped create the computer program to translate tongue movement from human subjects to animated avatars.

The avatars used by Katz were created by animators in the A&H Arts and Technology (ATEC) program who used movement data to create realistic images highlighting irregular motions. Eric Farrar, an assistant professor in A&H who previously worked on Hollywood blockbusters, applied cinematic animation techniques to this clinical project, enabling the patient to pinpoint the placement of the tongue and lips needed to produce the correct sounds during therapy.

“By crossing boundaries between disciplines on projects like this we open ourselves up to completely different ways of looking at problems,” Farrar said. “From the student’s perspective, interdisciplinary projects can open doors to entirely new lines of study and research. So many ATEC students are focused on careers in the film or gaming industries, but this type of application can show other possibilities for use of the technology.”

Though making the next big discovery is a major motivation, opening doors for students is always the University’s greatest mission and greatest point of pride.