The University of Massachusetts Amherst


Yeonsik Noh, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has been awarded a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Noh holds a joint appointment with the College of Engineering and the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, in addition to serving as an adjunct in the Biomedical Engineering Department. 

The CAREER program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have demonstrated potential to serve as leaders and role models in both research and education.

Noh’s CAREER project, supported by the NSF for $550,000, is titled “Aquatic Therapy Assist-Tool Using a Real-Time Underwater Physiological and Musculokinetic Monitoring in Personalized Stroke Rehabilitation.”

Aquatic therapy is widely used to help stroke patients during rehabilitation, since water allows patients to perform rehabilitation exercise with less pain. However, Noh explains, the current research has not focused sufficiently on how to help therapists adjust and personalize their therapeutic approaches to fit the individual needs of each patient. This is partly because there is no technology available that allows therapists to accurately measure and analyze their patients’ movements while exercising in water, leaving therapists heavily reliant on their observations, intuitions, and experiences.

Noh’s long-term goal with this CAREER Award is to design and develop an assist-tool that therapists can use to investigate physiological and motor improvements during aquatic therapy. This tool will take the form of an ergonomic wearable system designed for the water environment, utilizing hydrophobic bio-signal sensors, and will allow for the continuous monitoring of patient performance during aquatic therapy. This will in turn yield valuable insights into how exercises are impacting the patient and will help therapists make real-time adjustments to optimize the therapy. 

“This project aims to understand how the human body works underwater and how it responds to different movements and exercises in aquatic therapy. This knowledge will be used to develop more personalized and effective aquatic rehabilitation programs, particularly for people with neurological disorders and diseases. This research has the potential to lead to new and improved ways of treating these conditions.”

Noh also intends to integrate his interdisciplinary research framework for personalized healthcare and rehabilitation into the educational goals he pursues at UMass. These goals include broadening the participation of students in healthcare engineering, fostering an interdisciplinary research group and inclusive training, and multidisciplinary course development.

Ultimately, Noh says, he hopes that this project “will yield a paradigm shift in aquatic therapy.”

In addition to this CAREER Award, Noh recently received a four-year, $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute to lead a team of researchers developing a wearable vest system designed to monitor heart failure patients in their homes and detect when their condition is worsening. (June 2023)

Article posted in Research