Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Kathy Ruddy

  • Name: Kathy Ruddy

    Position: Research Assistant Professor, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience

    What does your typical day look like?

    I get up at 6.15am, leave the house at 7.15, and get on the train in Newry at 7.42. I then spend the next 1h10 minutes on the train answering emails and preparing my list of tasks for the day. I arrive in the office in Dublin at Trinity at 9.15 and have a coffee with my colleagues, while we discuss an action plan for the day.

    Every day is completely different in my job, so it’s hard to say what normally comes next, but the activities tend to involve working with data of some description. Sometimes this is collecting data (from MRI scanning healthy peoples brains, or recording electrical activity from the scalp using EEG), analysing data (which involves a substantial amount of code writing/computer programming and statistics), or writing up manuscripts (to publish findings) or grants (to attract more funding to pay for our future research).

    On the train home I try to reserve this time for reading journal articles to keep up to date with the most recent research from other labs. I arrive home at 6.30pm and Giles (my husband) has dinner on the table! We then put the fire on and chill out for a few hours before putting our baby, Scarlett, to bed.

    What are you currently working on?

    I am currently setting up a clinical trial at St. James’ Hospital in Dublin testing a new form of brain computer interface (which incorporates transcranial magnetic stimulation) with stroke patients, to see whether it can help them recover movement function in their paralysed limb faster and to a greater extent.

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience has state of the art facilities for brain research, including an MRI scanner dedicated to research and several laboratories for recording electrical activity from the brain using electroencephalography (EEG) and conducting magnetic or electrical brain stimulation. So, the appropriateness of the facilities for my research attracted me there.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    To be honest, when I went to Queen’s to study Psychology I was planning to become a clinical psychologist. I didn’t know anything about the world of research so I wasn’t aware of the career options. I have always been a big fan of anything tech related, but also anything brain related, so being able to combine my two interests in creating brain computer interfaces for rehabilitation motivated me to pursue this path.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    I love working together with people from all over the world as part of a team with a common interest in science. There is nothing I love more than a good nerdy discussion of a recently published science paper over coffee with my team! I also get a lot of opportunities to travel for work, and regularly give talks and work with collaborators in China, Japan, USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium to name just a few recent destinations.

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    Talk to lots of people who are already in the area you are considering going into, and ask them to describe their career path. Everyone will give you a slightly different perspective and hopefully help you figure out what options are available.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    Stroke is an ever increasing problem in our ageing society, so most of us will know someone affected at some point of our lives. Most survivors are left with one paralysed arm (amongst other deficits). We need to develop new ways to get the arm moving again so that patients can get back to living their daily lives independently. This is the problem we are working on, using the brain computer interface to help stimulate activity in the brain and encourage re-wiring of broken pathways from the brain to the muscles.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    My PhD supervisor. He lectured on my Psychology course and was the first person to make me aware that a career in research was an option for me.

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    This might sound like a strange choice, but I think the apple pencil (and new iPads with capability to support it). I have been using this on a daily basis since it was first released, and it feels so natural to write with compared to any other stylus I have tried. We are now planning to use the iPad and apple pencil with stroke patients as some tests of their arm function require drawing and writing, and doing this without paper saves time normally spent scanning these afterwards.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    As above, iPad and Apple Pencil!

    About the author

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