Dr. Maria Garcia-Zapirain: Engineering Better Diagnostic Aids & Information & Communications Technology Tools

For the next eight months, the department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science welcomes Dr. Maria Garcia-Zapirain, a term professor visiting on loan from University of Duesto in Spain. Dr. Garcia-Zapirain brings her twenty years of research to the university as an opportunity to work with longtime collaborator Dr. Adel Elmaghraby, as well as to teach students in the United States. Specifically, Dr. Garcia-Zapirain splits her focus between health oriented research used to diagnostic aid and treatment for monitoring patients, and the field of information and communications technology, which seeks practical application for anyone with a disability.

Her background is in telecommunications, a field that she found lacking in terms of helping people around the world. She refocused her energies on engineering, pursuing a PhD in in biomedical signal processing, particular to oesophageal speech processing. Her work aided in the speech of patients suffering from larynx cancer who had their vocal folds removed.

But that only scratched her itch to make the world a little better from her work. She explains of the split in her efforts, “Health is more research oriented. There are mathematical algorithms to automatically give to doctors to optimize diagnostics, to personalize the treatment with quantitative data.”

She continues adding, “My expertise is in two main fields: diagnostic aid and treatment for monitoring patients. The second field is ICT, information and communications technology, technological tools to help people with special needs. For example, handicapped people or children with learning problems and more autonomy.”

With the majority of her family still in Spain, she is happy to remain here temporarily, but no less excited for her opportunities. For now, she is simultaneously free to elaborate on her collaborations with Dr. Elmaghraby, while gaining perspective on the cultural differences between her constituent student bodies here and at home.

She explains, “I wanted to have the experience of teaching students in the US. The profile is different. It’s a great experience to teach here. After 20 years, you know how to react when you teach. Not only teaching, but supervising projects. Here, they always think about business. In Spain, they never think about those things. Here, students are like little entrepreneurs. I really enjoy that. I come here every morning very happy.”