Gregory Cole

Home: Greenfield, Massachusetts
Degree: PhD candidate, Robotics Engineering

Why I chose WPI:

I really like the project-based work at WPI. Some other schools were talking to me at the time I went to WPI, but I really enjoyed the shorter terms, project-based program, and teamwork focus. I felt that at WPI I would get to work on real projects that did real things.

Why I'm proud to be a WPI student:

There are many things that make me proud to be a WPI student. We have a very distinguished staff that is very available. There is literally almost nowhere else that I could walk into the office of someone like Robert Labonte or Bob Norton and be able to just sit down and talk with them for a while. Additionally, WPI is very focused on letting the students make the accomplishments. Oftentimes in other schools, the professors get famous while the grad students stay in the shadows until they have their doctorates. Not at WPI! When we write a paper here, in general, we present it and it is our names as first authors. As for the teamwork aspect, I am very proud to go to a school where students don’t undercut each other. We are very competitive but we are always competing for achievement, not victory at the cost of another. I am proud to go to a school that has crafted a student body the puts a high premium on being able to work together.

What I feel are WPI's greatest strengths:

WPIs greatest strengths are the faculty, the student body, and its industry image. People in the industry of course have heard of places like MIT and CalTech as great schools, but no one is better known for producing engineers and professionals that hit the ground running. We are known far and wide as graduates who can get right into a job and be productive immediately, and it is because of our well-qualified faculty, project-based approach, and integration with real-world problems.

Research projects I'm involved with at WPI:

I am currently involved with the automated interventional medicine lab, headed by Gregory Fischer. My projects with this lab currently include:

  • MRI-compatible neural intervention armature: A fully actuated armature that operates within an MRI scanner to place electrodes for deep brain stimulation therapy.
  • MRI-compatible power supplies: Switching power supplies are much more compact and efficient than linear power supplies, but destroy MRI image quality. We are creating switching power supplies that can operate within a scanner bore.
  • MRI-compatible control computer: We are using construction techniques developed here and at Johns Hopkins University to develop a computer that can safely operate within the bore of a diagnostic MRI scanner.
  • High-power arbitrary waveform generator: We are currently developing MRI-compatible versions of high-power arbitrary waveform generators. Initially these were designed as a purpose specific piezoelectric motor driver, but we expanded its functionality and now it can be used to drive most electronic actuators and sensors within the scanner bore.

How professors at WPI have impacted my life:

I would have to say the single most life changing experience with a professor was with Professor Steve Bitar. I was a perfectly happy mechanical engineer, just about to graduate when I decided to finally get around to taking that most dreaded of classes, ECE 3601, affectionately known as volts for dolts. I finally start taking this dreaded class, but professor Bitar had such a passion for the subject and it was such an interesting course of material that I became very involved. Shortly after that class, I joined the class ECE2799 at Professor Bitar's urging. When I realized how many prerequisites there were, I wanted to drop it but Professor Bitar convinced me to stay. ECE2799 is called Electronic Product Development, and at the end of the class there is a competition where everyone presents their devices. We ended up winning that competition, and this sparked my continuation into higher education, taking course after course in electronics until now, at this point, I am finally almost done with my PhD! I would have left school shortly after that class had Professor Bitar not awakened my inner curiosity once again, and I am thankful for that every day.

What I hope to do when I graduate/ What my ideal job would be:

Ideally, when I graduate I will continue on in my position as vice president of the famous WPI spinoff company Neuron Robotics. I enjoy my role there and we are just getting to the exciting part of the business where our first round of products is moving into mass production. I hope to stay in some form of industry position for approximately 15 years, then take a job as a professor and teach. 

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