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“Surgical GPS” Software for Surgeons Using the da Vinci Surgical Robot

Primary Investigators:
Dr. Robert Webster (Lab Director), James Ferguson, Bryn Pitt, and Michael Siebold
Brief Description of Project:
The MED Lab at Vanderbilt is looking for a talented, determined individual to help on a project that would give surgeons using the da Vinci Surgical System a moving 3D map of the surgical scene while they operate. Currently, the only information a surgeon has during a case is the view of the (possibly obstructed) outside surface of a patient’s anatomy via endoscope video. Applicants would help to design, implement, and test (during real surgeries in the operating room) a new visualization system that would give surgeons:

1. X-Ray surgical vision: allow surgeons using the da Vinci to see through fat and organ surfaces
2. Superhuman positioning: tell the surgeon exactly where to make surgical incisions
3. Maximum accuracy: develop calibration algorithms to ensure that the system is accurate
Applicants would learn the ins and outs of a robotic software system from implementation of a kinematic model for the da Vinci to calibration of the spatial mechanism to communication between software nodes using TCP.

Desired Qualifications:
The ideal candidate will have strong software design and programming skills with specific experience in Python and C++. Experience with robotic systems is ideal but not required. Experience with one or more of the following would also be helpful (but not required): 3D Slicer, version control (Git), MATLAB, interprocess communication using TCP sockets, computer graphics libraries, computer vision, image processing, numerical optimization, and event-driven architectures.
Nature of Supervision:
The summer researcher will work closely with James Ferguson and Bryn Pitt, two doctoral students who are doing their PhD theses on this project, who will provide direct oversight and mentorship.
A Brief Research Plan (period is for 10 weeks):
(1) Image-guidance bootcamp (Week 1): a series of five missions that will get the applicant familiar with some of the overarching problems in image guidance.
(2) Implementation of automatic documentation (Week 2): the applicant will familiarize themselves with the current system by creating documentation for our Python-based software repository
(3) Forward kinematic and calibration simulation (Week 3-4): simulation and visualization of a low DOF robot kinematic model. Simulation of a calibration process applied to the robot to get acquainted with the concepts involved with robot calibration.
(4) Implementation of a forward kinematic model for the da Vinci (Week 5-6): the applicant will create mathematical model of the da Vinci Surgical robot mapping robot joint angles to the tool tip position and orientation.
(5) Interprocess communication (Week 7-10): the applicant will create a server program in C++ that will link to their results from 4 to communicate with our current software system as a client.

Number of Open Slots: 1
Contact Information:
Name: Robert J. Webster III
Department: Mechanical Engineering