Researcher Profile: Nathan Hagstrom

We’ve written before about the fluid power research projects coming out of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. Ten new research projects have recently been selected for funding. One student benefiting from the funding is Nathan Hagstrom, a student at the University of Minnesota who is working on the Hybrid MEMS Proportional Fluid Control Valve project.

Education and Career

As an undergraduate student, Nathan attended the University of Rochester and majored in mechanical engineering. While there, he was active in a few student-led groups and a mechanical engineering research group. In this research group, under the advisement of Dr. Jong-Hoon Nam, he worked on developing new experimental methods for determining the mechanical properties of cochlear tissue. After graduating from the University of Rochester, Nathan was accepted into the mechanical engineering PhD program at the University of Minnesota.

Nathan plans to use the knowledge gained from his research to advance medical device technology and to further enable rehabilitation engineering. In five years he plans to graduate with his PhD in mechanical engineering. Post-graduation he hopes to find employment at any number of medical technology and fluid power firms conducting groundbreaking research. In the longer term, he hopes to run one or more research lab groups focused on using fluid power to create and improve life-changing medical devices.

Current Research

At the University of Minnesota, he is working with Dr. Thomas Chase to revolutionize the performance of pneumatic valves. His research focuses specifically on the design of highly efficient pneumatic proportional valves. Such valves may be used in movement assist devices and other applications with similar working parameters. This particular valve is being developed for use on the foot-ankle orthosis test bed designed by Dr. Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler. Microfabrication techniques and piezoelectric technologies are utilized in the pursuit of superior valve performance. If successful, this valve should demonstrate faster valve response rates, lower power consumption, and higher allowable operating pressures than similar valves currently on the market.

Motivation for Choosing Engineering

Nathan has personally experienced the benefits that come from the skilled work of biomedical engineers. As a twice-injured high school and college soccer player, Nathan required restorative surgeries made possible by the collaboration between orthopedic surgeons and engineers. These surgeries helped him realize that as an engineer, he could positively impact lives as well as address complex societal issues. As his undergraduate engineering education continued, he recognized that his never-ending curiosity partnered well with the incredible breadth of engineering topics and applications. Now as a graduate student, he is driven to solve complex problems and gain the knowledge necessary to help improve people’s quality of life.

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