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Our latest Vanier Scholar

September 19, 2014 — 

EngineeringBlogPicsIssue7KathrynKathryn Marcynuk knew she wanted to do her PhD since the age of five. Her hard work, curiosity and love of higher learning has paid off. Not only will the electrical and computer engineering student be working on her PhD, she will be doing it with the backing of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. The prestigious award, valued at $150,000 over three years, recognizes world-class doctoral students across the country.

Kathryn’s research aims to separate out the numerous background noises (referred to as the “cocktail party problem”) picked up during an electrocardiogram (ECG) of a mother and her fetus. The interfering signals make it difficult to reliably record a fetal ECG, and can falsely indicate problems leading to unnecessary medical intervention. Separating the fetal heartbeat from the other signals is a physical application of the cocktail party problem.

The goal of this work is to improve the reliability of signal separation under noisy conditions, by examining the statistical signal separation technique of independent component analysis for maternal-fetal ECGs. By improving information for physicians, more reliable fetal ECG recordings would help to reduce unnecessary medical intervention and its associated personal and societal health-care costs.

Kathryn is enjoying her academic experience at the University of Manitoba and says her most memorable moment thus far has been meeting Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. At the Emerging Leaders dinner, she was originally seated beside Dr. Jonathan Beddoes, P.Eng., Dean of Engineering. He and Kathryn were the first two people at the table. He took one look at the seating arrangement and swapped his place with hers so that Kathryn would be beside Dr. Tyson! She will always remember that night and thanks the Dean for graciously putting her, a student, first.

Kathryn Marcynuk is the 13th University of Manitoba student to become a Vanier scholar in the last six years.

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