PhD Spotlight: Michael Stahl, PhD’21 – Bioengineering
After earning his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Boston University, Michael Stahl joined Northeastern University’s College of Engineering to pursue his master’s in computer engineering with a concentration in digital signal processing. As a master’s student, he studied the effectiveness of a psychophysical procedure to detect hearing loss. Upon graduating in 2004, Stahl entered the workforce, spending the next 8 years as a senior research engineering and project manager at Convergent Engineering, Inc. and Xhale Diagnostics Inc., developing medical diagnostics for breathing pathologies. He returned to Northeastern to pursue a PhD in Bioengineering. Stahl, who is legally blind, was excited to use his engineering skills to help the visually impaired. His research, in collaboration with Schepens Eye Research Institute in the Ophthalmology department at Harvard Medical School, developed a wearable, handsfree electronic travel aid (ETA) for the blind and visually impaired based on structured light principles. The device detects tripping hazards by analyzing laser light projected in front of the user and can be used in day and night conditions. The National Eye Institute awarded Stahl an F31 fellowship to pursue this research. He additionally won funding from Edmund Optics, Barrington, New Jersey, as well as a grant from the Stiftelsen Promobilia Foundation, Stockholm, Sweden, to construct a prototype and measure its impact on safe and effective travel for people with visual impairments. Stahl plans to continue research in low vision rehabilitation—specifically focused on increasing independent and safe travel—and to productize and market the electronic travel aid developed during this PhD dissertation.