Heather Williams, B.Sc., M.Sc. (Ph.D. Candidate)

Heather has been a presence in the BLINC Lab since May 2014. She worked as a volunteer researcher for three summers while she was studying for her B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering (completed in Spring 2017). In this role, she made the following research contributions: conducted e-NABLE prosthetic hand design testing and evaluations, helped to quantify interface pressure in upper limb prosthetic sockets using Tekscan force measurement and pressure mapping sensors and software, and carried out testing for the buckling of cables used in tactile feedback.

Heather began her master’s degree studies in Mechanical Engineering in the Fall of 2017, under the supervision of Dr. Vette and Dr. Hebert. As a master’s student, she delved deeper into her biomechanical areas of interest, including upper limb prosthetic design and the development of standardized statistical methods to measure the effectiveness of such designs. Heather obtained her M.Sc. in the Fall of 2019 (view thesis here).

Prior to completing her master’s degree, Heather spent the summer of 2019 in Osaka, Japan as a part of the Mitacs – Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Summer Program. The competitive program gave her the opportunity to pursue collaborative research in Japan, while promoting scientific progress in both Japan and Canada. While at the BioDynamics Laboratory at Osaka University, Heather developed a state-based, closed-loop functional electrical stimulation (FES) controller for integration into a lower-limb exoskeleton.

In the Fall of 2019, Heather totally committed to a life of research by becoming a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering, under the supervision of Dr. Hebert. After studying abroad (Technische Universität München, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Osaka University), she recognizes that world-renowned innovations are happening right at the University of Alberta and that she is very fortunate to continue her studies here. She is studying the effects of using advanced machine learning algorithms for human-machine interfaces, focusing on prosthetics.

Outside of the BLINC Lab, Heather enjoys participating in summer and winter mountain sports, along with BLINC Lab outreach opportunities.