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Meet HFI’s Full-Time Biomedical Engineering Faculty Member, Luke Osborn!

Growing up, Luke Osborn enjoyed building things “for fun” and was particularly interested in his math and physics classes in high school. In the back of his mind, he was “always interested in the medical field and in helping people.”

Those passions led him to pursue an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. Toward the end of his undergraduate career, he became interested in creating technologies that connect with humans, particularly robotic devices and their interactions with humans. Those interests led him to pursue graduate studies in biomedical engineering, where he hoped to create technologies that could improve human functions.

Now, Osborn is the newest full-time Human Fusions Institute faculty member in Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. He comes to CWRU from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where, after graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering, he was a postdoctoral researcher from 2019 to 2021 and a senior neuroengineer researcher engineer from 2021 to 2024.

Osborn decided to enter academic research because “the environment supports deep scientific explorations that let us discover and create possibilities that we don’t even know exist yet.” Currently recruiting students for his research group, which will focus on creating new technologies to understand and enhance human function and performance, he looks forward to training the next generation of scientists and engineers while working closely with “all kinds of people from different backgrounds.” He hopes that his group will be able to enable“better and smarter human functionality through robots and neuroengineered technologies.”

While exploring ways to further the impact of his research, Osborn was drawn to CWRU because of the university’s strengths in neural engineering, particularly HFI’s research mission for enhancing human capabilities through human-machine interactions. “I love that we can operate a robot that’s a thousand miles away or be immersed in an augmented environment to complete a complex task,” said Osborn. “We have a great opportunity (at HFI) to understand better how humans work when interacting with new technologies.”

In addition to his research, Osborn plans to teach instrumentation classes at CWRU.

Looking back on his research career so far, Osborn is most proud of being able to build bioinspired tactile sensors for robotic hands that help the robot understand more about its environment. Using flexible materials to create artificial skins on robots, Osborn’s sensors helped measure more complex object properties when grasping with a prosthetic hand while sending touch sensations back to the user through noninvasive nerve stimulation.

Another recent highlight of Osborn’s career has been delivering complex touch sensations – such as temperature and pressure in the hands – to humans by activating different parts of the human nervous system, specifically through noninvasive peripheral nerve and direct brain stimulation. “Delivering new and useful sensory signals gives humans the ability to accomplish more and perform tasks better,” he said. As a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, he worked on these projects with various students, faculty, and other research staff.  He pointed out that by better understanding the human sensorimotor system, we can more effectively create new technologies that restore and enable human capabilities.

“I am looking forward to working with great people (at CWRU) and exploring big ideas in a collaborative way that lets us address tough, emerging challenges through human-centered research and design,” said Osborn.

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