Engineering's Tucker attends Gates Millennium Scholars Program celebration

April 30, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Conrad Tucker, associate professor of engineering design and industrial and manufacturing engineering, was invited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to attend the Gates Millennium Scholars Program Celebration on April 24 in Seattle. 

Although there are more than 20,000 Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) and alumni of the program, Tucker was one of only approximately 30 scholars invited to the event, which was held at the BMGF Discovery Center. 

“It was a humbling and honoring experience to have been selected out of so many highly successful individuals. To dine with Bill and Melinda in such a small, intimate setting is an experience that I will cherish forever,” said Tucker.

According to the BMGF website, the organization is “dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals around the world.” The foundation’s areas of interest — including access to education and health care — offer the opportunity to dramatically improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world. 

While networking at the event, Tucker had the opportunity to discuss some of the work he is doing as the director of Penn State’s Center for Health Organization Transformation. One of the initiatives he discussed is his research on using non-contact methods to estimate patients’ heart rate, along with other measurable — and innovative — health care solutions that are aligned with the goals of the BMGF. 

“If we’re going to truly broaden access to high-quality health care and education, we need to have affordable and scalable ways of interacting with the end user,” said Tucker. “Mobile phones are becoming ubiquitous, both in developed and developing nations. By leveraging these technologies that people already have in their pockets, our goal is to enable affordable, real-time detection of diseases that manifest themselves through visual inspection.”

“We’re currently developing computer vision algorithms that are capable of ‘seeing’ what would otherwise be unobservable to the human eye,” he continued. 

Video-based skin color variation

An example of video-based skin color variation that Tucker is working on in his Design Analysis Technology Lab, which allows one to "see" in a patient what would otherwise be unobservable to the human eye.

Design Analysis Technology Lab

Video-based heart rate estimation

An example of video-based heart rate estimation from Tucker's Design Analysis Technology Lab that allows one to "see" the heart rate of a patient by focusing their face. 

Design Analysis Technology Lab

Established in 1999, the GMS program is a $1.6 billion initiative funded by a grant from the BMGF. The goal of the program is to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential.

“I can wholeheartedly say that I would not be where I am today were it not for the generous financial and mentoring support of the GMS program. Now, it’s time for me to pay it forward by utilizing my skills to help others in need,” said Tucker.

There are currently nine GMS scholars attending Penn State — two graduate students and seven undergraduate students — in academic programs of study stretching across four colleges: the Colleges of Health and Human Development, Information Sciences and Technology, and Liberal Arts and the Eberly College of Science. 

In the past, Tucker has organized meet-and-greet events with Penn State GMS scholars and has even served on the doctoral committee of a recent GMS doctoral student. 

“I was drawn to engineering because I wanted to work on world-changing problems that have a positive impact on society. The BMGF mission of having societal impact is not only aligned with my personal aspirations, but those of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which recently revised the goals of its Engineering Research Centers (ERC),” said Tucker.

The revised NSF ERC goals include "placing greater emphasis on research that leads to societal impact, including convergent approaches, engaging stakeholder communities and strengthening team formation."

Note: Those interested in the science behind this technology can access the journal paper here.

  • Conrad Tucker and Melinda Gates

    Conrad Tucker and Melinda Gates at the Gates Millennium Scholars Program Celebration

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 01, 2018