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Q&A with Mazen Al Borno

by Diddiery Santana, student writer

Mazen Al Borno joined the CU Denver Department of Computer Science and Engineering as an assistant professor in 2020 after completing his PhD at the University of Toronto. He obtained both his BS and MS at the McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

Assistant Professor Mazen Al Borno

Q: Why did you choose engineering at CU Denver?

A: The opportunity to collaborate closely with neuroscientists and clinicians at the Anschutz Medical Campus. I also love to spend time in downtown Denver and explore the hiking trails in Colorado.

Q: Tell me about your research and your lab?

A: Humans have the remarkable ability to move with ease, precision and speed despite constantly changing environments and bodies. It is easy to be impressed by the skilled movements of athletes. We should also be impressed by our everyday movements. Our motor system is constantly solving computationally challenging problems. My research is on developing computational models of human movement to better understand the motor system and to design novel rehabilitation therapies and assistive devices for movement disorder patients.

Q: What inspired you to pursue your research?

A: I find the combination of basic science questions, i.e., the understanding of how the brain generates movement, and ways to help patients with movement disorders to be very rewarding.  

Q: How does your research fit into the college’s new medtech initiative?

A: Our current rehabilitation model for movement disorders suffers from a lack of resources to offer long-term daily intensive therapy and long-term monitoring of a patient’s condition. One research question in my lab is how can we use the sensors that are now ubiquitous in smartphones and smartwatches to improve our current rehabilitation model by providing patients with long-term therapy, monitoring, and feedback.

Q: What excites you the most about the new Bioscience 3 facility?

A: The ability to collaborate closely with colleagues in so many disciplines on research that will improve people’s lives.

Q: What are the advantages of the college’s multidisciplinary approach to medtech innovation research?

A: A multidisciplinary approach can help you become aware of new and larger problems that you can tackle through collaborations with researchers having complementary skill sets. 

Q: How does it benefit/bolster your individual research/lab?

A: My lab develops computational models that are informed by data from experimental neuroscientists. These can later be used to propose new hypotheses, which can then be tested by these groups conducting animal experiments. Another benefit consists of having access to patients and developing new technology.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work/research?

A. Spending time in nature, reading on subjects unrelated to my research i.e. literature, poetry, philosophy, playing sports, and most of all, spending time with friends and family.

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