Dr. Gregory Gerling
I am an Associate Professor in Systems and Information Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering, at the University of Virginia. My group's research interests are in general related to the fields of haptics, computational neuroscience, human factors and ergonomics, biomechanics, and human–machine interaction. My primary domain is that surrounding human health. Our research is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary. My lab builds and analyzes computational models using solid mechanics, differential equations and statistical techniques, designs and prototypes devices using electronics, software and silicone-elastomers, and conducts psychophysical experiments. I have a substantial background in the skin and receptor physiology related to touch sensation – specifically mechanosensitive peripheral afferents.
At points where it is difficult or impossible to directly observe skin mechanics, physiology, or neural responses, computational models have helped elucidate tactile encoding strategies of single peripheral neurons and populations. We have modeled the end organ architecture of the slowly adapting type I afferent, which innervates clusters of Merkel cells, to show how their subgrouping into spike initiation zones can impact the elicited neural response. We have also done systematic measurements of the hyper- and visco-elastic mechanics of the skin, with changes in weight and hair cycle in the mouse. Incorporated together, the models indicate that the skin and end organ receptor structure are intertwined in producing trains of action potentials. At the behavioral level, a thorough understanding of tactile cues in early, peripheral stages is key to deciphering the whole perceptual chain, as well as engineering sensors and human-machine interfaces.
I have been either the principal investigator on over $4M in university- and federally-funded grants from the National Institutes of Health, DARPA, and other agencies and companies. I am a senior member of the IEEE and have mentored more than 20 PhD and MS students, and published over 50 journal and conference papers. I am currently serving as the co-chair of the IEEE Haptics Symposium for 2018 and 2020. Before entering academia, I had industry experience at Motorola, NASA Ames Research Center, and Rockwell Collins; and have consulted with companies in the field of healthcare. I have taught human-machine interaction and user experience design for several years. In my undergraduate teaching, one of my goals is to work with industry clients to orient students toward acquiring real-world experience.