Undergraduate Research Program

Nikou Lei

Nikou Smiling in a scarfMajor: Physics: Comprehensive, Mathematics
Mentor: Department of Physics: Prof. Samu Taulu

Contact: leinikou@gmail.com

Current research project: Frequency-dependent Calibration of MEG Signals


Nikou is a senior studying in physics and mathematics at the University of Washington. She has been involved in a condensed matter research project that utilized the quasi-elastic neutron scattering spectroscopy to detect possible translational diffusion of protons of newberyite. Since September of 2019, she has been working with Prof. Taulu at the Institution of Learning and Brain Sciences at UW. Her research focuses on a novel brain imaging modality, magnetoencephalography (MEG). Her work includes MEG data analysis and calibration. She aspires to continue to study in physics and integrate her knowledge to the medical field in the future. In her free time, Nikou enjoys reading, writing, and traveling.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The MEG device provides exquisitely accurate measurements of brain activities. These measurements are aimed to assist neurosurgeons in surgical planning. On the other hand, the neuromagnetic signal is around a billionth of the strength of the earth’s magnetic field. Therefore, a deliberate signal processing system is essential. One of my projects is designed to compensate for frequency-dependent noise resulting from the artifacts from the MEG sensors (ideally, the measured brain signals are independent from frequency). The other project that I was involved in was to compare different methods of source current distribution reconstruction.


When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I started my undergraduate research in the summer between my sophomore and junior year. The instructor of my physics class sent out an announcement of hiring undergraduate research assistants. That’s how I began my research journey. I got to know my current mentor in a physics seminar (PHYS294) which was designed to introduce students to some of the research groups in the physics department.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
I was not an outgoing student. It took me great courage to ask my professors for an opportunity. When I was a freshman and taking the introductory level physics classes, I always doubted myself if I could contribute anything to a research group. So if you have the same feeling now, you are not the only one… The most important thing is to take the first step: talk to your professors. They are here because they love interacting with students and they are usually very nice people. Don’t worry, take your time!
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions!