Undergraduate Research Program

Jerry Cao

Jerry Cao SmilingMajor: Computer Science
Mentor: Shwetak Patel, Computer Science; Jennifer Mankoff, Computer Science

Contact: jcao22@uw.edu

Current research project:Wearable Cardiovascular Sensing using Pulse Transit Time


Jerry is a senior in Computer Science at the University of Washington. He is interested in research addressing healthcare and accessibility. Currently, his main focus is on applying optical sensors to non-invasively sense cardiovascular parameters such as arterial stiffness and blood pressure.

His other projects include developing a framework in Fusion 360 to generate optimized tactile maps, engineering a biosensor for cannabidiol, and analyzing patterns in the NIH’s COVID-19 Supply Chain Response.

Jerry also fosters a love for indoor farming and 3D-printing through his leadership in Project Indoor Farm (IF) and WOOF3D, respectively, which are two student groups at the University of Washington.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance:

My current research project is to develop an unobtrusive device for individuals with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) that uses pulse transit time and pulse wave analysis to continuously monitor cardiovascular parameters such as arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and heart rate. We can get a visualization of a pulse wave using an optical sensor consisting of an LED that shines into an artery and a photodiode that measures the amount of reflected light. The fluctuation in reflected light shows the changes in blood volume at that specific point in the artery and when plotted in the time domain, creates a graph called a photoplethysmogram (PPG). With two PPGs, we can calculate pulse transit time (PTT), which is the time it takes for a pulse wave to travel an arbitrary distance. Prior work has shown PTT and subtle features extracted from a PPG to be correlated with parameters such as arterial stiffness and blood pressure. The resulting system can improve the lives of 1-3 million Americans with POTS by lessening the burden of monitoring their condition and predicting the onset of adverse symptoms—which include fainting, dizziness, and nausea—that result from the body’s inability to regulate vasodilation and heart rate.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?

You have nothing to lose! A lot of undergraduates are afraid of diving into research because they are afraid of messing up or not knowing enough, but professors understand this and can provide resources to help you learn. You shouldn’t be afraid to just go to their office hours, introduce yourself, and ask for advice!