Using Research Skills outside of Research: The Spiny Mouse Selfie

As outlined in a previous blog post of mine, undergraduate research experience can be a rewarding experience for an individual. It can give students more experience working in a team environment and improve their confidence for example. In this post I give a case study of how my experience in the INIT lab has prepared me for IPPD.

As part of my Computer Engineering degree, I am required to take part in a two-semester design class, where I would design, prototype, and build an idea from scratch on my own. However, there is an version of the class, entitled Integrated Product & Process Design (IPPD), where students are grouped with other engineering students across different disciplines to complete an already established project for an outside company or an internal UF organization [1]. The difference between these two options is that instead of working alone on one’s own idea, students work in groups with real companies solving a problem they currently have.

My IPPD team, Macro Mice, is working with the Acomys Research Consortium (ARC), a research group encompassing many different research departments and labs at the University of Florida. The primary object of ARC is to study the unique properties of the Spiny Mouse. Spiny Mice are remarkable in the fact they are the only known mammal capable of regeneration after injury to organs such as the skeletal muscle, kidney, spinal cord, heart, brain, etc. [2]. This characteristic of the Spiny Mouse makes it popular in regenerative medicine research, a branch of research in tissue engineering and molecular biology that aims to regenerate human or animal cells, tissues, or organs to restore normal function [2]. One popular way of studying the Spiny Mouse is creating a small hole on an area of the mouse’s body and measuring the healing process of the hole over time [2]. However, with the current methods in measuring, this can be difficult due to the sensitive properties of the mouse’s skin [3].

Macro Mice aims to do this by creating the Spiny Mouse Selfie. Ideally, the system would work by the following: when the mouse goes to eat a treat, it would trigger a camera to begin taking pictures. The pictures would then be analyzed using an image processing software and output the picture, timestamp, and measurement data for the researcher to use. Currently, we have just received feedback on our prototype and our working of incorporating our feedback in our next design. For additional information or to see where the I or the team are at, you can visit our website.

I would never have pursued IPPD without working in the INIT Lab. During my time here, I have become more comfortable working in a team environment and without such an experience, I would have never chosen the IPPD option for my degree. In addition, working in the INIT Lab made me comfortable choosing ARC as the sponsor company to work with. During the first class of IPPD, students are presented with the different companies and projects to choose what they would like to work on. Being already comfortable with the research space has given me the ability to better understand what our sponsor needs. In addition to this, part of project is to research possible solutions in a literature review to have a starting point in creating our prototypes. Due to my time in the INIT lab and having past experiences in literature reviews, I was able to complete this for my team. From my IPPD experience so far, I can confidently say that working as an undergraduate research assistant has given me skills that have helped me beyond the research environment and I encourage others to explore such options.

  1. “About Us,” Integrated Product & Process Design, [Online]. Available: [Accessed 19 October 2020].
  2. M. Maden and J. A. Varholick, “Model systems for regeneration: the spiny mouse, Acomys cahirinus,” The Company of Biologists, pp. 1-10, 2020.
  3. A. W. Seifert, S. G. Kiama, M. G. Seifert, J. R. Goheen, T. M. Palmer and M. Maden, “Skin shedding and tissue regernation in African spiny mice (Acomys),” Nature, vol. 489, pp. 561-566, 2012.