Catching Up with Steven Schiff

Director of the Center for Neural Engineering

portrait of Steven Schiff

Steven Schiff

What inspired you to embark upon a project to improve the quality of medical care in East Africa?

I met an old friend of mine, Ben Warf,
at a conference. I had not seen him for the past 5 years. Ben had moved to Africa, and built a pediatric neurosurgery hospital there. Our dinner conversation about his experiences was fascinating. Of all the medical problems they faced in caring for African children, I thought that Penn State engineering could help them use their CT scanner as a substitute for the MRI scans we typically use in evaluating epilepsy surgery candidates. So I was off to Uganda. Newborn infections leading to hydrocephalus seemed to be the most urgent problem they were facing, so this became the top priority for my efforts. I've returned many times since, and am now conducting Penn State clinical trials in Mbale and Mbarara with my African colleagues.

What are the unique challenges African infants face in regards to epilepsy compared to infants in other parts of the world?

I would like to see us formalizing our health-related engineering degrees to include a global health track. I would also like to see Penn State taking the lead on what I call sustainable health engineering.

What are some of the most interesting research collaborations you've had the chance to work on here at Penn State?

I love bringing teams of people together to attack problems that none of us could solve alone. At present, we have built a strong collaboration between neurosurgery, engineering science, veterinary and behavioral sciences, and biology to uncover the origins of post-infectious hydrocephalus in East Africa. I have also built a strong set of collaborations between the engineering community in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and a variety of problems we are now addressing in the control of epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and in automated image analysis. Penn State is a great place to build great teams.

What hobbies do you enjoy most in your spare time?

Playing chamber and orchestral music with my wife. We play in the Nittany Valley Symphony now and I switched from violin to viola the day I switched from PC to Mac.

Last Updated March 29, 2011