2020-2021 SMART-VR Student Ambassadors

Starting in Fall 2020, SMART-VR has officially launched our Student Ambassador Program! This new initiative aims to bring together students across USC for greater connectivity between VR and many different disciplines. Learn about what fields of study they represent, their backgrounds in Virtual Reality, and how they’ll be contributing to our community this school year:

Garrett Flynn:

  • What department do you represent at USC?
    Interactive Media & Games
  • What sparked your interest in VR?
    Since I came across Neuromancer by William Gibson in high school, I’ve had a fascination with full-dive virtual reality. This served as the inspiration to pursue my undergraduate education in neuroscience and continues to influence my long-term outlook on the future of interactive media.
  • In what way would you like to see VR make a positive change in your field of research?
    I’d like to see VR used to provide access to high-quality therapeutic and entertainment experiences to a wide variety of stakeholders. In particular, I'm curious to explore what can be done when pairing neurotechnology and virtual reality for those with severe motor deficits (e.g. cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, etc.)
  • What are you hoping to achieve as a Student Ambassador?
    My hope as a Student Ambassador is to showcase the latest research at the intersection of neurotechnology and virtual reality.

Ashwin Sakhare:

  • What department do you represent at USC?
    Biomedical Engineering
  • What sparked your interest in VR?
    My interest in VR actually originated from an idea our lab had to utilize virtual reality to assess spatial navigation skills in older adults. As I became more involved in this project my interest in VR grew and I began to think of ways VR could be used to assess or improve other cognitive domains.
  • In what way would you like to see VR make a positive change in your field of research?
    I think VR can be used as a fun, engaging, and ecologically valid tool for maintaining brain health. A lot of focus is on exercise to promote a healthy body, but I think there is a lot of potential for immersive games that are specifically designed to keep the mind sharp as well. In the future, I envision people using VR for their daily brain training workout the same way they go to the gym to workout
  • What are you hoping to achieve as a Student Ambassador?
    I'm hoping to share the unique and novel ways others around the world are utilizing VR to tackle the challenge of maintaining brain health as we age.

Awu Chen:

  • What department do you represent at USC?
    I represent USC's Interactive Media & Games Division.
  • What sparked your interest in VR?
    The concept of reliving one's own memory through virtual reality has inspired my research.
  • In what way would you like to see VR make a positive change in your field of research?
    I look forward to the day when diseases like Alzheimer's can be cured through VR.
  • What are you hoping to achieve as a Student Ambassador?
    My hope as a student ambassador is to raise public awareness of VR's applications beyond gaming.

Stephanie Ng:

  • What department do you represent at USC?
    I represent the Iovine and Young Academy at USC.
  • What sparked your interest in VR?
    A few years ago I first tried on a Cardboard and was surprised by how immersive VR was, even in its primitive form.
  • In what way would you like to see VR make a positive change in your field of research?
    I'm interested in how VR can be a creative tool or utility that takes advantage of having a third dimension.
  • What are you hoping to achieve as a Student Ambassador?
    As a student ambassador I'm looking forward to connecting VR students and professionals from both my school and SMART-VR.