PhD candidate Megh Marathe awarded dissertation grant to study epilepsy

Epileptic seizures often resemble common bodily sensations such as muscle spasms and dizziness; but seizures require medical care whereas muscle spasms require hydration or rest.  

University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) PhD student Megh Marathe takes on this issue in their dissertation “Was That a Seizure? Understanding Everyday Ambiguity in the Clinical Diagnosis and Lived Experience of Epilepsy.” 

“The ambiguity between seizure-like symptoms and seizures troubles people with epilepsy,” says Marathe. “This confounds the decision between three courses of action: report to ER, schedule a doctor’s appointment, or rest.”

The ambiguity also arises in clinical diagnosis, where neurologists must distinguish social and environmental factors from seizures. “Being patted on the back, for instance, resembles seizures.” 

Marathe’s dissertation addresses this ambiguity through comparative ethnographic fieldwork and machine learning to design a wearable interface that combines clinical expertise with experiential knowledge to detect seizures.

To further this research, Marathe has been awarded a 2019 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant, a grant for PhD students at North American universities who are underrepresented in the field of computing. The grant will be used to finance an ethnographic study (interviews and naturalistic observation) of people with epilepsy and clinical neurologists. 

Marathe’s submission was one of 11 chosen from a pool of more than 200 proposals received. Grant recipients will also visit Microsoft Research Lab in Redmond, WA in October for a PhD Summit.

  - Jessica Webster, UMSI PR Specialist

Posted July 8, 2019