Veterans Program Helps Develop Next Generation of Engineering Leaders

Achievement date: 

Marine Corps Veteran Sam Dreyer was an enthusiast for mixed martial arts (MMA) until he was knocked out with a concussion. Already studying bioengineering, he got to thinking about the brain—and later landed a summer-long “dream” study program at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) with headquarters at the University of Washington (UW).


Dreyer is a great example of the next generation of engineering leaders that the CSNE is nurturing. After searching “neural engineering internships” on the Web, he landed at CSNE’s summer Research Experience for Veterans program. He says he’s learned more in his 10 weeks at CSNE than in entire years at school, such as how to carry out an experiment and apply engineering to the biology side of this type of science.


He spent the summer in the lab of CSNE Deputy Director Chet Moritz at UW, exploring the biological nature of neural engineering research, conducting research with rats. He since has presented a new rehabilitative knee brace—the device uses surgical tubing or workout resistance bands—at the annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society in Texas.

He is leading a project to develop new 3D-printed prosthetics through E-Nable, a mechanical hand-maker movement inspired by two strangers who came together to create a prosthetic hand device for a child in South Africa. Dreyer teaches neural engineering concepts to freshman and sophomores at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also presented his spinal cord injury research—co-authored by Michael Sunshine from the Moritz Lab—at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM in February 2015.


Dreyer enrolled in the military right after high school, attending boot camp and then joining the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserves and spent some time in Iraq as part of his military experience.