Eastern Michigan University senior and Ukraine refugee earns Undergraduate Research Stimulus award

Lada Protcheva presented her robot at the conference.

YPSILANTI — Lada Protcheva, an Eastern Michigan University senior who relocated to Michigan due to the Russia-Ukraine war, has excelled in her academic studies, earning the Undergraduate Research Stimulus award at EMU. Protcheva received a $2,200 fellowship award to support her research efforts for a project titled "Helping Pedestrians with Special Needs to Cross the Roads with a NAO Robot."

Her project addresses critical concerns regarding pedestrian safety, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children, older adults, and individuals with special needs. Utilizing the advanced capabilities of the NAO robot, equipped with cameras, microphones, and various sensors, the robot can enhance communication and safety at crosswalks with signalized intersections.

“Lada is a remarkable international student whose skills include maintaining an outstanding GPA, actively engaging in undergraduate research at EMU, seeking research opportunities beyond EMU, and pursuing internships to enhance her academic and professional credentials,” said Suleiman Ashur, EMU professor of civil engineering and construction management. 

Protcheva's research has garnered attention beyond EMU. Her paper was presented and published at the 2024 American Society for Engineering Education North Central Section Conference. It was co-authored by her project advisors, Omar Darwish, Ph.D., assistant professor of cyber security, and Ashur. Additionally, she has gained valuable experience through internships and presentations, showcasing her proficiency in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“A defining moment in my college career was my participation in the 2023 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Detroit,” said Protcheva. “The project demonstrated my proficiency in applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop socially impactful solutions and showcased my experience with the Choregraphe simulator, which was a testament to my ability to optimize robotic performance.”

During her web development internship at UMass Chan Medical School, she delved into the intricacies of software management, preparing her for challenges in more complex domains like nuclear science. Additionally, she participated in the RoboNation RoboBoat competition by developing AI algorithms for an autonomous boat.

Protcheva will graduate from EMU with a bachelor's in applied computer science on April 27. She plans to begin a doctorate program at the University of Michigan with an assistantship in the nuclear engineering and radiological sciences department. 

“Lada's message to students is to never give up despite life's challenges, pursue your dreams with a well-thought-out plan, seek guidance from your faculty, and work diligently to make your dreams a reality,” said Ashur.

“My future aspirations revolve around creating a lasting impact in the world of nuclear technologies,” said Protecheva. 

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 13,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

April 17, 2024

Written by:
Media Relations

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher