Name: Marvin Andujar
Title: assistant professor and research lab director for the University of South Florida
Hometown: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Alma mater: Kean University, New Jersey (B.S., B.A.) and University of Florida (Ph.D.)
On the job: I have multiple duties as a professor at a research institution. I direct a research lab of Ph.D.s, masters and undergraduate students who pursue work on brain-computer interfaces and write research proposals to obtain grants for the lab’s research projects. In addition to my research lab duties, I also teach computing courses to undergraduate and graduate students. My research work has been published across 40 research publications to date and my work has been featured in more than 700 media outlets worldwide. My work has been presented to a CEO in a Fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley and I received $300,000 to work on brain-controlled drone technology.
Giving back: I hosted Tampa’s first Brain-Drone Race event in 2019. Over 300 people attended the event and hundreds more watched through a live social media feed. This event brought the community together to see students race drones with the power of their brains. Kids were able to learn about the science behind controlling machines with the human brain and they also had the opportunity to try the technology themselves by flying small drones. My research is currently tailored to help the ADHD community improve their attention discipline through creating art with their thoughts. The long-term goal is to help everyone to train their focus over time and reduce the need to intake drugs that have major side effects. I aim to host future brain-drone races, e-sport events and art exhibits in the Tampa Bay community. My work has also been expanded to collaborate with local companies in Tampa, such as Diamond View, Vu Studios and Silent Vibes.
When I’m not working, you can find me: I’m a big introvert. I like to do movies and TV show marathons. By doing so, it helps me relax and regain my energy. I also enjoy traveling to new places where I can explore and learn about the different cultures that the world has to offer.
When I was a child I wanted to be: I always knew I wanted to be an engineer or a scientist. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with tall buildings and their designs, so I wanted to be a civil engineer at first. However, my fascination and curiosity for technology grew overtime. Thus, I decided to pursue a career in computing where I was able to combine my goals and dreams of becoming both an engineer and a scientist.
My secret talent or skill is being detail oriented and having a photographic memory. I also practiced martial arts and won at several tournaments.
My dream vacation is to travel across Europe for a few months to be able to explore different cities, cuisines and their culture.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is: Learn how to play the game of life. Life is a game. It is a set of rules and as you grow, you must continue playing the game. You may lose some and win some, but only you can determine how to ultimately be the winner.
My favorite thing about Tampa is its broad diversity and the rapid growth of the city. The city is evolving rapidly in the technology sector, entrepreneurship and real estate. In a few years, people can come to Tampa, study and get high-paying jobs in a lot of tech positions. I have lived in five states and Tampa is by far my favorite place to date.
My motto or philosophy that I live by is to contribute to society through my work to help improve people’s quality of life. Just like Steve Jobs said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?”
My hero or inspiration is: My first inspiration was my parents. Although they did not graduate from high school, they understood the importance of education and always made sure I was pursuing my goals. My parents may not have a degree, but they have always had entrepreneurial mindsets. This taught me to never give up, be a go-getter and to make the best out of every situation.
My pump-up song is: I don’t have really one, but EDM music overall gets me pumped up.
My most ambitious goal is to help society adapt neuro devices in their homes for brain exercises, such as meditation and to train their focus. I would like to see people using neuro devices just as smartwatches are used today to track their mental health for a better quality of life.
The greatest adversity I’ve faced is: I have faced several adversities throughout my journey to obtaining a Ph.D. and even after. Nevertheless, the biggest adversity I recall is when me and my colleagues organized the world’s first brain-drone race in 2016 in Gainesville. There were several challenges that I faced, as this type of event had never been hosted before. In the process of testing the drones as part of the preparation protocol, the police were called as drones were being flown near buildings, when looking for a venue to host the event, my team and I were turned down by many simply because their event involved drones, some media outlets doubted the credibility of controlling drones with the human brain, and even random individuals reported the event to the safety department. Despite the multiple obstacles faced, my colleagues and I established strategies to overcome those challenges presented by others and were able to host the race successfully. The media covered the race and it was showcased in more than 500 media outlets worldwide including The New York Times, Associated Press and Discovery Channel, among others.