Computer Science Graduate Student Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Prestigious Award Provides Support for Three Years

Jose Daniel Velazco-Garcia, a doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Houston, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Jose Daniel Velazco
Jose Daniel Velazco-Garcia’s work with the Microsoft Hololens, a holographic augmented reality head mounted display, can be used to help a physician visualize patient information in true 3D.

This highly competitive fellowship is for research-based master’s and doctoral students in NSF-supported fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The fellowship provides financial support for three years covering tuition, fees and a monthly stipend. Fellows also have opportunities for international research collaborations and professional career development with federal internships.

Visualizing Patient Information in True 3D

Velazco-Garcia’s current research focuses on the interactive immersion and on-the-fly control of medical imaging scanners.

“One of our goals is to see the beating heart of a patient by ‘seeing through’ the patient using holographic augmented reality in real-time,” Velazco-Garcia said. For example, the Microsoft Hololens, a holographic augmented reality head mounted display, can help a physician visualize patient information in true 3D by overlaying the information directly onto the patient.

An example of what a user sees when wearing the Hololens.

“By providing such tools, our objective is to help physicians diagnose, prepare for, and perform medical interventions resulting in faster, safer and cheaper procedures,” added Velazco-Garcia.

Velazco-Garcia has been a member of the UH Medical Robotics Lab since 2017; he is co-advised by Nikolaos Tsekos and Ernst Leiss, both professors of computer science.

“I am very excited for this NSF fellowship that recognizes the potential of Daniel,” Tsekos said. “NSF mechanisms are of the utmost importance in fostering the future generations of academicians and scientific leaders for the nation.”

Reflecting on the Past and Future

“I have always had an interest in technology and excelled in mathematics throughout school. I figured computer science was a field that involved two things I enjoyed and was good at,” Velazco-Garcia said. “My parents have always been very supportive of my education. The fact that I am in this great country is attributed to them. They sacrificed everything to bring me here and to give me the opportunity to be where I am today.”

Velazco-Garcia received his undergraduate degree in computer science with a perfect 4.0 GPA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 2016. As an undergraduate, he promoted student success as a computer science student mentor and mathematics tutor. He started research early as a participant in the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program offered by the UH Department of Computer Science.

This summer, Velazco-Garcia will travel abroad for a research internship with the Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar. He will work alongside researchers from Texas A&M University at Qatar and Hamad General Hospital to develop a magnetic resonance-compatible robotic manipulator for performing MRI-guided prostate cancer interventions.

Velazco-Garcia enjoys the field of computer science and plans to contribute to it after completing his Ph.D.

“The field has offered a lot to society, and I believe there is still a lot more it can do. I want to see what comes out of my current research. The outcome thus far has been positive, and it has opened new paths I had not even considered before,” Velazco-Garcia said. “I have a few more years to finish this Ph.D., and I will reflect on the current and future opportunities life may lay before me.”

- Matthew Pariyothorn, Department of Computer Science