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Story in the School of Engineering

Reiley photo

Carol Reiley '04

Computer Engineering major
At a glance:

Computer engineering grad earns her Ph.D. specializing in surgical robots, a path she started on thanks to rare opportunities as an undergraduate.

Carol Reiley '04 earned her Ph.D. in 2010 from Johns Hopkins University and returns to the Bay Area in November building surgical robots for Intuitive Surgical.

She specialized in surgical robotics at the Johns Hopkins' Computational Interaction and Robotics Lab. Reiley brought expertise in a range of fields—computers, robotics, engineering, and board games (more on that shortly)—to research that will help medical students learn intricate and precise procedures. One particular demonstration of this robot's prowess went viral, as Reiley and a colleague created a short film of the surgical robot mastering the intricacies of the game Operation.

It was her experience as an undergraduate at Santa Clara that led Reiley to this specialty, particularly research in the robotics lab with Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Christopher Kitts. "Professor Kitts showed me this really interesting field, haptics—the sense of touch for robots," she says. As a senior, Reiley built a remotely-operated robotic arm that gave the operator force feedback. She and her team created an arm that could allow users to tell the difference between the tactile force needed to pick up a rock and that needed to pick up an egg.

Reiley says studying engineering at Santa Clara was ideal, because of the location. "Silicon Valley is right where everything is happening."

She hopes to return to the area after earning her doctorate, and to pursue teaching. "Because of Professor Kitts, I understand what a good teacher is. Professors at Santa Clara care about their students; they changed my life. I want to give back."

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Check out that board game playing robot.

Watch a video about SCU's robotics lab below.

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