Student Program for Healthcare Engineering Research and Education

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Student Program for Healthcare Engineering Research and Education (SPHERE)

The Student Program for Healthcare Engineering Research and Education (SPHERE) is a partnership between Indian Health Services (IHS) and Barrett, the Honors College. It is intended to provide a meaningful research experience to undergraduate students utilizing an engineering approach to incorporate advanced research into IHS healthcare systems to raise the health and wellness of both patients and medical staff, improve the quality of care provided, and increase the energy and economic efficiency of the built environment.

Position Description

In this program, third and fourth year students will earn school credit and perform quality research related to healthcare engineering and apply what they learn in the classroom setting to the design, construction, and operation of healthcare facilities. This appointment will offer on-going research opportunities for independent study course credit to students.

Learning Objectives

By participating in SPHERE, students will learn to identify a question or problem, formulate a hypothesis, design an experiment, process and interpret collected data, and formulate a conclusion based on their findings. Students will learn to present research professionally and effectively. Once the student completes his or her research, IHS may choose to incorporate said research findings into policy, operating procedures, or other maintenance-related activities. To be determined on a case-by-case basis, SPHERE projects may be continued into an honors thesis project.

The above goals will be accomplished by undertaking the following activities:

  1. A maximum of two ASU students will work on a single research project related to engineering in healthcare systems as approved by IHS
  2. The student(s) will gather field data and perform data processing while working with an IHS mentor
  3. For the duration of the research project, each student will spend approximately 10 hours per week working on their SPHERE project, including at least one half hour a week with an IHS mentor
  4. At the end of their SPHERE project, the student(s) will present their research in a professional manner, including a discussion on data collection, data interpretation and processing techniques, as well as a section on their conclusions

Expectations of participants

SPHERE participants will be expected to:

  1. Register for the appropriate credits through their associated university
  2. Show up on time and prepared to all agreed-upon hours of research work
  3. Competently complete all research work on time
  4.  Be responsive to the assigned IHS mentor, as related to their SPHERE project
  5. After project completion, fill out an evaluation form with any critical or positive feedback to be used to better the SPHERE program for future student participants.

Expectations of investigators

  1. Be available and offer guidance to the student, as related to their SPHERE project
  2. Ensure student has adequate resources and access to complete their project
  3. Provide an evaluation of the work completed by the student at the end of the SPHERE project


Exceptional students of Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University (ASU) are eligible for participation. Applicants must:

  • Be in their third or fourth year in Barrett at ASU during semester of appointment.
  • Have a grade point average of at least a 3.3 (4.0 scale).
  • Be seeking a major relevant to the desired experience within The College of Liberal Arts & Science, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the College of Health Solutions, or the College of Integrative Sciences & Arts with at least 1 year of experience (recommended).
  • Be able to devote at least 10 hours per week to the research project.
  • If planning a thesis, have an ASU faculty co-director for the thesis if the IHS mentor does not have an academic affiliation with ASU.
  • Be able to register for HON 498 for 3 credits each semester of appointment.
  • Have access to transportation to and from IHS healthcare facility located in Downtown Phoenix.

Applications will be initially reviewed by Barrett, The Honors College and eligible applicants will be submitted to Indian Health Services for further consideration.

Project Areas

Below are potential project areas SPHERE students will be able to work on during the duration of the program.
• Heat transfer analyses
• Temperature/humidity studies
• Aerosol dispersal
• Fluid analyses: experimental design and execution
• Mechanical Equipment Energy Optimization (air handlers, chillers, etc.)
• Other*
Students will identify preferred project area(s) in their application.

*Indian Health Services has the capacity to support a variety of project areas, depending on the area of interest. Please identify the potential project area in the text box as well as describe it in your personal statement.

Application Process & Timeline

Eligible SPEHRE students will submit an application packet containing the following:

  1. A personal statement describing their relevant experience and classes related to the potential project area, a willingness to learn new skills and techniques required to solve a research problem, and a method of transportation they will utilize to travel to the IHS Phoenix Area Office located in downtown Phoenix
  2. A copy of their transcript showing the completion of at least three years of classes with a cumulative GPA of no less than 3.3 on a 4.0 scale
  3. One signed letter of recommendation from a current or previous supervisor or faculty member

Upon acceptance of their application packet, a student may be asked to:

  1. Complete a phone and/or in-person interview
  2. Complete the required background investigation for volunteering in an IHS healthcare facility

Applications are currently open. The deadline is 12p on October 18, 2021

Final decisions will be made the week of November 1 with applicants notified via email.

Apply now

Responsible leaders for this partnership are Heather Zunino, Indian Health Services, and Cassandra Lee Saenz, Internship & Community Engagement Coordinator, Sr., with Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University.