Recent graduate Rosemarie Day ’17 is developing a mobile app she hopes will have headache sufferers reaching for their phones instead of the medicine cabinet. The app, tentatively named “Whitman,” tracks environmental factors like temperature, humidity levels, and light and combines them with users’ personal data so they can alter their environment to minimize or even avoid headache symptoms. Day, who suffers from headaches herself, started developing “Whitman” for her senior capstone project, which she completed under the advisement of Visiting Assistant Professor Hassan Salehi in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture. It now has the backing of iDevices, an Avon, Conn.-based company where Day works as a software engineer and spent time as an intern.
“I discovered that my headaches, migraines, and sinus headaches could be misdiagnosed due to their similarities, as many people’s can. Having a way to keep track of the role the environment plays makes it easier to diagnose them and ultimately treat them," Day says.
Small, wireless sensors placed in rooms inside the user’s home track environmental factors, and they enter personal data into the app, including daily eating, sleeping, and activity habits. The information is combined and sent to an iPhone or tablet. The data is then analyzed and displayed on the screen, revealing patterns between changes in the environment and the onset of a headache or migraine. “For example, if the app reveals that higher temperatures and light sensitivity combined are a factor, the user can make adjustments to reduce their exposure to these elements,” she says.
Aside from sponsorship from iDevices, “Whitman” earned Day first place among the dozens of senior projects showcased at the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture’s 2017 Spring Expo. She also presented it at the 2016 IEEE MIT Undergraduate Research Technology Conference in Cambridge, Mass. But she still sees room for improvement.
“I have some ideas to make “Whitman” more usable and efficient, so I’ll keep working on it as a project when I enter graduate school at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the fall,” Day shares. “My dream is to expand it to include other chronic illnesses affected by environmental changes, including asthma and joint-related disorders.”