Dr Tommy Peng is a Junior Fellow of the Passe and Williams Foundation in 2023. He received a BSc and MSc in biomedical engineering from Washington University in St Louis (Missouri, USA), as well as a PhD in computer systems engineering from the University of Auckland (New Zealand).
As a postdoctoral research fellow at the Bionics Institute’s Translational Hearing Research team, Tommy leverages his expertise in psychoacoustics, electrophysiology, and predictive modelling to discover patient-specific areas of poor auditory neurone survival that lead to poor speech understanding outcomes in cochlear implant users.
Tommy is highly passionate about improving life for cochlear implant users. As an auditory neuroscientist with a background in biomedical engineering, he believes that good applications of engineering principles backed by strong scientific evidence are the route to improving health outcomes.
“While some people get great results from their cochlear implant, others achieve poorer speech understanding due to patches of poor hearing nerve cell survival inside their cochlea (inner ear) – known as neural dead regions,” said Tommy.
He is currently working on a tailored cochlear implant signal processing technique to reduce the deleterious impacts of these patient-specific neural dead regions as part of his awards research project.
Specifically, his primary goal in carrying out this research is to create a personalised cochlear implant signal processing method that can work around neural dead regions to improve hearing results for cochlear implant recipients.
As an early-career researcher, Tommy considers joining the Foundation’s Fellowship Program because he believes it will greatly assist him in establishing a strong foothold in auditory neuroscience. Tommy began his journey as a Junior Fellow with a fantastic accomplishment: he won the poster blitz at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology Midwinter Meeting in Orlando, Florida in February 2023. Furthermore, he also presented his research on neural dead regions at that competition.
“I’m very honoured to be selected as one of 2023 Junior Fellows of the Passe & Williams Foundation. For me, this program not only supports my research, which will lead to high impact journal publications and improved outcomes for people with cochlear implants, but also provides me with the opportunity to travel to major international conferences to present my research and forge new collaboration links,” said Tommy.
Although he is always motivated to contribute in advancing the ENT research, Tommy is also aware of some key challenges that he may encounter as a researcher. One of the most prevalent obstacles of scientific research, according to him, is communicating with a broader audience.
As he said, “Cochlear implants are complicated devices which combine state-of-the-art engineering and auditory neuroscience. I understand that it is difficult to get everyone excited about our research due to the complexity of the topic and pre-requisite knowledge. Therefore, one of the most important skills for me to continue honing during this fellowship is the ability to communicate our research effectively to a variety of people.”
Despite the challenges, Tommy hopes to make significant advancements to the field of cochlear implants and contribute to improving the quality of people’s lives.
To read more about Tommy’s project “A new cochlear implant signal processing strategy for mitigating neural dead regions” click here or the link below.