Q&A with faculty mentor Tom Sugar

President’s Professor Tom Sugar enjoys introducing undergraduate students to robotics research as a mentor in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, known as FURI. Sugar conducts research in wearable robotics, exoskeletons, prosthetics and orthotics, and he is making impacts in the community with his student researchers. He says FURI can lead to exciting opportunities during and after students’ undergraduate studies, and contribute fresh ideas to faculty members’ labs. 

Learn more about the student projects for which Sugar is a mentor

Thomas Sugar

What made you want to get involved as a FURI faculty mentor?

FURI is a great opportunity for young, beginner researchers to join a lab and work with a faculty member and their graduate students. I like to encourage students to work in my lab during their junior year and become excited about a robotics project that can carry on to a graduate project at ASU or elsewhere.

What is your favorite part about seeing your students conduct research?

My favorite part of working with students conducting research is to see their excitement when coming up with a new idea and then persevering to finish a project that does not always have a single answer.

How have your FURI students had an effect on your research?

Students with a fresh perspective have come up with new ideas, helped to write patents and have been able to write conference papers with me.

What have you gained from being a FURI mentor?

I have been able to recruit great students to work in my lab who have continued on to work on a graduate project. These students have been able to build and design exoskeletons, prostheses and other wearable devices that have made an impact on the community.

Dr. Sugar motivates me more than anyone else at ASU. What really impresses me about Dr. Sugar is his comprehensive understanding of everything that we discuss. He is always equipped with the background and knowledge necessary to provide exceptional and incredibly beneficial advice. He is a hard worker who pays attention to the smallest details. He is extremely organized and never misses a meeting, regardless of his workload. Dr. Sugar makes time to listen and assist in any way he can. His experience and guidance motivate me and following our sessions, I always feel energized and prepared to investigate and find the next solution.

Jake Okun Manufacturing engineering FURI student

What advice would you give to students who might be interested in participating in FURI?

My advice is to talk with multiple faculty members, talk with their graduate students and find a lab or a project that you are interested in. Then attend some of the lab meetings for one semester to understand the field of study. After finding a lab, then work with the faculty mentor to write up a FURI application and be part of a research community.

As part of ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, I also encourage students to work on a FURI project that can carry on to create a high-impact honors thesis or honors creative project. 

Why should other faculty members become FURI mentors?

Becoming a FURI mentor will allow you to grow your research program. These future researchers will work on applied projects, master’s theses or continue on for a doctoral degree.

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