Dr. Francisco Sepulveda is the Director of the Brain-Computer Interfaces Lab in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at the University of Essex. He is also a former student of SBCC, where he studied Physical Sciences. "I had many great teachers at SBCC. In fact, now that I am an academic myself, and having studied and/or worked in six countries since, I can confidently say that SBCC's teaching staff is truly on par with the best in the world. Elwood Schapansky in particular had a strong positive influence in my future career choice and in the way I interact with my students. He is a tremendous inspiration to me." Studying at SBCC was crucial for Francisco's future. Throughout his studies beyond that point, he always felt that he had a very strong hold on fundamentals, largely due to the great teachers he had at SBCC. As Francisco puts it, "The friendly environment also made the whole learning experience so much fun, I was hooked!"
Francisco was accepted by UC Berkeley and UCSB. He chose to attend UCSB, where he graduated with the "Outstanding Senior" award in Nuclear Engineering. Regarding his transfer, Francisco says, "When I transferred to UCSB, I felt fully prepared. In fact, I was chosen the top student in my graduating class by my fellow students in nuclear engineering." He then went on to obtain an MSc in Bioengineering from Clemson University. His dissertation led to the first paper applying artificial intelligence (artificial neural networks) to biomechanics. After a year studying Neurophysiology at the Catholic University in Chile – his native country - Francisco moved to Brazil to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Unicamp. His PhD thesis (the first study using an artificial neural controller to generate walking via neuromuscular electrical stimulation in a spinal-cord injured person) received the best paper award at the 1994 World Congress on Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering. After obtaining his PhD, he stayed in Brazil for another two years as a postdoctoral fellow in neural engineering. In 1999, he became an Assistant Professor in Neural Engineering at Aalborg University (Denmark), where he did research on implanted neural sensors for artificial control of human movement and prostheses. In 2002, he became a Lecturer in Intelligent Systems in the former Department of Computer Science (now School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering) at the University of Essex (UK), where he is currently a Reader in Computational Intelligence. At Essex he co-founded and leads the Brain-Computer Interfaces group. The group is now the largest in its field in the UK, having attracted more than £1million in grants in the last five years. Francisco and his group have received ample attention in the UK media, including, but not limited to, appearances on Sky News, BBC Radio 5 Live, Channel 4 TV, The Telegraph, The New Scientist, and The DANA Centre at the Science Museum (London).
While Francisco has received numerous teaching awards and accolades, he has achieved it all while having a degenerative neuropathy (Dejerine-Sottas Disease) from birth, being partially deaf and battling chronic neuropathic pain. It is also truly noteworthy that for such an accomplished, dedicated scholar, Francisco holds a special place for SBCC in his heart. Of his experience here, he says, "SBCC is a true gem. The quality of the teachers and the beauty of the campus and surroundings are two of the things I have not encountered again since. It was also great to meet people from different age groups, nationalities, and backgrounds. The whole experience was very enriching."