Student Innovator Spotlight: Eden Redman

The Executive Director of NeurAlbertaTech is searching for arts- and science-based solutions to effectively treat mental illness.


What does being an innovator mean to you?

Being an innovator means putting yourself and others in uncomfortable situations. For example, putting people in a room together who don’t have a common language, like artists and engineers, or neuro students with business students. No one likes to be uncomfortable, so with a little bit of structured discussion or co-working, spontaneous innovations in those situations are plentiful.

How do you describe your work to people who don’t work in your field?

I use a variety of technologies to assess and alter the state of a user's brain; this can be used to diagnose or treat mental illnesses, generate art, or assist in language learning. That description might evoke imagery of a mad scientist shocking an exposed brain with large arcs of electricity, but my day-to-day consists of leading the development of neurotechnology software and hardware as well as coordinating and conducting validation studies in the domains of basic and clinical research. Or, to use less jargon, I work on Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI): programs that “read” or “write” the physical state of the brain (using electrical or blood flow signals as measures of brain activity), and relay that information back to the user in a meaningful fashion, often in real time. An example of this is a project I lead at NeurAlbertaTech, called Koalacademy. This program utilizes the subsequent memory effect, or the idea that we can predict whether someone will remember or forget what they're studying based on their brain activity while they are first learning it. The eventual goal is to have users studying English-Mandarin associations while hooked up to a machine monitoring their brain’s electrical activity, and to offer them real-time feedback on whether their learning is likely to be successful or not. 

What’s one big problem you want to solve through your work?

Adequately addressing the dire lack of effective treatments for severe neuropsychiatric illnesses (without creating debilitating side effects). With a close family member diagnosed with schizophrenia and having lost close friends to suicide, I am touched by the impact of severe mental illness on a daily basis. Citing the failures of psychopharmacological research in adequately addressing these modern problems, I see neurotechnology as the driving force for the development of novel and effective treatments of severe neuropsychiatric pathologies. 

What advice would you give to someone that wants to venture into innovation but is afraid to?

Just do something! A subtle variant of the “Just do it” slogan, because often people don’t know what “it” is… throw yourself in a hackathon or other competition, or start a side project that seems nearly impossible at a first glance. Surround yourself with equally passionate people and build a community around what interests you the most, that’s what I did with NeurAlbertaTech! Don’t be afraid to fail miserably, recognize that in some capacity failures will happen, it is virtually guaranteed whether you are actively innovating or not. Knowing that, why not fail upward, toward something meaningful?

How do you balance your work with your other studies, personal life, and self care?

Some days I am so engrossed in my projects it seldom feels like actual work, others are stressful and filled with the aforementioned failures. Regardless of which type of day it is, I strive to work under 12 hours, and have a hard stop at 60 hours a week. Outside of work I find I have ample time for my partner(s), my garden(s), and my cat. 

What do you think are the biggest issues facing young innovators right now?

The same things that all young people are facing: grim financial prospects even compared to just a generation ago. Something I would like to see in the coming years is a change in the criteria of grants and scholarships. Currently, the usual criteria of four classes and a high GPA is often unattainable for those working full time due to financial instability. Grants, especially those targeted towards innovation, should be given based on merit, not a check in the right box. Beyond the upsetting nature of these policies to disproportionately affect minorities, the system is working to make the rich even richer, not support innovation.

Shout out your work! What do you have coming up in your future?

natHACKS, Alberta’s first Brain Computer Interface hackathon July 30 - August 2! It's beginner friendly, with free workshops, networking, and the opportunity to win more than $10,000 in prizes.

Innovator Spotlight is a series that introduces you to students whose big ideas are making a big difference.

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About Eden

Eden is the recipient of the Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2021) from the YEG Community Startup Awards. Eden is enrolled in an after-degree program at the University of Alberta focusing on Fine Arts and Design. With a previous BSc in Psychology and a Certificate in Research and over five years of research experience in Psychology, Neuroscience, Physiology, and Psychiatry, he has also co-authored a number of papers exploring the human brain. Eden currently holds a number of prominent positions in the Alberta neurotechnology ecosystem as Executive Director of NeurAlbertaTech, CEO of RemBRAINdt, and CTO of 8 Bit Cortex.