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Sarah Barreto Ornellas from Yale University:

Human movement control

Zu Gast an der TUM: Sarah Barreto Ornellas studiert im vierten Semester Biomedical Engineering in Yale. (Foto: Uli Benz)
Zu Gast an der TUM: Sarah Barreto Ornellas studiert im vierten Semester Biomedical Engineering in Yale. (Foto: Uli Benz)

The PREP program, organized by the TUM International Center, enables students from North American elite universities to participate in a research project at TUM and to get to know Munich and Germany during the summer holidays. Sarah Barreto Ornellas, a student at Yale, is one of this year’s participants in PREP. What did she experience at TUM and in Munich so far?

TUMstudinews: Sarah, you’ve now been in Munich since the end of May. What exactly are you doing here?

Sarah Barreto Ornellas: I am taking part in the PREP program, which allows students from North America to do a research internship at different TUM faculties. I am working at the Department of Sports and Health Sciences, Professorship of Neuromuscular Diagnostics. We are investigating the principles of human movement control – for example, how humans respond to changes in environmental conditions and adapt their movements to these changes.

That sounds very exciting. How did you get that idea?

I am a student of Biomedical Engineering at Yale, in my fourth semester. During the semester, there are a few smaller research projects within the framework of our courses, but there’s not enough time for comprehensive projects. Thus, I wanted to use the summer holidays to participate in a project from start to finish. I applied for the TUM’s PREP program, and I have now been in Munich since May.

What are the major differences between studying in Yale and in Munich?

In Yale, the students live on the campus – and that’s where one’s entire life takes place. You can walk from the dormitory to the seminar room in five minutes. Here, I live in the “Studentenstadt” in another part of the city, and the university has several different sites. As Yale focuses on “liberal art education”, my curriculum also includes social science subjects although I am actually studying something technical.

Your internship won’t be going on for very much longer. What is your résumé so far?

My time in Munich was a fantastic experience. In the scope of the internship, I was able to get to know the German university system and to gain valuable practical experience. I also like the city very much, because there’s so much to do. I often went to the beer garden or hiking with friends. The PREP program also offers a very diverse program for the participants, and everything is taken care of. That’s really great.

Is there anything you didn’t like so much?

What I don’t like is that the shops in Munich are only open until 8 pm. I still haven’t got used to that (laughs).

What are your plans for after the internship?

When I get home, I will have two weeks of the summer holidays left to relax a bit. In the longer run, I will finish my Bachelor’s degree – and I’m planning to go for a Master’s degree after that, possibly in a course of studies abroad. Maybe I’ll come back to Munich and to TUM.


Sarah Barreto Ornellas (20) is from Brazil – and she has been studying Biomedical Engineering at the elite university Yale in the United States for two years. Her older sister is currently studying in France, so the two sisters were able to visit each other. After studying, Sarah would like to work in the field of Health Care Technology and maybe go back to Brazil.

More information:
Practical Research Experience Program at TUM

Sarah erklärt dem Probanden die virtuelle Bewegungsaufgabe: Mit dem Arm soll das Robotermanipulandum bewegt werden. (Foto: Uli Benz)
Sarah erklärt dem Probanden die virtuelle Bewegungsaufgabe: Mit dem Arm soll das Robotermanipulandum bewegt werden. (Foto: Uli Benz)
Durch eine Monitor-Spiegel-Konstruktion sieht der Proband den eigenen Arm nicht, sondern eine in die Bewegungsebene hineinprojizierte virtuelle Aufgabe. (Foto: Uli Benz)
Durch eine Monitor-Spiegel-Konstruktion sieht der Proband den eigenen Arm nicht, sondern eine in die Bewegungsebene hineinprojizierte virtuelle Aufgabe. (Foto: Uli Benz)
Sarah analysiert die experimentell erhobenen Bewegungstrajektorien auf das motorische Lernverhalten des Probanden. (Foto: Uli Benz)
Sarah analysiert die experimentell erhobenen Bewegungstrajektorien auf das motorische Lernverhalten des Probanden. (Foto: Uli Benz)