Robotics captain turns his talents to hospital labs


Ezra Fax

PURPOSE: Seiji Shaw worked at two hospitals, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

By Clara Sandler, Sports Editor

Senior Seiji Shaw is known around school as the robotics superstar, and he spent his summer also pursuing work in the field of science – working with computers at San Francisco General Hospital and in the Cardiology lab at Cedars-Sinai.

“I’m taking my robotics skills and placing them somewhere else,” said Seiji, who enrolled in Shalhevet last year after his family moved south from the Bay Area. “I developed a lot of skills at robotics that I used for robots, but now I’m using them for a greater purpose.”

Seiji started the Firehawk Robotics team last year, and it placed 16th in its very first competition in March.

Over the summer, he worked in San Francisco for two weeks, and at Cedars-Sinai for a month.

In San Francisco, Seiji worked in the tuberculosis clinic, where he started out creating a system for organizing gift cards for donors. The system was so successful that it ultimately was used to organize medicines, according to his supervisor at SF General, clinical epidemiologist Laura Romo.

“I was really pleased because he came with a plan,” said Ms. Romo. “I was really impressed with his work ethic and his enthusiasm and obviously with the success that he had with helping us out with the inventory system.”

The clinic has an incentive system for attracting patients who need treatment with thousands of dollars in gift cards. Each box of gift cards contained $5,000 worth of cards and there was no way to keep track of the gift cards in the box.

That’s where Seiji came in–he created a system to store and track those cards to where they were given out, who they were given to AND what time of day, and to provide a history for theses incentives so that the clinic could prove that everything was given out.

It worked so well that it became a system for the medicines in the hospital too. Seiji created it along with another student, Alex Lara-Agraz, of Brentwood, Northern California. Alex is the son of one of Seiji’s mom’s former colleagues.

“Right now the meds system works,” Seiji said. “We might need some more changes for the gift card system, but we’ll find a way to do that some time.”

He got the job at the TB clinic because his mom, formerly of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, knew about the volunteering program. They sent an email to the volunteering offices and after training and an application, Seiji was put in touch with his supervisor. He plans on going back to work at this TB clinic in the future, he said.

Seiji got his Cedars-Sinai job through his cousin who was also working in a lab. They wanted to work together.

At Cedars-Sinai, he did cellular imaging and data analysis, taking pictures of heart cells from mice and evaluating them to see if they supported a top-secret hypothesis being studied by research scientist Dr. Ying Fu.

He also created software for the hospital’s Cardiology lab. The woman who ran the clinic at Cedars-Sinai had to look at spreadsheets and calculate averages and ratios. Seiji was able to create software through Excel to automate the data analysis at Cedars.

Seiji said he was happy to the skills from robotics to “help the world.”

“My goal later in life is to develop something or do research that will help someone,” he said. “The inventory system helps the TB clinic be more organized to save lives. The lab helps solve the some of the mystery of how the heart beats coherently. I’m taking my robotics skills and placing them somewhere else.”

He also enjoyed going back to San Francisco.

“It was nice,” Seiji said. “I got to visit friends and family, and it was kind of nice to see the city again. It made me appreciate where I am in LA, and appreciate San Francisco.”