VALENTINE'S Sam Parker is planning a trip that could change the lives of millions of Australians, but the 22-year-old is heading into the unknown in terms of when he could be back in the country.
The University of Newcastle John Monash scholar has been accepted at America's prestigious Brown University, an institution at the forefront of his chosen field of brain-computer interface technology.
Mr Parker, who has previously travelled to America for an internship with space agency NASA, will pursue his PhD in biomedical engineering at the Rhode Island institution.
He said studying at the University of Newcastle had given him the tools required to fulfill his "dream come true".
"Brown is at the top of brain computer interface research across the world and has been for a while," Mr Parker said.
"I've known since early high school that this is something I wanted to do, so I've set my sights on that since then."
Brain-computer interfaces measure electro-chemical signals in the brain when completing a task, then use the same signals to control a computer or prosthetic.
Mr Parker said his attraction to the field was simple: to change lives.
"It's this incredible sort of injustice, people can be in the prime of their life and then they can have their independence taken away from them," he said.
"It's a terrible sort of situation these people are in and it's so irreversible. I made it my goal to reverse that."
Mr Parker's final year project, a brain-controlled robotic arm, won the University of Newcastle's best project award last year.
The device required him to build software and hardware that recorded brain activity and sent it wirelessly to a laptop, and then on to a 3D printed prosthetic hand in real time.
A dual citizen, Mr Parker said he was prepared to head abroad for his studies but did so without a clear picture of when he might next be on Australia soil.
"It's definitely on my mind, and on my mum's mind," he said.
"With video calling and everything these days it won't be too bad."
He said his citizenship status had been crucial, with other colleagues forced to defer due to their inability to secure a visa to the US with consulates closed.
Despite holding US citizenship, he said he had still been required to seek an exemption and prove his means to support himself while abroad in order to cross the Pacific.
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