Flying start

Semester 2 is off to a flying start. Technically, we only started back January 9, but I’ve been in the office the week before to try and get ahead with some research in the lab before it got busy again. I was working on my conference abstracts (see post here) in the lab, getting familiarized with the motion analysis system set up we have here as it’s different to the one I was used to before. I’ll write a post soon on the system and include some fun photos.

I’m glad I came in early because it gave me a chance to have a couple of in-depth conversations with my advisor, and he’s tasked me with a validation study as a sub-section of my main project. As part of my Achilles tendon moment arm calculations, I’m using ultrasound to determine the location of the Achilles in relation to the center of rotation of the ankle. The validation study I’m doing is to track a metal rod using 3D motion analysis so I know it’s location in 3D space, and use the ultrasound probe to compute where I think the rod is in comparison to the probe (which also has retroreflective markers on). The goal is to see the level of error in the computational method and show that it’s an appropriate method to use going forward.  I wanted to have the data collected by the end of last week but the gel standoffs we have in the lab went out of date in 2005, so I’m waiting for some new ones to be delivered before I can collect good data. I anticipate the collection taking an hour, but the analysis and code writing to take a month or so with everything else going on this semester.

On top of this validation study, I’m undergoing the fun process of obtaining institutional review board (IRB) ethical approval. Here that consists of putting together a packet with my research proposal, protocol, informed consent forms, recruitment forms and so forth. I’ve been writing my proposal and protocol but these definitely still need a lot of work before they’re ready to submit. I’m hoping to have this ready for the IRB meeting at the end of January so I can get some participants into the lab and analyzed before an abstract submission deadline.

The other fun thing being back is we get to see the roster of invited speakers for our colloquium – a required seminar series with a variety of topics in the realm of kinesiology. I’ve posted the current speaker list below, and there are a few talks there I’m really looking forward to.


I’ll try and write a summary of the advice talks and will draft some interview questions for the motor control and biomechanics speakers. In addition to the seminar series, we have a multitude of job talks coming up this semester – the BME department is hiring so many of these talks are related to biomechanics research. It’s always interesting to see candidates who make it to this stage and I think every exposure to the process before you have to go through it yourself is important (yes, I like to plan ahead!).

One final seminar series we can go to is “The Penn State Action Club”. This is organized by the motor control department but often has biomechanics speakers. Sometimes the talks go over my head, but that makes me read up on the topic, and the speakers are always engaging and have intriguing research areas. It’s a biweekly series where the invited speakers are allowed ten uninterrupted minutes before the floor can ask questions (sometimes belligerently!). The talks are often interdisciplinary, including motor control, biomechanics, neurophysiology, psychology and philosophy to name a few. The speaker schedule has just been released and it’s below, although we’ve yet to know the talk titles.img_1132

For classes this semester, I am taking two – Mechanics of Locomotion and Experimental Design and Methodology. I am expecting the former to give me a broad understanding of the key literature relating to locomotion and an appreciation of the link between mechanics, energetics, and adaptations as they relate to gait. The latter class is a kinesiology-specific research methods where, over the duration of the semester, we will write a comprehensive research proposal, consider ethical issues and apply statistical analysis to kinesiology scenarios. Both classes have weekly assignments but relate closely to what I’m currently working on in my research so I see them being complimentary, rather than just a requirement.

To end the post today, I’ll sum up our lab meeting from the day. My advisor is program chair for ASB this year and therefore is asking his grad students to assist. So I’m sure some later posts will be about helping out with conference organization. He’s also asked me to take on host duties for an invited speaker who will be coming while my advisor is away at an ASB meeting – I’m thrilled to take on the responsibility as a lowly first year student! It, of course, is not all work and no play, Starbucks is at the bottom of the road my office is on. We might have made a few trips there today while talking about some of the crazy videos with the Amazon Echo “Alexa” mishaps that came out over the holiday. I have a few youtube videos to go watch this evening!