Ross Hempel, on working in with Dr. Noehren Division of Physical Therapy
What (or who) inspired you to pursue hands-on research experience?
Coming to UK, I have heard research being thrown around since the second I set foot on campus. UK wanting to eventually make it into the top 20 for research schools, and me being a biology major, I know many professors are here to not only teach but to do research as well. As I have gotten further into my major, I have seen the significance of research to the science field. For this reason, by the time this year (my junior year) rolled around, I was ready to get involved in one of the bases of UK's education plan.
What do you enjoy most about your time in lab or in research in general?
When I first began my research under Dr. Noehren, I had mixed feelings about adding ten hours of research a week to my already packed spring semester. However, after seeing what I was going to be doing as well as what was planned for me, I can honestly say my lab time is my favorite time of the academic week. Being able to narrow down my education to the topics learned during my research has been a breath of fresh air in comparison to the broader topics that are learned undergraduate classes. Being able to focus entirely on anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery, iliotiibal band syndrome and the general biomechanics of the lower extremities has allowed me to learn in totally different ways then I am accustomed to (through journal articles) but will help to gear me toward the type of thinking needed in the health field.
Describe what a day might look like in lab?
There are two types of lab days for me. The first one deals with data collections. During this process, a subject will come in and be run through different tests based on the study being done. Almost all collections I have done up to this point have dealt with ACLR subjects. Before the subject arrives, I am usually involved with the preparation of the reflective markers used during the study as well as the calibration of the camera system. The markers are placed on the subject at predetermined anatomical positions, then the subject is placed on a treadmill that is centrally located among 15 cameras that pick up the markers. The subject is then required to perform certain actions, such as leg raises/rotations and walking/running at various speeds. During this time, I am monitoring the subjects pain by them vocalizing it to me every 2 minutes and recording it for later use. After each test has been run, I am involved with the clean up of the markers and materials used during the trial runs. I know this may seem very confusing so this website may help out if you would like some extra insight http://www.mc.uky.edu/pt/runninginjurylab/index.html. The second portion, and the majority, of my lab time is spent data processing the information taken from the data collections. This requires me to be in the Wethington building, where the computers are set up to run the proper programs to do the processing. I use the data collected, as well the Cortex, LabView and Visual3D programs to obtain 300+ discrete variables that can be used to help determine if there is a true difference between healthy control subjects and subjects who have had ACLR surgery.
At what point in your education did you realize this might be an opportunity for you?
Not until last Fall did I actually think I would be doing undergraduate research. Towards the end of that semester, I sent out various emails to prospective mentors and ended up meeting with Dr. Noehren to discuss possible research options for this Spring. Obviously those talks went well, as I am now contributing 10 hours a week to help him and his graduate students with their studies, and will eventually will be given more responsibility with the IT band study that has yet to begin.