February 11, 2019
Research immerses HBCU undergrads in biomedical engineering
Center for Biomechanical & Rehabilitation Engineering lab inspires STEM careers by focusing students on helping the elderly
For Americans over 65, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death. With increases in average life expectancy, the importance of balance training methodologies and assistive technologies towards maintaining overall health, improving balance, as well as preventing falls, has significant societal relevance. The goal of this research is to gain new knowledge about how bodyweight supportive versus sensory training can improve one's balance to ultimately reduce the number of falls in older individuals.
Mechanical engineer Lara Thompson, associate professor of mechanical engineering and initiator and director of the Biomedical Engineering Program, conceptualized and created a state-of-the-art Center for Biomechanical & Rehabilitation Engineering at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), a historically black college and university (HBCU), both to do research and to inspire a new generation of students to pursue careers in STEM, and biomedical engineering, in particular. UDC is the only public institution of higher learning in Washington, D.C., and one of only a few HBCUs nationwide that offers an undergraduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Thompson is preparing her graduates, predominantly women and ethnic minorities, to become the future researchers and innovators who will devise ways to help those suffering from mobility-related deficiencies.
The NSF HBCU Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) makes Research Initiation Awards to HBCU faculty, such as Thompson, who are starting a research program and do not have sufficient financial support from the institution to do so. "These awards have an enormous impact on the career of junior faculty and Dr. Lara Thompson at UDC is a shining example of what can be achieved with federal support. Her research will produce far-reaching broader impacts, in addition to generating new knowledge in the field of biomedical engineering," explains Claudia Rankins, HBCU-UP program director within the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources. "Dr. Thompson is dedicated to making engineering a more diverse discipline that is welcoming to students who may not initially see themselves as engineers."
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1700219, Investigating a new Generation of Assistive, Innovative Technologies (GAIT) for balance rehabilitation.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.