( Left to right) Graduate student researcher Rosalind Smith, ICRU student John Meusch, mentor Dr. Salam Rahmatalla, and postdoctoral researcher Ting Xia all work at the Virtual Soldier Research Program.
"The rewards of being involved with research are endless and after this experience, I can’t see my education being complete without it.”
UI Undergraduate Student Studies the Effects of Vibration to Reduce Risks
Many of us can relate to long car rides. Did you notice the constant vibration from the ride? Did it seem to cause any discomfort after a few hours nonstop?
Imagine a construction worker operating heavy machinery for most of a work day. In these situations, one is exposed to Whole Body Vibration (WBV). Since long term exposure to WBV has been associated with risk for neck and back pain or injury, industry has partnered with the Virtual Soldier Research program to help reduce the manufacturing costs and aid in reducing risks. As part of an ICRU scholarship project, undergraduate student of biomedical engineering, John Meusch has been studying the effects of WBV in a seated posture under the mentorship of Dr. Salam Rahmatalla. This research is being conducted at the Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD) facility. CCAD has developed a digital human Santos which produces human performance measurements such as discomfort. One goal is to aid in testing and developing more cost efficient and ergonomical devices from automobile interior designs for comfort to military vehicles. A big research question asked at CCAD is “Can we predict human discomfort when exposed to these complex WBV environments?” CCAD has developed an algorithm to predict just that based on human posture. John’s ICRU research project focused on validating the algorithm.
During the ICRU research project John has extended his motion capture and validation skills to encompass the WBV environment. “I’ve learned how to apply many topics we have learned throughout the biomedical curriculum here at the University of Iowa. The personal development gained during the project was a product of the challenging research topic and excellent faculty leaders. It is outstanding,” he says.
“Although at times, the computer programming and large amounts of data can become cumbersome, I feel the experience gives me an edge.”
John has learned to work with obtaining and processing muscle activity data (EMG) along with motion capture data. Motion capture data is obtained from a system of infrared cameras which track the position of markers placed upon a subject’s skin. These markers are placed in strategic positions which allow the researcher to gain information about the person’s posture. EMG is a measure of muscle activity. For example, when you flex your bicep you produce a measurable signal which can be recorded. An electrode is placed upon the skin to relay the electrical signal.
At the Spring Undergraduate Research Festival (SURF) 2009, John presented his research along with other ICRU scholars. In Mathematics and Engineering, he received an outstanding poster presentation award. This project is a stepping stone to validate CCAD’s prediction algorithm for complex vibrations. The total study is being submitted for publication.
John says that the research experience has allowed him to have a higher understanding and appreciation for his area of study. “For aspiring students, I recommend getting involved with research you may be interested in. The ICRU scholarship project is a great way to gain experience with many research disciplines and present your work to fellow students and faculty. The rewards of being involved with research are endless and after this experience, I can’t see my education being complete without it.”