This past Friday, the St. Ambrose University Undergraduate Summer Research Institute participants wrapped up six weeks of hard work with research presentations. Kenner and Brooke presented the work that they completed on “Utilizing neural signals for control of a prosthetic hand,” and Mallory, Kate, Rob, Matt, Mitch and Teresa presented their project on “Age differences in the effects of cognitive load on balance.” Kenner will continue his work on the prosthetic hand study during the rest of his time at SAU (3 more years!).
He presented the initial computer model of what this hand will look like, but he also stressed that the model will undergo many iterations as they trouble shoot, consider alternatives, and test prototypes. The actual working version will take a few more years!
Brooke also presented the results of the principle component analysis she did in order to identify patterns in the data. This was Dr. Jodi Prosise’s dissertation data, which are recordings of individual neurons during a grasping motion in monkeys (ask her sometime if those monkeys were sweet and cuddly). The idea is to identify which neurons are firing during different phases of the hand grasp so that it can be replicated in the prosthetic hand.
The second presentation was from the balance group. Their data did clearly show that cognitive tasks (counting backwards by 7’s or spelling 11th grade words) impeded balance performance, and having an obstacle to negotiate around also impeded balance performance. Yet, age had no effect on balance tasks when comparing middle aged to younger aged adults, even when cognitive tasks and/or obstacles were present. Good news for those of us in our 40’s and 50’s! Mallory will continue doing post hoc analyses on the balance study data during the coming school year.
As I sat there listening to the students give their presentations, I thought, WOW, these students have learned a lot in 6 weeks time. They were also very professional and clear, and I know that Jodi, Bryon and I are very proud of our undergraduate students!
As if all of the knowledge and experience they gained wasn’t enough, I also presented them with certificates, documenting their participation in this first ever undergraduate summer research institute. And the audience gave them lots of kudos afterward 🙂 In case you are wondering, this will be the second to the last post. I am going to do one more on what undergraduate students gain when they engage in undergraduate research, and what these students think they gained from the summer experience. In the meantime, here are a few more photos!