U of A Brings Home Award for Student's Presentation on Tablet Research

April 6, 2017

Ethan Douglas, an honors student in exercise science, explains research on how reading from a tablet affects the cervical spine. He received an award for best undergraduate student presentation.
Ethan Douglas, an honors student in exercise science, explains research on how reading from a tablet affects the cervical spine. He received an award for best undergraduate student presentation.

Four undergraduate and two master's students in exercise science at the University of Arkansas participated in the South Central American Society of Biomechanics meeting last weekend in Texas. One student won an award for the best presentation.

Kaitlin Gallagher, an assistant professor who joined the U of A exercise science faculty in fall of 2015, served as scientific chair of the meeting. The student-centered conference is meant to foster students' presentation skills in a supportive environment and facilitate interactions between biomechanics research groups in the south-central United States, she said.

Ethan Douglas and Jacob Smith, seniors who are also members of the Honors College, along with junior Brandon Nunley, presented their research on how reading from a computer tablet affects the cervical spine.

"With many people owning and using tablets at home and at work, this study focused on how our sitting posture influences our head and neck position," Gallagher said. "We found that, when you sit in a semi-reclined position, your neck is much more bent in the lower portion of your neck compared to sitting upright. This could potentially lead to stretching of the tissues in your neck, leading to pain and symptom reporting."

The project was done in collaboration with the Pat Walker Health Center and was funded by a State Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) grant and a collaborative research grant from the Office for Faculty Development and Enhancement. Douglas received the Best Undergraduate Student Presentation award. He and Smith also used funds from a SURF grant and Honors College Travel Grant, respectively, to travel to the conference.

Gallagher said she had the opportunity to present her honors thesis at a student-centered regional meeting when she was an undergraduate.

"It was integral in engaging me in my future research and the lessons learned as a student were the template for how I structured this year's meetings," she said. "As a faculty member, I get many opportunities to talk about my work, but students do not always get those opportunities in a setting outside of their program. This type of conference allows students to practice their talk, see how other students presented, learn how to answer questions, and form relationships between different programs that may have never existed. The labs that attend also get to see the research being conducted in their region and develop potential areas for collaboration."

Bryce Daniels and Marcus Payne, master's students, presented their work on the posture and muscle activity changes when a prolonged standing task is interrupted by walking breaks.

Kate Tarver, a junior honors student, attended as a student conference organizer.

The conference took place at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano with 85 registrants. The main sponsor of the meeting was the American Society of Biomechanics. The U of A Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, U of A Human Performance Lab, Delsys Inc., Tekscan, SensoMotoric Inc. and Human Kinetics also sponsored the event.

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