HHP Undergraduate Research Spotlight - Michaela Dunlap

Michaela Dunlap

Major:  Exercise Physiology

Faculty Mentor: Zachary Domire, PhD

Describe your current research project:

I’m using a computer program called OpenSim to see how the moment arm of the semitendinosus (a hamstring muscle) is affected when the insertion site is moved. The semitendinosus tendon is a very common graft choice for ACL reconstructions and after surgery, this tendon regenerates in the majority of patients. It’s very rare for the regenerated tendon to attach itself near the original insertion site and it’s not known how this change in insertion site affects the moment arm of the semitendinosus.

Why did you choose this particular topic?

I want to become a physical therapist, so I wanted to work on a project that would help me with my career. I’ve really enjoyed working in the Biomechanics lab and I’m glad that I decided to complete my project here!

What outcomes or impact do you hope your research will accomplish?

I hope my research will help increase our knowledge of the outcomes associated with ACL reconstructions. This is a very common procedure and there’s a lot of research that has already been done, but there are still questions that haven’t been answered, so I hope my project will help others think of new questions and continue researching this topic.

Do you feel that participating in such research will impact your job placement after graduation? If so, how?

Yes, I believe that completing a research project is a very valuable experience that will help me reach my career goals. I think that the more experience you can get within your field, the bigger impact it will have on your job placement. Participating in and conducting research is a great way to increase your knowledge of a specific topic that can help you with your future career.

What has been your favorite part of your research?

My favorite part of my research has been learning how to use OpenSim. OpenSim is a very powerful tool and although it was frustrating to use at times, it has helped me better understand biomechanics. There’s still a lot I don’t know about OpenSim, but I’m planning on continuing to use it this fall semester and hope to learn even more about this computer program.

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