HHP Graduate Research Spotlight - Erica Bell

Name: Erica Bell
Major: Bioenergetics and Exercise Science PhD
Faculty Mentor: Zac Domire

Describe your current research project:
My dissertation work focuses on investigating the influence of material properties of foot soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) on plantar pressures in diabetics to better understand the mechanism behind the development of diabetic foot ulcers. I am also doing related work with plantar fasciitis and healthy running populations.

Why did you choose this particular topic?
My mother is a Type II diabetic and has a lot of complications with her feet that I have seen firsthand. Being involved in research that can potentially give her, and other diabetics like her, better preventative treatments and a better quality of life is a rewarding endeavor.

What outcomes or impact do you hope your research will accomplish?  
I hope that my research will help fill some of the gaps in current literature to help increase knowledge of the causes and mechanisms of diabetic foot ulcers to potentially lead to targeting prevention treatments and improving orthotic development for diabetics suffering from plantar foot ulcers. I also hope that my research will help improve understanding of overall foot function, in general, so that healthcare professionals can better understand, treat, and prevent soft tissue injuries in healthy and clinical populations.

Do you feel that participating in such research will impact your job placement after graduation? If so, how?
I believe this research will impact my job placement after graduation. I believe the work I’m doing is much needed in my research field and clinical populations, specifically diabetics, are a major topic for ongoing research to improve healthcare interventions and increase quality of life for diabetics. Having research experience with this clinical population will help me market myself as a researcher who has experience and is doing highly relevant work in this population, which I believe is very important in the eyes of potential future employers.

What has been your favorite part of your research?  
The favorite part of my research is interacting with my participants. Many of them are very interested in the work that I am doing and I enjoy explaining my research to them in a way that they can easily understand and answering any questions they may have. Conducting research is important, but it is more important to be able to communicate your research to the people that you eventually want your research to impact. Being able to do that firsthand is easily the best part of my research experience.