Conferences & Appearances
Brian Umberger, assistant professor of Kinesiology, recently returned from a two-week trip to England and to Belgium, where he attended a workshop on the Neuromusculoskeletal Physiome Project, and gave presentations at the 13th International Symposium on Computer Simulation in Biomechanics and the 23rd Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics.
In England, he gave a seminar presentation to the Structure and Motion Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College (University of London), one of the world's premiere comparative biomechanics groups.
At the computer simulation symposium and the biomechanics congress, Dr. Umberger reported on recent work on the development of subject-specific computer models of muscle structure and function. At the Structure and Motion Laboratory, he presented a broad overview of his research on the biomechanics and energetics of muscle function in human locomotion.
Patty Freedson, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, delivered the D.B. Dill Historical Lecture at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 58th Annual Meeting and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine held in Denver, Colorado, from May 31 - June 4, 2011. Freedson’s lecture, titled “Assessment of Physical Activity and Inactivity Using Wearable Monitors: Past, Present and Future Directions,” detailed the methods and processes of collecting data from wearable activity monitors, providing an overview of their development through potential applications for future research.
In her introduction of Freedson, ACSM president-elect Dr. Barbara Ainsworth remarked, “Dr. Freedson’s work has truly advanced the field of objective assessment of physical activity. She developed one of the first methods to translate body acceleration data into energy expenditure, using treadmill walking and running. Since then, she has conducted many studies to calibrate and validate wearable accelerometer-based monitors in the field. She has drawn numerous students and colleagues to share in the work, through her collaborative nature, sense of humor, and friendly mannerisms. In many ways, her long and productive career exemplifies Dr. Dill’s desire to study human physiology outside of the laboratory, in free-living environments.”
The D.B. Dill Historical Lecture deals with the history of sports medicine and exercise science, and is named after a pioneering scientist who made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the human physiological and metabolic responses to exercise.
“I was honored to be selected to deliver the Dill lecture at the ACSM meeting,” Dr. Freedson commented. “As I prepared this lecture, I was able to step back and reflect on the history of how physical activity behavior has been measured since the time of Vitruvius and Leonardo da Vinci, who developed the first instruments to measure distance and steps walked. I was able to share the research conducted in my laboratory with my graduate students and colleagues and without whom I would never have been able to lead the discovery and new knowledge in this emerging discipline within the field of kinesiology. I am grateful to my students and colleagues for their willingness to share their wisdom, collective vision and creativity, which has had a tremendous impact on the direction of this work.”
Dr Freedson, also a pioneering scientist in the field of exercise physiology, has made vital contributions to the understanding of how to measure physical activity. Her resume includes over 120 published papers and chapters, broadly focused on the topic of measurement of physical activity and physical fitness. She has been honored by multiple societies, including the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, and the American College of Sports Medicine. She was selected to give the ACSM President’s Lecture in 2001 and the ACSM Cureton Lecture in 2003, and she received the ACSM Citation Award in 2009. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she has been named a distinguished faculty lecturer, and she received an award for outstanding accomplishments in research.
Freedson’s research has been supported by corporate and foundation groups, the International Life Sciences Institute Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Recently, NIH’s Genes and Environment Initiative funded her, Dr. John Staudenmayer from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and Dr. Robert Gao from the School of Engineering at the University of Connecticut (and formerly from the School of Engineering at UMass Amherst) to develop a new multi-sensor Integrated Measurement System that uses machine learning techniques to predict energy expenditure and identify activity type. In 2009, she received a prestigious NIH Challenge Grant where her group (including Dr. Staudenmayer, Dr. Barry Braun and PhD students Sarah Kozey-Keadle and Kate Lyden) is seeking to determine if physical activity performed outside of purposeful training explains differences in responsiveness to training.
Margaret E. McCarthy, PhD, an adjunct faculty member in Environmental Health Sciences and President of the UMass Amherst Rho Chapter of the Delta Omega Society, received a Fulbright Administrator Award to travel to Russia in April 2011. The Fulbright Program welcomed Dr. McCarthy, who also serves as the Chair of the Department of Physics at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) in Springfield, MA, as part of a delegation of senior administrators from five U.S. community colleges.
Dr. McCarthy and her fellow community college administrators participated in a joint effort with Russia, which is pursuing collaboration with its U.S. counterparts as part of its reform efforts in both higher and professional education. Initial discussions between American and Russian colleagues in the greater Moscow area focused upon workforce training, relations between educational institutions and future employers, and the benefits of applied bachelor degrees and other professional training programs.
Potential for collaboration spans a variety of fields including public health, nursing, the culinary arts and hospitality sectors, agriculture, engineering and technician training. Distance learning is seen as a first step in pursuing new collaborations, with the possibility of faculty and administrator exchanges, followed by student exchange and a variety of other collaborations.
The Fulbright group also took part, together with representatives from the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, in a roundtable discussion at Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg. The televised conference focused on topics related to changes in the Russian higher educational system to match the EU standards. The merger of institutes, colleges, and universities closely resembles U.S. changes in the community college system. Dr. McCarthy answered questions relating to student feedback into the system and outlined the UMass Amherst alumni organization.
The five Fulbrighters then separated for individual visits to cities in the Ural Mountains region. Dr. McCarthy pursued opportunities for collaboration in Kurgan, a city located above Kazakhstan. There she presented a lecture on community colleges in the U.S., and met with local university and college representatives, municipal and regional authorities, and members of private industry, community organizations and the press.
“The people of Kurgan really touched my heart,” Dr. McCarthy said. “There is quality in the existing education in Kurgan. The system reminds me of my first years at STCC, an emerging institution. With a bit of fine-tuning and lessons learned from the community colleges, these amalgamating institutions will too prosper under the re-structuring of higher education in the Russian Federation. I look forward to future collaborations and continuing our relationship with them.”
This is the second year of the Fulbright Community College Administrator Seminar (CCAS) in Russia. Last year’s program has already resulted in a number of cooperative agreements and follow-up visits by Russian hosts to the United States, including one in March 2011, in which the Russian Fulbright director and CCAS hosts met with the U.S. Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.
Dr. McCarthy has been active in projects interfacing STCC with UMass Amherst and will continue with collaboration efforts with her Russian counterparts. The Fulbright participants plan to meet again for a two-day conference at Miami Dade Community College in February 2012.
Patty Freedson, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, delivered a keynote address at the 2nd International Conference on Ambulatory Monitoring of Physical Activity and Movement (ICAMPAM) held in Glasgow, Scotland, from May 24-27, 2011. Freedson’s Physical Activity and Health Laboratory group all joined her at the conference, with each member of the team delivering either a poster or oral presentation on topics ranging from novel analytic methods to estimate physical activity to the impact of exercise training and sedentary behavior interventions.
Freedson’s keynote lecture, titled “Using pattern recognition techniques to interpret wearable physical activity monitor output: Laboratory calibration studies,” discussed her lab group’s findings showing that machine learning methods could be used to build models to predict ventilation, energy expenditure, and to identify activity type. The presentation described the evolution of these methods and the process used to develop and validate these models in a laboratory setting.
“The use of machine learning methods can have a tremendous impact on the physical activity and health research community,” Freedson commented. “Innovative data processing methods such as these can inform the delivery of evidence-based activity dose recommendations for intervention studies examining the relationship between physical activity exposure and health outcomes.”
In addition to Freedson, the Physical Activity and Health Lab members who delivered presentations at the conference included post-doctoral fellow Dinesh John, doctoral students Jeffer Sasaki, Kate Lyden, and Sarah Kozey-Keadle, master’s student Amanda Libertine, and two members from the Department of Math and Statistics, associate professor John Staudenmayer and graduate student Evan Ray. Ray's poster, “Novel Analytic Methods to Estimate Physical Activity from Accelerometer Data: An Opensourced Web-Based Tool,” was chosen as a finalist in student poster presentations.
“Having our entire lab group presenting at this meeting was a tremendous opportunity to share our research with investigators from twenty-five countries from around the world,” Freedson said.
The chance to share research findings at the conference had a strong impact on graduate student researchers such as Amanda Libertine. “I am glad I had the opportunity to experience my first international conference in the company of many high-caliber researchers from around the world,” said Libertine. “It created a terrific setting for networking and exchanging ideas. After receiving feedback on the data I presented, I am excited to write a manuscript for consideration in a peer-reviewed journal. I am also extremely proud to be a member of the Physical Activity and Health Lab because the other members of our lab group did an excellent job presenting their work on innovative methods to measure physical activity.”
The conference provided an opportunity for those working in ambulatory monitoring of physical activity and movement to gather and share their latest research in the field. Topics included methodological and practical issues, advances in instruments and technology in measuring physical activity, sedentary behavior and energy expenditure, advances in movement analysis outside the laboratory, and applications in research and clinical practice.
The full list of presentations can be found in the conference program, available at this link. Specific information on each member of the lab’s presentations, including abstracts, can be found using the following program code listings: Patty Freedson, K3; Dinesh John, 02.3; Kate Lyden, 02.4; Sarah Kozey-Keadle, 06.2; Jeffer Sasaki, P1-02; Amanda Libertine, P1-15, John Staudenmayer, P1-43; and Evan Ray, P2-34.
Andrea Foulkes, associate professor of Biostatistics, delivered the keynote address at the University of Massachusetts’ 2nd Annual Clinical and Translational Science Research Retreat. The retreat, whose theme was “Creating Science Collaborations across the Commonwealth: Translating the Life Science Moment,” was held on May 20, 2011 at the Hoagland Pincus Conference Center in Shrewsbury, MA.
The conference continued the clinical and translational science movement throughout the University of Massachusetts’ five-campus system. In July 2010, UMass Medical School received a five-year, $20-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the recently established University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science (UMCCTS), which serves as the University’s home for clinical and translational science and research. The 2nd Annual Clinical and Translational Science Research Retreat highlighted the ongoing work being done by participating institutions and clinical partners to fulfill the Center’s mission of accelerating the process of turning laboratory discoveries into health benefits for individuals and populations, and enhancing the training of a new generation of researchers.
Dr. Foulkes delivered her keynote presentation, “Unlocking the Code to Personalized Medicine: Fact, Fiction and Statistics in Genetic Association Studies,” to a crowd of more than 200 university staff and faculty members, including UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins and Michael Malone, Vice Provost for Research and Engagement at UMass Amherst. Her talk, which highlighted the potential of personalized medicine and the importance of trans-disciplinary collaborations in order to make significant strides in translational medicine, resonated with the audience of clinicians and researchers.
Dr. Foulkes’ address provided an overview of the state-of-the-science for relating genetic information to clinical outcomes and a demonstration of the challenges faced by both practitioners and scientists. “The task of translating findings involving associations to developing clinically relevant predictive models is a demanding one,” said Dr. Foulkes. “The appropriate analytic tools need to be applied to address specific hypotheses. Just as we would not use a stethoscope to look in someone’s ear or an otoscope to listen to someone’s heart, we can only find what our analytic tools are designed to uncover.”
Dr. Foulkes also cautioned the audience about the limitations of genome-wide association studies involving a large sample of people. “It is now common to involve as many as 10,000 individuals in a study, which leads to the ‘discovery’ of genetic polymorphisms that have only very small effects on disease, but are nonetheless considered statistically significant.”
Findings can also be skewed in other ways. A high relative risk does not necessarily mean a high absolute risk. Said Dr. Foulkes, “Individuals may be twice as likely to get a disease if they have a particular genetic risk factor compared to people who do not have this characteristic, but the actual likelihood of getting the disease may be quite small.”
The presentation set the tone for a day filled with a spirit of scientific inquiry and cooperation. “This honor was especially meaningful to me, as a Biostatistician,” Dr. Foulkes said. “It demonstrates the commitment of UMass faculty to be at the forefront of clinical and translational sciences by recognizing the centrality of Biostatistics in translational medicine, and the importance of trans-disciplinary collaboration.”
Graduate students Jennifer Rivero, Kirsten Granados and faculty mentor Barry Braun from the Kinesiology Department received Travel Awards to attend the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) national meeting from May 31 – June 4, 2011 in Denver, CO. The funding was awarded by The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)/Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, which is a component of a federal grant from the MARC Program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. In making the award, the FASEB MARC program noted that “The University of Massachusetts was selected on the basis of their programs and record in orienting and assisting superior students toward careers in the fields of biomedical and behavioral research.” Dr. Braun and Ms. Granados presented their research in symposia and free communications at the ACSM conference.