Richard E.A. van Emmerik, Professor of Kinesiology, has been awarded a 2.5-year, $975,000 grant from the Navy Health Research Center for a research project titled “Effects of Armor and Load on Action-Perception Coupling.” The grant supports a joint research effort through the U.S. Department of Defense to examine the consequences of soldier load and armor on the ability to perceive and act in critical situations related to survivability in combat.
The funding extends efforts to understand the issue of soldier load in the research of doctoral candidate Christopher Palmer, ‘95MS, and the fundamental research areas of Dr. van Emmerik within the Sensory-Motor Control Laboratory. Department of Kinesiology doctoral students Luis Rosado and Mike Busa also contributed to the development of the project and will work as research assistants on the funded research.
The project examines the relationships between the requirement to carry protective equipment and the ability to move and perceive efficiently and accurately within specified task performances, seeking an optimal relationship between the two that provides the best opportunity for soldiers to return safely home to their families. This work provides fundamental insight into the consequences of personal protective equipment on postural control, dynamic visual acuity, and information pick-up during locomotion tasks and precision performance.
This research is the first of its kind, extending many of the basic theoretical perspectives in Kinesiology and Ecological Psychology to applied problems related to soldiers in combat. The initial goals of the effort are to provide insight into the relations that allow soldiers to survive in realistic situations, and provide an empirically-based model capable of comparing the consequences of different load configurations on soldier survivability.
The research applicability extends to fire fighters, rescue workers, and others who must be protected from environmental threats in a way that restricts their movement and encapsulates them in equipment that reduces their perceptual and movement capabilities (e.g., helmets, backpack loads, etc). Findings of this research will be available to the manufacturers of safety equipment, allowing them to design improved personal protective equipment that considers the “wearer,” and not just the materials technology.
Nancy Cohen, Professor and Head of the Department of Nutrition, has been awarded a four-year, $424,878 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Cohen received the award for a program titled “Food Safety from Farm and Garden to Preschool.” Funding for the grant comes as part of the USDA’s National Integrated Food Safety Initiative.
Farm to School programs, which link farmers with K-12 schools to increase children’s fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, are growing increasingly popular throughout the country. These programs support local agriculture and youth and promote Dietary Guidelines and Healthy People 2020 goals. However, fresh produce can also be a source of foodborne illness. As Farm to School programs expand into preschools, training is needed to ensure that the risk from fresh produce is minimized in this vulnerable group.
The Food Safety initiative proposed by Dr. Cohen centers on an innovative multistate, multi-institutional partnership, which includes university extension faculty and staff, county educators, local Farm to Preschool (F2P) programs, early child care educators and local agriculture organizations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Together, they will collaborate to identify and improve fresh produce safety knowledge and practices of foodservice staff, educators, and parent volunteers in F2P programs.
Dr. Cohen expects that through increased food safety knowledge and practices and increased adoption of safe and healthy Farm to Preschool programs, food safety risk will be reduced for over 100,000 preschool children who participate in expanding F2P programs in New England and nationwide.
Raji Balasubramanian, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, has received a two-year, $458,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Balasubramanian received the award for a project titled “Properties of HIV-1 DNA/RNA Assays for Detecting HIV Infection in Infants.” Dr. Balasubramanian is working with colleagues at Harvard School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
UNAIDS, a joint United Nations program designed to stop and reverse the spread of HIV, estimates that approximately 800,000 infants are infected with HIV annually, with 90% of those infections occurring in resource-limited settings. Virtually all HIV infections are attributed to mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), which can occur during pregnancy, birth, or while breast-feeding.
The overarching aim of this project is to characterize the performance of commonly used HIV diagnostic assays in infants born to HIV-positive mothers, particularly in the context of maternal regimens involving highly active antiretroviral therapy. A key medical challenge in this area of work arises due to the fact that the performance of gold standard DNA and RNA amplification HIV diagnostic assays in HIV-1 infected infants is far from perfect during the early weeks of an infant’s life. Through the use of a large database comprised of several cohorts including approximately 5,800 HIV-positive infants born to HIV-positive mothers in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia, Dr. Balasubramanian and colleagues plan to conduct large-scale statistical analyses to better evaluate the performance of DNA/RNA assays in diverse settings and in diverse population groups.
In the end, Dr. Balasubramanian expects that these results would also be useful in shedding light on the optimal scheduling of diagnostic tests in HIV-exposed infants. In addition, the characterization of the performance of these assays together with evaluation of associated virus and host-related factors could be important in shedding light on the differential pathogenesis of the virus.
Marcil Boucher, a third-year doctoral student in the Speech Language Pathology program within the Communication Disorders Department, recently received a grant from the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) to fund her dissertation research, which will support family participation in her study. Boucher is one of 6 doctoral students in Speech Language Pathology funded under a DOE Leadership Grant received by Associate Professor Mary Andrianopoulos. The DOE Leadership Grant is designed to recruit the best and the brightest of doctoral students and train them to become the next generation of scholars and leaders engaged in innovative research benefiting children with communication disabilities in the public schools.
Ms. Boucher also completed a 4-week summer internship at the Department of Education’s (DOE) National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. There, she worked in the Research to Practice division with the Early Childhood Team and collaborated on recent changes in the Part C eligibility of the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center and the federal grant system under Part D of IDEA.