As she gets ready to attend (and speak at!) her first AAA meeting, biomedical engineer Lara A. Thompson said she is excited to meet other scientists and educators and share tips for building educational programs and improving student involvement.
“I’m most interested in learning but also sharing, I always like learning something new,” said Thompson, who will speak on Sunday, March 26 at Anatomy Connected 2023.
As a student athlete, Thompson was intrigued by human movement—both the physiology and the effect on performance. “We did lactate testing in rowing and took the data to improve our performance,” said the biomedical engineer at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and 2022 recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award.
Thompson knew she knew that she wanted to pursue a career related to human health, but at the time, she knew she didn’t necessarily want to be a doctor. “I had this feeling that I might want to do something tied to surgery,” she said, but she was most interested in engineering. “My uncle is a surgeon and a doctor and he said engineering is invaluable from a problem-solving aspect.”
That’s exactly what Thompson did, earning a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and a master’s in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Stanford University before discovering the PhD program Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology program. “When I was an undergrad, the field of biomedical engineering was still really new and unavailable at most universities,” she said. “However, I later found the Health Sciences and Technology program which merged both the medicine and engineering, and you end up getting training exposure from these two great institutions (MIT and Harvard).”
While at HST, Thompson’s research focused on vestibular disorders and a prototype prosthesis (implant) studied in primates to investigate how prosthetics can improve posture and balance. She has continued that research, investigating various assistive technologies and robotics aimed towards improving balance in humans (for example elderly individuals and survivors of stroke), as well as how such technologies can increase balance confidence and reduce the risk of falling for these groups of individuals.
Thompson is an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering at UDC and the director of the university’s the Center for Biomechanical & Rehabilitation Engineering, which she founded in 2015. Thompson is also the initiator and director of the UDC biomedical engineering program — the first and only accredited bachelor of science in biomedical engineering program at a historically Black college and university.
Here talk will focus on her overall research on improving balance and reducing fall-risk in the aging population. Thompson will also talk about what it’s like starting a new research lab and an educational program and how to get students involved in research. “The thing I’m looking forward to most is being able to learn a bit more about how different scientists approach research and share.”
See the entire Anatomy Connected schedule.
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