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Researcher of the Week: Sarah Hemler

Nimasha Fernando

 Sarah Hemler is an undergraduate student at UMBC, who is doing research with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, performing research entitled “Improving Community Ambulation After Hip Fracture.”

       UMBC undergraduates are becoming invested in their chosen fields of study as students pursue research opportunities both on campus and at neighboring institutions to achieve a functional, realistic knowledge of the material gleaned in a classroom setting.

Sarah Hemler, a senior mechanical engineering major with a biology minor, is currently performing research at the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science Department of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

“I am participating in an ancillary study [on] ‘Improving Community Ambulation After Hip Fracture’ which analyses the mechanistic factors that contribute to the rehabilitation of hip fracture subjects from post-hip fracture to independent community ambulation,” said Hemler.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, the number of hospital admissions in 2010 for hip fractures among senior citizens was 258,000.

With a growing elderly population in America, the number of hip fractures is estimated to increase 12 percent by 2030 reaching 289,000 injuries, making Hemler’s research especially relevant to today’s health field.

Hemler’s analyses will include the interpretation of data from dynamometers — devices designed to measure the force an individual can exert with a specific area of their body — in order to determine joint strength of subjects.

Joint strength plays an intricate role in ambulation, the activity of walking, which is a major goal following injury, but evaluation of joint strength additionally helps researchers further examine the healing process.

Data collection will occur over a 40 week period, with three separate collections over the course of the study.

“I aim to be able to find correlation between particular rehabilitation techniques and strength data so as to contribute to the recommendation of a rehabilitation program” said Hemler.

Despite many current rehabilitation programs designed for optimal recovery, one in three adults who experience a hip fracture and were independent prior to the injury will spend nearly a year in a nursing home, according to CDC data.

Even with meticulous care, CDC findings indicate that one in five hip fracture cases will result in death within a year of the injury due to complications from the fracture, making proper rehabilitation regimens an essential point of post-injury care.

In addition to her principal research goals, Hemler commented that by becoming involved in research, she hopes to further prepare herself for future endeavors beyond her undergraduate career.

“Another side goal of the research is to develop personal data processing, analyzing and presenting skills to prepare for graduate research and beyond,” said Hemler.

Off-campus research opportunities offer a variety of research projects and mentors, all of which can aid undergraduate students in their quest for enhancement of their academic education.