Mentor Name:
Amy Lenz

Mentor Position:
Research Instructor




Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

In vitro biomechanics experiments are often 1D/2D tests at non-physiologic speeds, which does not recreate in vivo loads, and in silico models rely on soft tissue and joint contact assumptions. This severely limits translation of laboratory findings into clinical practice. Robotic systems can recreate 3D human motion using cadavers to test pathology, surgical interventions, and implant designs under physiologically relevant conditions. The objective of this project is to contribute to the development of a high-speed robotic foot and ankle simulator driven with subject-specific in vivo kinematics, integrated muscle actuators, and ground reaction force feedback. Experiments on ankle fusion procedures will be a test case for future exploration of other surgeries and simulators to inform clinical care.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

Dr. Lenz is a Research Instructor in the Department of Orthopaedics. She is an expert in foot and ankle medical imaging and computational modeling. The undergraduate student on this project will be mentored directly by Dr. Lenz and work closely with the members of the Orthopaedic Research Laboratory Lenz Research Group. The undergraduate will be part of each portion of this study, from interacting with cadaver specimen preparation in our University Orthopaedic Center, to learning how to program the robot, to working with Dr. Lenz's graduate student to develop and interpret robotic driven motion. The student will be responsible for preparing certain data files to use as inputs to the robotic simulator. The student will be encouraged to perform a literature review at the beginning of the summer to understand the scope, relevance and clinical motivation for the research to be completed. In Dr. Lenz's lab, undergraduate students have an excellent history of earning co-authorship on published manuscripts. Therefore, discussions and expectations for consideration as a co-author will be clearly outlined at the beginning of the summer semester. Students in Dr. Lenz's lab are also typically given the opportunity to shadow surgeons in the OR, clinic and participate in research meetings with the foot and ankle surgeon collaborators. Overall, it is Dr. Lenz's goal to provide a comprehensive research experience by providing many learning opportunities while setting tangible goals to complete the proposed research.

Student Benefits:

At the completion of the SPUR program, the student will have a comprehensive experience of conducting foot and ankle orthopaedic biomechanics research with a focus on cadaveric work with the robotic simulator. Students seeking a future career as an engineering graduate student (biomedical or mechanical) or professional clinical degree (MD, DO, PA, or PT) will gain valuable experiences to prepare them for the next step in their professional and academic careers. As previously mentioned, co-authorship on the project will be considered and clear expectations will be outlined. Furthermore, students wishing to pursue any of the above mentioned post-undergraduate career options will have resources and colleagues in the department to discuss options and seek additional mentorship from outside of the immediate Lenz Research Group.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).