External Grants in Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering Research Directed by Dr. Thompson

Dr. Thompson directs the UDC Center for Biomechanical and Rehabilitation Engineering (or CBRE) Laboratory which opened in Summer 2015.  The CBRE Laboratory at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is a state-of-the art research and education space with a focus placed on studying human mobility for unimpaired (e.g., athletes and non-athletes) as well as impaired populations (e.g., elderly and stroke survivors). A CBRE Lab aim is to investigate both non-invasive (sensory substitutes; mechanically stabilizing aids; rehabilitation robotics) and invasive rehabilitative technologies (e.g., vestibular prostheses and brain-machine interface) for individuals with moderate to severe immobility.  Dr. Lara Thompson is the initiator and director of the CBRE lab and Biomedical Engineering program. Since the lab’s opening and creation in Summer 2015, countless research, educational and outreach activities have taken, and continue, to take place.

Human (balance) research studies in healthy individuals, as well as elderly individuals whom have suffered stroke, have been UDC Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved and are on-going: “Investigating Center-of-Pressure Based Parameters to Quantify Athlete and Non-Athlete Balance” (UDC IRB Protocol #: 540869-1) and “Investigating a new generation of assistive innovative technologies (GAIT) for balance rehabilitation (National Science Foundation (NSF) Award Abstract #: 1700219; UDC IRB Protocol #: 979744-1)”, respectively.

For the athlete versus non-athlete balance study entitled “Investigating Center-of-Pressure Based Parameters to Quantify Athlete and Non-Athlete Balance, Dr. Thompson and her students are investigating differences in standing balance for young, healthy individuals from both athlete and non-athlete subject populations through ground reaction (foot) force plate-based, center-of-pressure (COP) parameters.  This study lends new insights as to how parameters derived from the COP position time series can be utilized to quantify differences in balance between normal subject populations (e.g., athletes versus non-athletes).

For the NSF GAIT study (“Investigating a new Generation of Assistive, Innovative Technologies (GAIT) for balance rehabilitation”, newly-funded by NSF), Dr. Thompson’s overarching research goal is to obtain new scientific knowledge on the effects of a non-mechanically stabilizing cue using fingertip or light touch, as well as a multidirectional partial bodyweight support (NaviGAITor) aid, for balance rehabilitation of elderly stroke survivors. Participant balance, functionality, and multisensory reweighting (how the visual, somatosensory, and vestibular sensory systems adapt to added sensory information) will be determined.  The potential of utilizing light touch as a long-term, aid for elderly stroke survivors is a radically different approach than devices and methods currently used.  Further, the research will investigate a unique NaviGAITor system that allows for multidirectional range of motion. The knowledge resulting from this research has the potential to benefit society in that it ultimately aims at reducing falls in elderly stroke survivors.  The knowledge resulting from this research has the potential to benefit society in that it ultimately aims at reducing falls in elderly and was featured in NSF Science Nation: Research immerses HBCU undergrads in biomedical engineering .  Further, the study initiated new collaborations between UDC CBRE, MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) and the US FDA’s Division of Biomedical Physics.

Dr. Thompson has also initiated new, engineering education-related research, and received IRB approval for the “Nurturing Women’s Innovativeness and Strength in Engineering through Experiential Learning in Biomedical Engineering (WISE)” (NSF Award Abstract #: 1654474; UDC IRB Protocol #: 974777-1).  The NSF WISE study examines the attitudinal effects of Biomedical Engineering activities and female engineering role-model exposure on underrepresented minority female youths (high school students) and young adults (UDC undergraduate students) towards their perceptions of engineering.  Also, Dr. Thompson is the PI of the NSF-funded program “Targeted Infusion Project: Integration, Cultivation, and Exposure to Biomedical Engineering at the University of the District of Columbia” (NSF Award Abstract #1533479).  This program aims to enhance the existing academic infrastructure at UDC, by executing the following: 1) Integrating new courses in BME; 2) Cultivating prospective students at DC area community colleges towards the pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering at UDC; and 3) Exposing DC area high school students, UDC undergraduate students, and UDC faculty to current trends and research in Biomedical Engineering via guest lectures and journal club activities

Most recently, the PI has created a new partnership and grant with the Department on Aging & Community Living (DACL) tied to their Safe at Home (SAH) program aimed towards reducing fall-risk, and ultimately falls, for aging and disabled individuals throughout Washington, DC via the PI’s project, Facilitating Aging individuals’ Living and Learning preventative fall Strategies (FALLS)”The overarching goal of the FALLS project is to reduce fall-risk in elderly/mature individuals within the District of Columbia and to facilitate new research activities between the DACL’s SAH Program and the UDC CBRE Lab.  The SAH program is high profile and has had roughly 2,000 participants within the past few years; it is a high priority within the District where a large population of aging & older individuals reside.