UROP offers opportunities to undergraduates with a penchant for research

Each year, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) funds hundreds of students at the U of M who produce new knowledge and creative work in partnership with faculty. School of Kinesiology faculty have hosted a number of UROP students over the years, and many have entered our graduate programs and continued their studies and innovative research projects with faculty mentors.

Meet Saurav Dubey, a Kinesiology B.S. senior and UROP grant recipient who is working this academic year in the Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory.

dubeysaurav-2016How did you find out about the UROP opportunity?
I had heard about the program by word of mouth in the past, but my supervisor, Dr. Konczak, recommended I apply for a UROP to take advantage of my presence in the Human Sensorimotor Control Lab as an undergraduate research assistant.

What is your research project?
My research project involves testing the proprioceptive acuity of subjects. Specifically, I am testing wrist position sense. I will be testing 20 subjects, 10 of whom will be a control group of participants who do not specialize in any sports or activities involving their wrists, and 10 who will be Ultimate Frisbee players from the Men’s Ultimate Disc Club on campus who are specialists in wrist motions (involved in throwing the disc). I will be testing for proprioceptive acuity in the wrist to see if proficiency in a motor skill involving the specified joint will increase the perception of that same joint’s position. I will do so using a robotic wrist exoskeleton. This device passively flexes the subject’s wrist to two different positions and then waits for the user to determine which position was greater in amplitude. After inputting the response, an adaptive algorithm adjusts the difference between the two given positions, either increasing or decreasing it. After 30 trials, the program returns a value for the Just-Noticeable-Difference (JND) threshold. A lower JND threshold implies that the subject can recognize smaller changes in wrist position, and therefore the subject has better proprioceptive acuity in their wrist. This study is continuing a study started last year that examined the same phenomenon, except it involved baseball players, soccer players, and a control group. The study data showed that baseball players did have an increased proprioceptive acuity of the wrist compared to the other two groups.

In addition to the procedures stated above, I will also be adding a neural component to the study. This will involve EEG testing of the subjects. I will be examining a neural wave, called the N30 wave, through somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP). This procedure involves stimulating the median nerve in the dominant hand using an electrode. This electrode sends electrical impulses to the median nerve, which then are transmitted to the thalamus. The thalamus then projects this impulse as various wave forms. Out of the variety of waves, the N30 wave is related to sensorimotor processing, which is related to the proprioceptive acuity involved with the previous test described. In clinical patients who have experienced stroke or who have Parkinson’s disease, for example, the latency, or time of appearance, of the N30 wave is delayed. However, research into the amplitude of the wave and its implications has not been conducted. So in my study, I will be testing the wrist experts and control group to see if there is a significant difference in the amplitude of the N30 wave between the groups, as latency for the healthy subjects will remain the same.

What is your time frame for completing?
I will begin data collection at the beginning of the semester in January and will be finished with my project by mid-April as I plan on presenting at the Kinesiology Research Day on April 21, 2017.

How did you decide to work with your faculty mentor?
I decided to work with Dr. Konczak because I already work in his lab as an undergraduate research assistant. I began work at this lab, the Human Sensorimotor Control Lab in Cooke Hall, in June of 2016.  I help graduate students collect, process, and analyze data for their studies.

How has the UROP grant most benefited you?
I think the biggest benefit of the UROP grant is that it allows me to run my own study. This allows me to experience the entire research process personally, which is important as it will prepare me for my graduate studies. Leading everything from data collection to reporting and presenting will expose me to responsibilities and tasks I haven’t had the chance to practice yet.

How does this grant affect your overall University experience? How will it help you in the future?
This UROP grant will help me be ready for my graduate studies as the project I lead for this UROP will be similar to the studies I conduct on my own as a graduate student.

What are your goals after graduation?
I plan on attending graduate school for an M.S. in Kinesiology with a focus in Biomechanics and Neuromotor Control. I hope to attend here at the University of Minnesota.

 

 

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