UROP encourages undergrad student research involvement

Elyse Prescott, a third-year kinesiology student, received a research scholarship from the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) to fund her work assessing the accuracy of the “Skulpt Chisel,” a handheld electrical device from Skulpt, Inc., of San Francisco that evaluates body composition and muscle quality. Prescott is advised by Don Dengel, PhD, professor in the School of Kinesiology and director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology.

UROP offers financial awards to full-time undergraduate students for quality research, scholarly, or creative projects that contribute to the student’s academic development and are in collaboration with a faculty sponsor. UROP allows undergraduate students to experience the creation and presentation of high level research, and a unique partnership with a U of M faculty member.

“I wanted to get involved in research as an undergraduate student because the University of Minnesota is distinguished in this area.  I knew it would be important to learn about the research process, as it is essential for a practicing physical therapist.”

Prescott’s UROP project compares the composition values of total and regional fat mass and body fat percentage when using the Skulpt Chisel vs. Dual X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA), the most widely used body composition measurement software available. According to Prescott, DXA is the optimal platform against which to compare fat percentage values obtained by other assessment methods, such as the Skulpt Chisel. She hypothesizes the Skulpt Chisel will produce body composition values comparable to DXA. Prescott plans to use her research findings to help people reach their movement goals through evidence-based practices.

In Prescott’s experience, UROP funding allowed her to discover more rigorous research methodologies and the importance of published research in increasing public knowledge on health-related subjects. Particularly for movement specialists, expanding upon current literature is critical so they can better understand how to effectively train and treat patients. UROP has also allowed Prescott to differentiate between quality research articles and less reliable literature.

“As I strive to help patients overcome injuries and movement struggles, I will need to lean on the literature to see what techniques have been successful. As new technology is released, it will be critical to examine the literature to see if the devices are well grounded in research and should be used to assist my patients.”

After graduation, Prescott plans to attend physical therapy school to obtain her doctorate of physical therapy degree and become a practicing physical therapist. Her knowledge and skills gained from UROP and Dengel’s lab have shaped Prescott’s research interests for graduate school and beyond.

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