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Five Health Sciences Faculty Awarded $20,000 for Pilot Research Projects

The College of Health Sciences Office of Research in conjunction with the college’s Dean’s Office is proud to award five research faculty applicants $20,000 each from the Intramural Pilot Project Program, better known as IP³. The grant monies will assist in piloting or expanding their current research projects for the next year. Projects include identification of patients at high risk for pressure injuries; prevention, treatment and rehabilitation strategies of knee injuries in Armed Services personnel; the effects of an agricultural chemical on human development; preventing and treating Alzheimer’s Disease through exercise; and how social conforms influence a mother’s ability/willingness to breast feed her baby for the recommended length of time.

The funds will aid researchers in enhancing their research agendas and subsequently increasing the faculty’s opportunities to receive funding from distinguished organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and the United States Department of Defense.

Below are the names of the faculty and more detail about their IP³ pilot projects:

Jenny Alderden

Jenny Alderden

Jenny Alderden, assistant professor in School of Nursing – “Pressure Injury Risk Prediction among Critical Care Patients: A Machine Learning Approach.” Pressure injuries, formally called pressure ulcers, are localized areas of injury to skin and/or underlying tissue that occur as a result of pressure caused from long-term immobility. Hospital acquired pressure injuries occur among 6 to 10 percent of surgical critical-care patients in the United States and result in longer hospitalization, increased disease or complications, and human suffering. Though pressure injuries are common, some can be prevented using measures that are not feasible for every patient due to cost. Alderden’s goal is to test and calibrate a model that will allow critical care nurses to identify patients at high risk for pressure injuries so that preventative measures that are not feasible for every patient can be directed toward highest risk patients.

Tyler Brown, Center Co-Director

Tyler Brown

Tyler Brown, assistant professor, School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Kinesiology – “Biomechanical Analysis to Prevent and Treat the Increasing Incidence of Knee Osteoarthritis.” Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common, costly musculoskeletal disease that results in chronic pain, loss of joint function, and long-term disability. OA development is increasing, especially in the knees among U.S. Armed Services members and others in physically demanding occupations. This disease prevents service members from returning to active duty and can ultimately lead to medical discharge. Brown’s work will use an experimental approach to determine links between knee joint instability and body borne load. This approach will lead to the development of an algorithm that will quantitatively assess knee joint instability. Brown’s research has potential for the development of new prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation strategies for knee osteoarthritis in military personnel.

Cynthia Curl

Cynthia Curl

Cynthia Curl, assistant professor, School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Community and Environmental Health – “Development of an AREA R15 Proposal to Assess Agriculture and Dietary Exposure to Glyphosate among Pregnant Women.” Glyphosate is the single most common agriculture chemical in the world and has been declared a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Recent toxicological studies have further suggested potential neurologic and developmental effects of glyphosate exposure at environmentally-relevant levels. However, despite its extensive use, frequent presence in food and environmental media and potential toxicity, current exposure levels in human populations are not well‐documented. Curl seeks to generate pilot data regarding glyphosate exposure among a potentially vulnerable population, a cohort of pregnant women recruited from the Treasure Valley of Idaho. Given the rapid and substantial increase in production and application of this herbicide in the past two decades, it is crucial to evaluate human exposures to glyphosate and to understand the pathways through which this exposure occurs.

Stephanie Hall

Stephanie Hall

Stephanie Hall, clinical assistant professor, School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Kinesiology – “Protective Effects of Exercise in a Transgenic Rat Model of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Over five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050. Currently there is no cure or even a treatment to slow its progression, however, exercise has proven to reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies have linked exercise to improved cognition and increased brain volume in Alzheimer’s disease. While human testing has successfully linked exercise with markers of improved brain function, the tests have not identified the mechanisms behind the protection. A rat strain has recently been developed that displays a complete repertoire of Alzheimer’s disease pathological features. Hall intends to establish a timeline of the exercise-induced protection against Alzheimer’s disease in this novel cross animal or transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease. Hall plans to use her background in the field of exercise physiology to reach her broad research goal of using exercise as a tool to prevent and treat disease.

Ellen Schafer

Ellen Schafer

Ellen Schafer, assistant professor, School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Community and Environmental Health –  “Contextualizing mothers’ infant feeding environments: A social network approach to understanding perspectives of mothers and their network members.” Due to health implications across the life course for infants and mothers, leading experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of life with continued breastfeeding for the first year or two. While the majority of mothers in the United States initiate breastfeeding, most do not maintain for the recommended durations. Schafer’s research objective is to understand how social context and social network influences may affect infant feeding, breastfeeding, and infant care behaviors.  She believes that understanding social mechanisms associated with infant feeding will positively change the current culture surrounding the topic, resulting in a higher rate of adherence to expert recommendations and advance health within families and the community.

The IP³ program coincides with the college’s strategic plan and goal to expand research productivity. The college plans to publish intermittent updates and progress of the research projects.

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