CT Scans Aren’t Just for Doctors

A textbook can give me the equation for principal stresses and the Young’s Modulus for a 6061-Aluminum shaft, but it can’t give me the experience of working with cervical spines and human brains. Joining Dr. Bass’ Injury and Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory, I was at first apprehensive of what I would exactly be doing, but excitement and fascination quickly consumed any nerves as I witnessed Micro CT scanning in action and learned the basics of the LS-DYNA finite element analysis modeling program.

The optimist residing in me hopes to reap results that will be new, fresh, and add to the ongoing scientific conversation in this biomechanics field. There is always the exciting dream of discovering the true mechanism behind concussions, or designing a program that can take individual measurements and parameters and custom-make football and military helmets. The realist in me doesn’t expect to even come close to those long-term goals by the end of my BSURF summer, but definitely wants a deeper understanding of the parameters that affect head injury; be immersed in several new terms, tools, methods, and skills that will allow me to fathom how linear and angular velocity and acceleration play into mild traumatic brain injury. And of course the pessimist exists, though ever so tiny, always the fear that I don’t have enough knowledge to experiment, program, and actually gain results and make even the slightest difference. Already, I have experienced the frustration of modelling and switching up the slightest of parameters just to have the program fail again. All three bodies of mind comprise my expectations and aspirations for my summer research, and ideally their balance will mold an eventful summer.

After this first week, I think I’m finally getting my head wrapped around how much failure or stagnation in research can be constant and prevalent, and I think I understand what the meaning of research entails. There is no step-by-step lab manual given, no known value to try and match, no black and white; there is simply the unknown, the questions, and the scientists brave and vulnerable enough to chase after answers.

On a less technical note, I want to find as much joy as I can. This is my first real college research experience, and I want to make the most of it, regardless of the results I get. I want to make connections with lab and Fellowship members and  gain life advice and experience from coworkers, mentors, faculty, and friends. Having fun, crafting timeless memories, and making lifelong friends are always at the top of my agenda!

Using LS-DYNA and LS-PrePost to analyze a brain model for head injury!

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