Crafting Smart Garments for Aging Musicians Through Biotechnology

INTERVIEW

Lauren Jensen is a doctoral candidate at Tulane University's Interdisciplinary Aging Studies PhD program. At first glance, this might seem like a philosophical or medical degree, but it is about engineering real solutions to improve people's lives. Lauren got interested in science because of a chance moment in high school. She missed a Chemistry test because she was sick.  As a make up, her teacher let her take a qualifying exam for the school to see who would compete with other local schools in New Orleans for Chemistry.  She qualified for that, won the district competition and then got 3rd in the state of Louisiana. She has been rocking science and engineering ever since. 

The Interdisciplinary Aging Studies PhD program at Tulane University requires both biomedical and psychosocial research. Lauren's research focuses on fatigue and tremor in occupations that require high levels of fine motor control for the entirety of their career such as surgeons and musicians.  Her lab is investigating whether local, intermittent muscle cooling is capable of reducing non-pathological tremor and extending time to physical fatigue.  "Muscle cooling is a developing area for athletes and we believe the benefits can be translated to other areas," explains Lauren.  After her degree, she wants  to work in the industry to improve the products available to aging professionals who wish to improve or maintain physical performance in their vocation.

Since her research involves analyzing fatigue and tremor in different occupations, she faces challenges in translation of the research and fatigue measurement techniques for different populations. She explains the differences, "Fatigue for a track athlete is not the same as fatigue for a surgeon. Speaking with experts in the field you are looking to explore is a great way to get ideas."

Lauren PhD - blink blink Ladyhero

In conjunction with Loyola University Music Department and the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, Lauren has been surveying university orchestra and jazz band students on playing related pain and exercise frequency in order to measure how physical fitness can improve your capability to function as a musician.  Their research will be presented at the 2015 Performing Arts Medicine Association annual symposium in Snowmass, Co.

Lauren has some spot on advice for folks who are interested in gaining expertise in technology and crafting:

"It's surprising how you can basically make anything your specialty, with enough time and dedication.  There are so many resources available (local organizations, DIY blogs, online MOOCs, etc.) you can learn almost anything for free." 

"Apply for internships, ask about projects that you find interesting, go to seminars and product pitches.  Afterward, actually introduce yourself to the speaker.  Obviously don't overstep any boundaries, but be confident too.  If your questions get ignored or someone isn't listening, assert yourself.  It's going to happen again and again.  As a young researcher, as a female, as someone new to the field, your superiors or colleagues might be less than attentive to your suggestions and ideas.  Be someone they can't ignore, but in a good way.  If you're really interested in a topic, become as much of an expert as you can, someone will take notice."

Between being a PhD ladyboss and presenting at conferences, you can find Lauren climbing the nearest mountain or traveling somewhere new. 

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Article by Niki Selken, CCO at blink blink.