Student Life at CIRP

Research co-op student life at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) is anything but a "typical" research co-op or internship experience. The CIRP research co-op students become important participants in their research activities and see projects through from beginning to end as often as possible. As part of CIRP research co-op student life, they are also encouraged to attend meetings, training, and presentations to become fully immersed in CIRP and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Lindsey Zajac, spent the summer of at CIRP working with the Post-injury Care and Recovery (PICAR) research team.  Here is what she has to say CIRP research co-op student life: "My time at CIRP@CHOP was an invaluable learning experience, as it exposed me to the rewards of conducting behavioral research for a pediatric population.Unlike other internship experiences of my fellow students at Buckness University, my CIRP@CHOP training was unique because I was introduced to clinical, innovative, and multidisciplinary research and given the opportunity to make significant contributions to multiple projects."

Bukola Famakinwa, a graduate of The University of Maryland College Park, participated in CIRP's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program from June 2012 to August 2012. Here is what she has to say about CIRP research co-op student life: “I worked on the Teen Driving Plan Project with Dr. Jessica Mirman for 10 weeks. As one of the eight REU interns, I was able to have my first hands-on clinical research experience where I learned a great deal about translational research. Interning at CIRP has changed my overall perspective about research, and I am grateful for the opportunity.”

Read students' blog posts to learn more about their CIRP@CHOP training experience:

CIRP Student Spotlight

Mari Allison

I recently completed my dissertation research at CIRP with Kristy Arbogast, PhD as my advisor to receive my University of Pennsylvania Bioengineering PhD. My dissertation project focused on evaluating systems that are put in helmets and used to measure head impacts in sports. These sensors are most widely used in football and ice hockey, and they allow researchers a unique opportunity to study concussions in real-world scenarios. Athletes in high-impact sports are a defined cohort at increased risk for concussion, so baseline neurocognitive measures can be taken on them before the season starts. How those neurocognitive measures change over time can then potentially be correlated to the number and/or magnitude of head impacts that they sustain. An athlete may also happen to get a concussion while wearing one of these sensor systems, so it would capture biomechanical information about the impact that caused the concussion.

In order to use the helmet-based measurement systems as a research tool, it is important to understand how well they estimate the actual movements (accelerations, velocities, and directions) of the head during impacts. This means evaluating the systems in a laboratory setting to compare their measures to reference measures. A way to do this is to fit instrumented helmets onto a crash test dummy head, impact the helmet, and compare the measures recorded by the helmet-based system to those recorded by the crash test dummy head (which are considered the reference measures). During these evaluations we changed different impact characteristics, including the direction, speed, impacting surface, helmet brand, interface between the crash test dummy head and the helmet, and the way the crash test dummy head and neck were mounted during the impacts, to see if they affected the helmet-based system performance. We found that there are strong correlations between helmet-based system and reference measures, but that there is still a lot to learn about how the systems perform under different impact conditions and how to analyze the data.

After working at CIRP for more than four years I can certainly say that it was an unparalleled experience. Apart from being a place that is filled with research that is so clearly applicable to the real world and where the research findings are put into action, it is also a place where students receive remarkable training. It provides students with such unique opportunities largely because it is a place without walls between disciplines or between you and potential mentors. Even if you are an engineer, you can be working with a physician one day, interfacing with industry members the next, and then asking a behavioral scientist questions that afternoon. While you are there, it is easy to forget how well-renowned the people working there are because they are accessible, and they care about the students, taking the time to help guide them and answer questions, both about research and career goals. I am so grateful for all that I have gained from working at CIRP and because of those experiences I feel prepared to move forward with my career.