Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Graduate student Alana Turner began her undergraduate career as an engineering major, but discovered quickly that she wanted to follow a different career path.
“I realized I wanted to focus on was being active and needed to find a career where I could do that,” the Mendenhall native said. “I love getting to know how our bodies work—how the muscles, tendons and bones all work together. That fascinates me, and I’m excited I get to keep learning about it.”
With encouragement from her brother, a graduate of MSU’s kinesiology program, Turner began looking at the field as a possibility. She then settled into her new major quickly, taking a class with MSU Kinesiology Professor Harish Chander during her junior year. Mentioning to Chander her interest in the engineering aspects of kinesiology and her passion to work with the elderly, he immediately knew she’d be a perfect fit for biomechanics. Together they could form a team, do the research and work on a fall intervention program for the elderly.
As graduation approached, Turner began thinking about her next move after she finished her bachelor’s degree. Initially, she had planned to attend physical therapy school, but she found herself enjoying her biomechanics research more and more. Again, it was Chander who helped her find her path.
“The summer before I graduated Dr. Chander told me about a new graduate concentration called disability studies and that he thought I should look into it,” Turner explained.
The disability studies concentration delves into ways of getting those with disabilities either physically active or rehabilitated. The program also prepares students who are seeking advanced graduate study that leads to a doctoral degree. Right away, Turner knew that this was the right choice because of her desire to help improve the lives of the elderly and those with disabilities.
“Right now, I work a lot with the elderly and fall prevention. My fall prevention research is based on physical activity, and more specifically hydrotherapy, to see if it improves balance in the elderly population.”
In her research, Turner divided her volunteers into two groups, a land-based group and a water-based group. Over a six-week period, she had each group perform the same exercises to see which performed better over time in regards to balance and dual tasking. While Turner is still looking at the data to determine the outcomes, she sees good results from her research.
After graduating with her master’s degree, Turner has plans to pursue her Ph.D. and eventually further her investigation into improving quality of life for the elderly and those with disabilities.
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