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Undergrad studying kinesiology

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  • Undergrad studying kinesiology

    Welp, I just took 2.5 hours to write a post and it was deleted since when I submitted it, I was logged out. So that's a great way to start my experiences on this website. But I learned a lesson, always transfer a long post to word before doing anything crazy such as submitting it. This lesson shall live on throughout my life and aid me in never making that mistake again, so I guess its a good thing right?

    So I'll give a crazy quick version so I can feel that at least like I've done something productive with my night other than type to myself.

    I'm an undergrad at Central Michigan University in the last session of my junior year, intending on majoring in kinesiology. I have a growing interest in biomechanical engineering, ergonomics, and Industrial hygiene. Since it makes no sense to switch universities at this point in order to complete a bachelors in those subjects, I seem to be forced into a masters/PHD (if possible) in order to gain the knowledge and skills in this field to get employment. I'm now very aware that I picked a bachelors that forces me to undergo more schooling in order to possibly get the same opportunities as what bachelors of biomechanics has, since the most desirable trait is experience in a specific subject of biomechanics. How can I make the best of my situation?

    My ultimate question is if anyone has advice, similar stories or resources, that they could share with it me as I would love to hear it and gain from your experience.

  • #2
    Re: Undergrad studying kinesiology

    Hi Jake,

    Not all hope is lost. The first thing I can tell you is that your kinesiology degree is useful. In my experience there are two skill sets that are necessary to be an effective biomechanics researcher. There's the physics/programming/math side that comes with an engineering type degree and then there's the clinical side that requires an in depth knowledge of the human body. Hopefully your kinesiology program has given you an understanding of how the musculoskeletal system works. How to palpate landmarks and attachment points for muscles and tendons. How to communicate how the joints of the body are moving in terms of flexion/extension, abduction/adduction and internal/external rotation. All of these play a key roll in biomechanics research.

    For the technical side, biomechanics is really just a specific application of physics. If you have space in your schedule for your last year I would try and shore up your mechanics background. It'll probably cover things like ramps and pulleys and bridges but it applies to the human body too. You can also try your hand at writing code. MatLab is very prevalent in the biomechanics world and is a very useful tool to have an understanding of. There's lots of help online via YouTube, Stack Overflow etc. Also start reading journals of the area you're interested in. My graduate program recommended reading 1 hour per day. If you can commit to that you'll build up quite a wealth of knowledge.

    Lastly, I see there's a graduate program in ExPhys at your school. Intern with professors and grad students there. Like NOW! Learning how to develop research questions, recruit subjects and run studies was basically half of my graduate program. Plus the professors will have contacts at other locations as well as insight on what you might do after you graduate. It may end up being that you have to go back and get another degree or you may find a place where you can start at the bottom and work your way up. Institutionalized education isn't the only way to get to where you want to be, but as cliche as it sounds, there really isn't a substitute for hard work. If you'd like to chat offline shoot me a message and I'd be happy to talk with you.


    -Composed in Notepad++ and pasted over


    • #3
      Re: Undergrad studying kinesiology


      Thank you for your reply. I really like the advice of reading journals, I will try to implement that into my routine as I can imagine the benefits of reading up on the subjects I hope to deal with in the future, staying up to date, learning from example, and of course gaining knowledge within the field. I will have a look into MatLab aswell. As for getting involved, I've set up a meeting with a professor in search of getting involved in some research within the exercise physiology program here at CMU. I've started to feel like giving up hope on the thought of staying here since there is no biomechanics programs, but little did I realize the opportunity that may be right under my nose.

      I will not hesitate to ask questions, as just talking about it clears the clouds a bit, but sometimes the hardest part is finding the right questions to ask. Hopefully through this meeting next week I can start my quest into the advancement and (finally) the application of the knowledge I gained. I plan on posting updates here as well, since this is such an awesome way to get in contact with helpful people.

      Jake S.


      • #4
        Re: Undergrad studying kinesiology

        I think both the greatest strength and greatest weakness of kinesiology as an undergraduate major (at least in the USA, can't speak for the rest of the world) is that it's very broad: you take courses on a wide range of topics and learn a little about a lot of things, but don't go deep enough to become an expert in any of those things. Then you get to the graduate level and have to specialize, and this results in the technical gap between the grad and undergrad levels being very large in kinesiology. I don't think this is unique to biomechanics, my ExPhys colleagues say the same.

        Adam already suggested this but I'll echo strongly that a great thing you can do now to prepare for graduate work is learn how to code in some programming language for scientific computing. C++ is hard to learn but Matlab, R, and Python are all very user-friendly with great online communities and all very relevant in biomechanics.

        Hope this helps,
        Ross (kinesiology professor)


        • #5
          Re: Undergrad studying kinesiology

          Hey Jake!

          So I just graduated from ASU with my BS in biomedical engineering and I've definitely am developing a niche for kinesiology -- so almost exactly opposite of you. Like Adam said, not all hope is lost at all. Unfortunately you will definitely have a more vigorous master's track because you don't currently meet the engineering prereqs for those master classes (calc 1-3, linear alg, differential equations, engineering physics/mechanics, etc.) that are met during engineering undergrad, but luckily for you, you still have time to squeeze those classes in now, if possible, so you don't have to do them during your master's.

          Definitely get into coding, it'll help you out tremendously and C++ is a very basic language. MATLAB proficiency is also a worshiped skill and there's tons of tutorials online as well to get you started.

          If you're not currently in a lab, see if you can start volunteering in a research lab or any lab of some sort that align with your goals and interests. You don't necessarily need to be majoring in that professor's field either, typically everyone is very opening and welcoming if you're willing to be open and learn! Once I realized what exactly I wanted to specialize in, I emailed literally everyone that I would find helpful. I pulled up every professor and faculty member, and if their research interests aligned with my own, I emailed them, introduced myself, told them a little bit of my goals, and asked if I could meet them or sit in their lab meetings, anything that will get you a little taste before you make any major decisions regarding grad school options. I pretty much said "this is where I'm at, this is where I want to be or do, how do I get there." Everyone surprisingly is incredibly willing to help you get to where you want to be, they're in academia for a reason! Take your senior year to really network with professors and other faculty members. Those that are in the fields of "biomechanical engineering, ergonomics, and industrial hygiene" are the best ones to give you advice on your next steps, especially while you're at CMU.

          Hope this helps!


          • #6
            Re: Undergrad studying kinesiology

            Jake, the forum had a 15-minute time out setting, so after no activity for 15 minutes, your message is discarded. This is probably a security feature, to minimize the risk when someone walks away from their computer without logging off.

            We have increased it by a factor 10, so currently the time out is at 2.5 hours. That should hopefully prevent this from happening again.

            One of the replies to your post mentioned "Composed in Notepad++ and pasted over" which is a good idea for any lengthy text entry in websites.

            Ton van den Bogert, Biomch-L co-moderator


            • #7
              Re: Undergrad studying kinesiology

              I strongly recommend looking around for an volunteer opening somewhere - a degree of practical experience is always a big plus. When you are applying for a job down the road, there's a world of difference between, "I know how this is done" and "I have done this."

              Good Luck!