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Waterman Lecture: Falls and aging — the need for biomedical solutions to a global problem

About this event

A recording is now available from the 2022 Waterman Award lecture by Lara Thompson: "Falls and aging — the need for biomedical solutions to a global problem."

Watch the recorded lecture.

Lecture Abstract
Since the Alan T. Waterman award’s inception in 1975, Dr. Lara Thompson is the first awardee from a historically Black college and university (HBCU), and she is the first recipient who is a self-identified female of color. A goal of her lecture is to provide inspiration and knowledge by overviewing her background and journey, research in balance and postural control, and her visions tied to building new biomedical engineering education and research infrastructure.

Deficient, impaired balance and mobility can have drastic, debilitating effects on a person’s everyday life. Over 8 million American adults have chronic balance impairments due to damage in the peripheral vestibular system. Dr. Thompson’s research involves the investigation of balance and postural responses utilizing engineering tools, models and system identification techniques for balancing tasks in primates with altered vestibular (equilibrium) function. This includes characterization of the effects of a prototype invasive vestibular prosthesis on improving balance. We live in a rapidly aging world and falls are of pressing concern; the world percentage of individuals over 65 years of age will double between 2015 to 2050. With fall death rates in older adults also steeply rising, there is a need for research tied to improving and maintaining balance. Dr. Thompson will discuss robotic training methods used in the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) Center for Biomechanical and Rehabilitation Engineering (CBRE), which could help improve balance and balance confidence critical for everyday life in healthy aging individuals as well as survivors of stroke.

In addition to her research, Dr. Thompson will discuss her biomedical engineering vision and her experiences spearheading and erecting new educational programs and research facilities tied to building a diverse biomedical engineering workforce at UDC, an HBCU in Washington, DC.

This lecture is part of a three-part series featuring the laureates of the 2022 Alan T. Waterman award, the nation's highest honor for early-career scientists and engineers. 

To learn more about the 2022 Alan T. Waterman award and how to submit a nomination for the 2023 award, please visit the Alan T. Waterman award website. The 2023 nomination period ends on September 16, 2022.