Our facilities are top-notch and, thanks to the Bucknell-Geisinger Research Initiative, there is grant money available for additional resources when it comes to medicine and biomedical engineering.

Eric Kennedy

From hip-fracture repair in the elderly to head injuries in the young, the human body gives Professor Eric Kennedy, biomedical engineering, plenty to study.

In hip-fracture research, members of the biomedical engineering faculty collaborate with the Orthopaedics Department at nearby Geisinger Medical Center to discover better ways to test bone quality.  Kennedy explains that a surgeon inserts a guide wire into the hip during surgical repair. He says anecdotal evidence suggests that the force needed to remove this guide wire should correlate to the density of the bone in question. In order to prove (or disprove) this theory, Kennedy and his team use special equipment in their lab to extract wires from pig and cow bones as well as from human femurs. After bone-density measurements are estimated, the bones are burned to ashes and weighed to verify the accuracy of the numbers.

"Bucknell is a great place when it comes to research and collaboration," he says. "Our facilities are top-notch and, thanks to the Bucknell-Geisinger Research Initiative, there is grant money available for additional resources when it comes to medicine and biomedical engineering."

Kennedy's playground-safety research represents another opportunity for his students to improve human health. His group has created an instrument called a "Playground Impactor Missile" to simulate the effect of a child's head hitting a playground surface from different heights and at different velocities. They've already taken their apparatus to a number of local playgrounds with varying ground cover.

"There's grass, soil, mulch and rubberized surfaces," Kennedy explains. "Of these, mulch is probably the best but only if it's kept at the correct thickness. It invariably wears thin in high-traffic areas. We're determining at what point that becomes a problem so we can help determine appropriate maintenance recommendations for all playgrounds."

Posted Sept. 22, 2014

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