Summer Scholars: Meet Blaire Lutes

The Medical Student Summer Research Scholars (MSSRS) Program is a summer research opportunity open to rising MS-II students only. The project period is 7 weeks during the summer, and students are expected to devote at least 6 full weeks to the project. Students attend weekly work-in-progress sessions and provide the opportunity for MSSRS participants to present their work to student peers.  A final report is presented in the form of a poster or oral presentation at a local, regional, or national meeting. The Interprofessional Education Symposium held each spring at Campbell University is an opportunity to present, and all MSSRS participants are encouraged to present a poster at the event

Name:  Blaire Lutes

Hometown:  Shullsburg, WI

Prior Degrees and Experience:   Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with a Minor in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin.  After college, I worked at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in the Trauma and Life Support Center as a nursing assistant.

Fun Fact:  I like being super outdoorsy and doing fun sports like snowboarding.

Career Goals:  My career interests include critical care and sports medicine. I am also president of the sports medicine club here at CUSOM.

MSSRS research project:

Using ultrasonography and deep learning technologies to characterize muscle-tendon unit morphology and performance and their relationship to elastic energy storage during locomotor activities

PI: Dr. Adam Foster

My role was to analyze ultrasound video clips from various subjects, which were recorded throughout a muscle contraction involving the triceps surae tendon unit. Using the software algorithm UltraTrack, I would identify and define a single muscle fascicle, which the algorithm would then attempt to track throughout the entire video as it shortened and lengthened. My role included going through each frame (200-300 per clip) and making manual adjustments as needed so as to maintain accurate tracking of the fascicle. My partner and I also worked on developing a protocol for using UltraTrack in future research, fine-tuning it as we continued working through subjects and providing methods that we found helpful.

I have a great interest in human biomechanics and its effects on performance, so this project grabbed my attention very quickly. Such concepts as how a single muscle fiber changes in length during muscle contraction may seem insignificant, but recent research is finding that it may be a predictor of how an individual will perform in various physical exercises. This experience has made me more comfortable with using new software algorithms, which was quite new for me, and overall was a great learning opportunity and insight into a unique area of research.

Advice for first year students:  My advice to any MS-I is to keep moving onward each day, acknowledging your successes and failures, but not letting them prevent you from reaching your goals, whatever they may be.