|Rhoda Kuziez (right) measures the posture of research partner, Xue Liu (left).
ST. LOUIS - Second year master's students from Saint Louis University's School of Public Health, Xue Liu and Rhoda Kuziez, are standing tall after receiving a competitive grant from the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) for their progject on ergonomic assessments of posture at computer workstations. The students were one of only three teams worldwide to win the award.
Liu and Kuziez got the idea for their project last spring as part of an environmental and occupational health course they were taking. The students took field measurements of working posture of student employees in Saint Louis University's Salus Center and evaluated the potential ergonomic hazards they were exposed to in their computer workstations.
When we think about hazards in the workplace, we don't normally think about posture. However, if left uncorrected, awkward body posture can lead to discomfort and strain injuries called Musculoskeletal Disorders and Repetitive Strain Injuries. The purpose of ergonomic research is to design workplace environments that better fit the user and reduce the risk of strain or injuries.
In addition to measuring posture, the students also had research participants fill out surveys to measure their awareness of ergonomics.
"Awareness of ergonomics is key," Liu said. "People often have pain, but don't know where it's coming from. The solution could be as simple as tilting a computer monitor or adjusting a chair, but many people just aren't aware."
With the assistance and mentorship of their course instructor, Kee Hean Ong, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental and occupational health, Liu and Kuziez submitted their research to ASTM, a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards. Their research landed them a $500 grant from ASTM to expand their research efforts.
"I may be their teacher, but I learn from them too," Ong said. "This was their project. They had the initiative, and I am very proud of what they accomplished."
Liu and Kuziez study in Saint Louis University's School of Public Health, which is known for its hands-on learning experiences. Research opportunities like Liu and Kuziez's study allow students to enhance their academic or professional credentials while simultaneously learning about a subject from the inside out.
"You want to make sure there's a benefit to your research or it's time and resources poorly spent," Kuziez said. "We feel our project has the power to influence change in the world by enhancing people's knowledge about ergonomics. It goes along with the University's mission to be women and men for others."