UW-Madison PhD student Jennifer Bartloff felt lucky to have the opportunity to join the Grand Challenges team led by faculty members Kreg Gruben (Department of Kinesiology) and Peter Adamczyk (Department of Mechanical Engineering) soon after her move to Madison in 2019.
Grand Challenges is an initiative within the School of Education that supports meaningful research ideas that address critical problems in education, health, and the arts. The project Bartloff works on — “Balance Rehabilitation via Robotic Training of Foot-Force” — seeks to restore mobility for stroke-affected individuals. The team works with two complementary robotic rehabilitation devices to try to correct the root cause of balance disruption following neurological impairment.
Bartloff, who is pursuing her doctoral degree with the School of Education’s Department of Kinesiology, says being on this project team has been a transformative experience. She enjoys engaging in discussion with Gruben and Adamczyk about their labs’ biomechanical devices. In these conversations, she is able to provide a unique perspective on the labs’ applications in neurological rehabilitation based on her experience as a practicing physical therapist before coming to grad school. She has also incorporated robotics courses into her curriculum so that she can better understand that aspect of the team’s research.
Bartloff attributes working on this project to her budding interest in the ties between kinesiology, neurorehabilitation, and robotics. She believes that this interdisciplinary approach has provided team members with learning experiences that encourage them to use different expertise when it comes to problem solving within the lab. She hopes to continue this research as part of a trajectory that leads to her long-term goal of landing a research-based faculty position with a physical therapy school.