International Society of Biomechanics
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ISB Now recently put out the call for biomechanics students and early career researchers to share their stories of how they have coped during COVID-19, and particularly some of the positives that have emerged. We realise this has been a tough year for everyone, and wanted to celebrate how we have come through this as a biomechanics community. Thank you to all of the contributors - we hope you enjoy reading their stories and reflections. We hope that we can bring more in the new year - Glen Lichtwark (ISB Publications officer).


Reflections on the moment that everything changed

Priscila Montemor, Master Student, University of Campinas, SP, Brazil

I would like to thank the ISB for the opportunity to write this brief report about the activities developed in 2020. Due to the pandemic, social isolation and quarantine arrived without warning and suddenly changed everyone's life, in Brazil and worldwide. A virus, something so small and seemingly harmless, put the world in check. For us Brazilians, the news came like a summer storm, which arrives without warning catching everyone off guard.

I remember exactly when the news came. We received a message from a colleague in the Whatsapp group from our laboratory, on a Wednesday. It was a statement that on Thursday (the following day), our university (University of Campinas) would be temporarily closed for face-to-face activities. With a lot of luck, my lab colleagues and I managed to get into our lab and take out our hard drives (which contain our work life), important notes, printed papers, and books. We still managed to organize the electronic instruments ensuring that nothing would be damaged in the theoretically temporary closure of the university. We had no idea about for how long the university would be close. For all of us graduate students and professors in the biomechanics of the movement here in Brazil, the closure of universities has drastically affected our work routine, our projects, and the development of our activities the laboratories.

Everything we had programmed to execute and deliver on time, no longer made sense. How can we readjust our projects and schedule without knowing when we will return to normal activities? How to conduct a pilot data collection to test protocols if we are not having access to the laboratories? How can we learn to analyze data if we do not have access to specific software in our area while working from home using our personal computers? In addition to all this chaotic situation, online classes have emerged. How to teach biomechanics through online classes, without any type of equipment or laboratory, and often without access to any type of software? How do I assess whether my students are understanding the content? How to ensure proper access to online classes by all students. Almost impossible in Brazil, especially considering that most of students in public universities are able to graduate because publish universities are free of fees and taxes for students.

But for a researcher, as people say, every result is a result, despite if expected or not. All these changes in teaching and in our lives, had some positive impacts. The working from home condition gave more flexible to our schedules and more access to other universities and virtual libraries. Journal websites have opened access providing us with free books and articles. Meetings connecting laboratories around the world are taking place and are very frequent these days. We are learning the real meaning of the word resilience, and we are trying, together with teachers, supervisors, administrative staffs, and other researchers around the world, to adapt to a new routine of work, studies and life. We are learning to value time, friends, and family. The world is changing its view of science and researchers. I believe that what we are living today is not by chance, in an immediate and selfish world, we are being forced to question ourselves about our goals, our lifestyle, our health, our concerns and love towards people, and especially how we face and adapt to the challenges that life puts in our way.

I see that today we live a time of many uncertainties. But I also see that we live in a moment of many certainties too. And it is in these certainties that we hold ourselves on and, with a big smile on our faces, we face and seek the solutions. We will overcome! Because this is LIVING!


Biomechanical innovation during a time of need.

laura pasuoniLaura Pausoni, Universidade Anhanguera, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São José dos Campos, SP, Brasil

I graduated in 2018 as a mechatronics technician and currently study Biomedicine in Brazil. In the mechatronic course I was able to work in the maintenance of 3D printers and also in the modeling of some prostheses for infant upper limbs. During that time I learned a lot about additive manufacturing technology and its applications.

At the beginning of 2020 we were not yet used to the world situation. We found it hard to believe that the crossing between oceans would allow the virus to arrive in Brazil. As nobody knew exactly the severity, what should be done to individual protection became the main target of people. In a few days, all episodes were already scarce, and companies were unable to supply the need for pharmacies and especially those who were in the front line for care for the infected people. The maker community mobilized quickly.

Together with some health professionals, we from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo prosthetic and prosthetic laboratory team decided to provide help with knowledge about 3D printing and modeling in an attempt to protect the our population. As a mechatronics technician I helped in the development of facial protectors, connectors for respirators and other needs in devices that could save lives and the greatest possible number of lives. I am immensely proud to have helped in this march against something so small with enormous and little-known capacity. Many hours awake with colleagues discussing solutions resulted in thousands of personal protective equipment that reached almost the entire country.


Threats and Opportunities for a Research Student during COVID-19 Restrictions 

Suzanne Martin, PhD student in Biomechanics (Human Movement), the Institute for Health and Sport (IHES), Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

In March, COVID-19 cases in Australia were increasing rapidly. At Victoria University (VU), Melbourne, I shared an office with other research students to complete data processing and analysis of  my PhD thesis entitled Gait Adaptability in Older Adults with Diabetes. Every day we were being bombarded with information on how to prepare for the pandemic. I tried to avoid any surface and used a tissue whenever I had to touch doorknobs. One day, one of my colleagues who had coughed a few times said: ‘’Excuse me, guys. Just letting you know that I do not have COVID; it is just a seasonal allergy.’’ Feeling sorry that she felt the need to explain the reason for her cough and thinking it better to work from home, I collected my things, backed up my files and left my office. Only a few days later VU issued a directive that research students were no longer permitted to work from their offices.

Time was running out to submit my thesis by September. I had to keep working, but how? Changing my bedroom into an office, I gained permission to take my office computer home and connect it to the Biomechanics Laboratory via VPN to use special software.

Every morning I made sure my daughter was connected to her classroom virtually. Then, attempting to concentrate on my own work I could hear her calling: ‘’Mum,…, mum, can you come?’’ The internet was disconnected, or whatever other reasons. Then it was recess, lunchtime, or needing assistance with her school work. The only time I could concentrate on my work was between 4 and 6 pm and after 9.30 pm when she was in bed. I worked until after midnight, wearing myself out. 

Once in bed, my mind was racing and I couldn’t sleep. ‘’What would be in store for us? What would I do if one of my family overseas caught COVID? When would the lockdown finish? What would I need to buy tomorrow?” Although my alarm was set for 7 am, most mornings I was awake by 6 am. I stayed in bed, feeling blue, until I heard my daughter rising at about 7.10 am. ‘’Come on Sue, it is time to get her breakfast; otherwise, she’ll be late,’’ I said to myself.

After surveying all research students about how the pandemic was affecting their research and professional development, the university organised support through an online program called Elevens, the COVID-19 Student Hardship Fund, Doctoral Industrial Placement (DIP), and Small Research Grant. With dwindling savings and realising I couldn’t meet the deadline for submitting my thesis, I applied for a DIP scholarship and one-semester extension with my supervisor’s support. I worked remotely for a  physiotherapy centre as a data scientist. At the end of my first meeting in the centre with a face mask and sanitised hands, my project manager stepped well back, removed his mask, and said: “I look like this.” Soon after this I was  informed that my application for a small grant was successful. This enabled me to strengthen my PhD project and submit an abstract for the Research Student Virtual Conference at Victoria University. 

Looking back, I appreciate that students’ health, safety, wellbeing and quality of study had remained the priority of Victoria University. With the support of the university, I changed threats into opportunities and maintain quality research while remaining resilient and keeping myself, family and peers safe.

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A new way to research and learn

Milena Aguiar dos Santos, Physical Therapy Student, Brazil

I am an undergraduate student of Physical Therapy at the Federal University of Pampa in Brazil, and part of the Applied Neuromechanics Research Group. The year 2020 would be my graduation year. It may sound cliché, but 2020 showed up differently from our expectative. I would complete my physiotherapy professional internship, would finish the research of my senior project, and then graduate. When the news about the COVID-19 started, I have to be honest: at first, I thought it would not be this chaotic. Just stay home for fifteen days and everything would be normal again. The days gradually passed, and I realized that it would be more complicated than expected.

After one month of struggling to develop my activities alone at home, I started to deal better with the social distancing and organize my routine. My involvement with undergraduate research helped me to advance on my senior project, and as I had collected my data in 2019, there was a lot of work to do regarding data processing and writing. I use this time at home to learn basic fundaments of programming because I needed it to help my data processing, read articles and books to help in discussing my results, and in August I had all done: I am finishing 2020 with my first scientific article submitted (currently it is under review). I consider it was a great achievement for a hectic year, and I learned a lot in the course of analyzing data and writing.

Another positive aspect of 2020 was the chance to join many online courses related to physical therapy and related topics. I did not complete all courses I have signed for, but all courses I completed were great experiences. Additionally, I am glad to be active as part of a research group that maintained weekly online meetings to discuss science and it helped me to stay connected with my lab fellows. Something that I would not expect for the year was my participation in Youtube lives, including a webinar about biomechanics teaching promoted by the Brazilian Society of Biomechanics, where I had the chance to talk about online classes. It resulted in an invitation to participate in a podcast episode to talk about undergraduate research. Late in 2020, I started to learn a new language. We all know English is the “language of science”, but I took the time to learn some French.

2020 was and continues to be different, and often terrifying, but I did a lot of good things for my professional and personal growth. I have learned how to deal with myself and better understand that sometimes it is ok not to be ok. I am also grateful I could stay at home and keep doing my activities because I know most of people can’t. I hope soon this condition ends and we can continue to do what we like to do.

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 Laboratory meeting.  Brazilian Society of Biomechanics webinar about remote teaching.


Sports Biomechanics research in China - a new normal

Ms. Xini Zhang, Biomechanics Team, Sports Performance Research Center, Shanghai University of Sport

xini zhang im1I am a doctoral student from Shanghai University of Sports, China. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically hindered our research teams' experimental progress, and I am no exception. My colleagues and I are working on our dissertation/thesis projects. We had to postpone the experiment due to the epidemic. There was no guarantee of the completion of the experimental projects. One of the biggest problems for me was that some members of our research group living in high-risk areas could not return to school, which caused a significant obstacle to our data collection processes. To overcome this difficulty, we actively sought solutions through remote connections and video conferencing. We exchanged views through virtual sessions weekly and discussed the best practice under the influence of the epidemic. Fortunately, due to the government's active and effective control measures, the domestic COVID-19 pandemic has been well controlled since the fall. Everyone is required to carry their QR code for health all of the time, which serves as an electronic passport to indicate personal health status in real-time.

When the epidemic was under control in Shanghai, we immediately returned to the campus for data collection. My experiment protocol has been carried out in an orderly manner, thanks to my team members in the lab. Currently, every participant who enters the lab would go through a strict inspection, carry out health status registration and temperature check. Each experimenter must wash hands & disinfect upon entering the lab and wear a mask during the testing. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic interruption, as researchers in Chinese universities, we do our best to contribute to biomechanical scientific inquiries.