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Dawnlee Roberson
Dawnlee Roberson

UTSA, UTHSC researcher studies diabetic amputees

(April 22, 2004)--UTSA Research Assistant Professor Dawnlee Roberson has received a $388,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study electrophysiology and biomechanics in diabetic amputees.

Roberson, also an adjunct associate professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, anticipates the study will provide new scientific guidelines for physicians in determining the most suitable prosthesis for a patient's age and lifestyle.

Roberson, who joined UTSA in June 2001, is focusing on finding a correlation between muscle-control signals measured at the nerves and muscles and the force generated. Additionally, she seeks to develop a new area of research in gait analysis of diabetic amputees.

With the help of the Andrew J. Gitter Research Laboratory, a joint venture of the Health Science Center Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the South Texas Veterans Health Care Administration, Roberson is working with diabetic amputees to collect data on walking mechanics using prosthetic legs.

"Dr. Roberson is assisting us in acquiring and interpreting scientific data about gait and other variables related to the diabetic amputee, which helps us to apply it in the clinical setting," said Gordon Bosker, certified prosthetist in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine.

The subjects are evaluated and given a prosthetic leg to test at home for a month following their normal routine. This is followed by additional tests and data collection, fitting of another prosthesis and a repeat of the monthlong home test.

"I would like to see better design, so that when the prostheses are produced and marketed they would have to meet certain durability and pressure standards," said Roberson. "A 30-year-old active male amputee is going to need a different prosthetic then a 75-year-old man who only ambulates around the house."

The goal of the NSF Advance Fellows award is to increase the participation of women in the scientific and engineering workforce through the increased representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.

Roberson received her doctor of philosophy degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She earned a master of science degree in electrical engineering and a bachelor's degree in biology from UTSA.

--Kris Rodriguez

University Communications
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