Grad Student Feature: Sara Moshage
Sara Moshage is an MS/PhD student in mechanical engineering who works in MechSE Professor Mariana Kersh's Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory, as well as with Bioengineering Professor Rohit Bhargava.
Hometown: Utica, Illinois
What kind of research are you working on?
I study bone development in juvenile horses through a combination of repeated CT scans of the same horse as it grows and finite element models. Right now, I am working to develop an equation that relates bone Young's modulus (sort of like stiffness) to density taken from a CT scan. These relationships can change depending on the actual bone and the age of the subject. By developing this relationship, I hope to improve our finite element models of equine bone.
Why is this important and why do you find it interesting?
Most race horse fatalities are due to a musculoskeletal injury that is unable to be repaired, so the horse is euthanized. There is evidence that exercise during the adolescent growth period has lifelong benefits. We ultimately hope to use exercise on young horses to strengthen their bones and reduce fractures when they become a race horse. However, in order to reduce the number of horse (injuries) we need to study and speed the process along. We want to use finite element models to help us choose an exercise intervention that strengthens the target bones. My interest in this projects stems from a lifelong love of horses, riding, and their welfare. Aside from personal interest, the methods and overall aim of this project could potentially translate to human bone development.
How has your affiliation with the Beckman Institute helped you?
My affiliation with the Beckman Institute has been the solid base of my graduate school career. Most of my master's degree research took place in the Visualization Lab, which has outstanding resources and amazing staff. My current research uses the Rigaku CTLab GX130 microCT scanner, as well as Vis Lab resources. Once our grad student offices moved to the Beckman Institute I started going to more seminars and that helped me develop a community outside the lab and feel more at home. Finally, I am honored to be a 2020 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow. This fellowship has given me the freedom to pursue research full time without having to work on multiple projects or be a TA, as well as connecting me to a group of exceptional peer researchers.
What do you like to do outside of the classroom or lab?
My favorite activity is riding horses, which I do several times a week. Other than that I enjoy spending time with my dogs, running, and many other hands-on activities such as sewing and wood working.
How did your work change during the stay-at-home order over COVID-19 concerns?
The first few months I spent at home, like everyone else, and ended up writing a review paper with my adviser and a lab mate. I spent most of the summer planning experiments as thoroughly as possible. Since the semester started I have been going in to the lab a few times a week to run experiments, but still do all my other work (reading literature, data analysis, writing) from home, rather than from my office.
What has been the hardest adjustment for you during the pandemic?
Personally it has been hard to adjust to not seeing my lab mates every day. We had a great office environment and I miss our coffee runs to the Daily Byte.
What has been a hidden benefit of the stay-at-home order?
My spouse normally lives and works in Manhattan, but has been remote since late March, which allowed him to move here for the time being. It has been wonderful to spend so much time together and to not have to cook dinner every night.