Helping the world move better, one step at a time
You don't really think about the small adjustments you make using your brain and your senses. But the way you do something – again and again and again – can be studied through anatomy, psychology, engineering, math and physics. That pattern can be improved.
Posted: Wed, Feb 29, 2012
You go to a bar and play darts.
You throw dart after dart. Each throw is a bit different from the previous throw.
It's time to leave.
You walk out of the bar. Each step is a bit different from the previous step.
You don't really think about the small adjustments you make using your five senses and your brain. But the way you do something – again and again and again – can be studied through anatomy, psychology, engineering, math and physics. That pattern can be improved.
All of this knowledge comes together in a field called biomechanics, the study of human movement and the forces that produce it.
UNO is a world leader in this area thanks to the groundbreaking research of Dr. Nick Stergiou, who gives those examples of darts and steps to explain biomechanics. He and his crew in the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility (NBCF) on campus are improving the world in many ways.
Their research has led to new treatments for people who have problems moving due to aging or stroke or to diseases like Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and peripheral arterial disease (that's when your blood vessels in your legs are blocked).
Their work has led to earlier interventions for babies with cerebral palsy.
Their work is teaching astronauts how to walk normally again after long stints in space.
And now, thanks to private donors who are inspired by their excellence, UNO will break ground soon for the first building in the world dedicated to biomechanics research.
The University of Nebraska Board of Regents recently approved UNO's plan to build the Biomechanics Research Building, which will greatly expand the space of the NBCF. The money to build it will come entirely from private support through the University of Nebraska Foundation. The building is expected to be finished by August 2013.
"This is the tribute to the work that Dr. Stergiou has been doing," UNO Chancellor John Christensen told a group of University of Nebraska alums and fans recently in Scottsdale, Ariz. "And it's the clearest indication that the work through Dr. Stergiou is world-class, cutting-edge research."
Stergiou has more than 150 publications and has received more than $10 million in external funding. Much of his research is in collaboration with UNMC and UNL.
But he credits his success to his excellent collaborators at UNMC and UNL and to his own chair and dean at UNO and to the excellent students he's had over the years.
"Many of them were local kids from Nebraska," Stergiou says. "They worked very, very hard to make this place what it is. A lot of people sacrificed a lot and went above and beyond what I asked them to do."
Stergiou speaks with an accent. He grew up in Greece. His family was "ridiculously poor."
In high school, he had just one pair of pants. He first ate a banana when he was 15.
"It was an expensive food at that time in Greece," he says, laughing. "I couldn't even dream that I would have a big house like the one that I live in now."
Or drive a Honda CR-V.
Or walk into a bar and play darts with his wife, Ann, an Omaha native he says is the most beautiful woman in the world. (They met on a hayrack ride. She and seven other people in her family have degrees from UNO.)
Or move into this new biomechanics building soon – the first building on the UNO campus that's dedicated exclusively to research.
The first building of its kind in the world.
"I feel like the most blessed person," he says. "I don't believe I can find the words to describe this."
But he keeps trying – again and again and again.
Though they'll soon have a beautiful new building, Stergiou says, UNO and the NBCF still need your help to raise money for scholarships and professorships to keep and attract talented people. If you'd like to help UNO students and faculty – priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska – please give online or contact the foundation's Lori Byrne at 800-432-3216.