The Health Assessment Laboratory (HAL) located in Riverview Suites is a research facility in a brand new space. It is designed to enhance faculty research and student experience. HAL investigators come from several departments within the College of Health Sciences with research interests ranging from yoga and stress relief to bone health in our Division 1 Athletes.
HAL is built on the strength of all the departments of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and aims to be a center of excellence in human health assessment. The research conducted at HAL is interdisciplinary; integrating the fields of biomedical engineering, clinical laboratory science, ergonomics, exercise physiology, nutrition, nursing, and physical therapy.
The goal of the College of Health Sciences in developing the HAL is to advance and communicate knowledge in the fields of nutrition and fitness; this includes development and validation of innovative methods to collect, synthesize and interpret human assessment data. A natural second goal of the HAL is to support UMass Lowell investigators studying human health, nutrition, fitness and performance by providing this core facility for human assessment.
Within the 2,873 square feet of HAL there are two large research rooms. One room, with its treadmill and recumbent bicycle, will be utilized by several researchers including Pei Chun Kao of the Department of Physical Therapy who examines balance in the elderly and those with neurologic impairments. Kao will use an 8-camera motion capture system and an electromyography (EMG) system to determine if exercise-based interventions can improve electrical muscle activation signals and therefore balance in these at-risk populations.
Down the hall, Eric James has shown that coordination impairments are strong contributors to mobility limitations, falls, and decreased physical activity levels in older adults. James, of the Department of Physical Therapy is trying to ameliorate these coordination impairments by testing interventions designed to improve coordination to increase mobility and physical activity in older adults.
Nutrition research is also a big part of the work being done in the HAL. Tom Wilson, of the Nutritional Sciences department will be using the HAL’s dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) instrument in diet and physical activity studies examining changes on body composition and/or bone density. Kelsey Mangano also of the Nutritional Sciences department Kelsey will be using HAL for nutrition intervention studies aimed to prevent age-related muscle and bone loss. Mangano will make full use of the patient interview rooms during her work with participants to alter eating habits to slow bone loss and increase muscle strength.
In addition to the large research rooms there are rooms for participant interviews, private examinations and sample collection. However one of the biggest and brightest rooms has been reserved for our students. In this room students are encouraged to work with their peers to think critically about the research that is happening right in front of them. Built into the curriculum of the Exercise Physiology junior year, Kyle Coffey has students in the HAL using the space for lab practice and practical. Many of these students will also have the chance to assist faculty with the aerobic capacity testing that occurs during the pre and post season for the Division 1 men’s ice hockey team.