Wen K. Ling
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Therapy
"I'm interested in helping people stay well by identifying ways in which our physical environment negatively affects our bodies and working to correct those problems."
A soldier carries nearly everything on his - or her back. Wen Ling has been commissioned by the United States Army to test and modify a new Army backpack designed to better accommodate the unique body shapes of women, who make up an increasing number of personnel in military units. For the first time in its history, the Army plans to consider the body characteristics of women in the development of standard issue equipment. Ling is testing the MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment), which is replacing the World War II-era ALICE backpack, still widely in use.
'It's like a mini boot camp in my research lab,' Ling says. She is examining her test subjects' comfort and performance levels when using MOLLE, and is using this data to develop recommendations that will help reduce injury among female military personnel. She has already designed and created a special hip support device that takes advantage of women's typically wider pelvises and stronger legs.
'I work closely with masters and doctoral students in the lab to help them gain hands-on experience doing research,' she adds. 'And I enjoy helping students develop their own projects.'
One student who has been assisting her with the MOLLE research has undertaken a project examining how the impact of commercial backpacks varies between standing and walking postures.
Ling's current research carries forward an emphasis she has had throughout her career on examining how the body interacts with its environment and applying insights gained through this work to the development of strategies that prevent injuries.
'Things we do everyday like walking in high heels or sitting at a computer can have a profound effect on both our short-term and long-term health,' she says. 'I'm interested in helping people stay well by identifying ways in which our physical environment negatively affects our bodies and working to correct those problems. Prevention is a major focus in our Department -- and an increasing emphasis across the field as a whole.'