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Charles Beaman Named Finalist for the George Mitchell Award

AUSTIN, TEXAS—May 6, 2009

Left to right: Dr. Alvin Meyer, Associate Dean, Dr. Rick Neptune, Dr. Steven Leslie, Provost, Charles Beaman and Mr. George H. Mitchell, President of the University Co-op at the awards presentation.

Left to right: Dr. Alvin Meyer, Associate Dean, Dr. Rick Neptune, Dr. Steven Leslie, Provost, Charles Beaman and Mr. George H. Mitchell, President of the University Co-op at the awards presentation.

Charles Beaman, a graduating senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Pre-med and Spanish, was the recipient of one of the $2,000 finalist awards in the Tenth Annual University Co-op George H. Mitchell Awards. The grand prize went to Yuxuan Wang, a Biochemistry Senior. Beaman was nominated by Associate Professor Rick Neptune. Charles Beaman is the son of Mechanical Engineering Chairman Joe Beaman.

Charles Beaman will be attending an M.D./Ph.D. program at The University of Texas at Houston Health Science Center and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He hopes to use his experience in the Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab to conduct research in neuroscience, in particular, neurobiology and connectivity in the brain. He hopes this future research can lead to a better understanding of neural processes and provide more effective treatment to ailments such as stroke, epilepsy, and Parkinson's disease.

Rehabilitation strategies for stroke patients

Professor Richard R. Neptune in Mechanical Engineering nominated Charles for his honors thesis research focusing on the development of rehabilitation strategies for stroke patients who suffer from post-stroke hemiparesis, i.e. paralysis on one side of the body that gives rise to an asymmetric gait.

A stroke subject performing a walking trial on the instrumented split-belt treadmill.

A stroke subject performing a walking trial on the instrumented split-belt treadmill.

Charles formulated and tested the hypothesis that challenging hemiparetic subjects to walk at their fastest, comfortable speeds provides a better assessment methodology because it exacerbates the subject's neuromotor impairments, making them easier to identify as compared to those identifiable by allowing subjects to walk at their own self-selected speed. Using clinical treadmill data, he compared step-length asymmetry and paretic leg propulsion for 30 chronic hemiparetic subjects walking at these two speeds, but found that these two metrics alone were insufficient to describe the kinetic mechanisms patients utilize in hemiparetic walking. He concluded that leg angle and double-support time might better describe the compensatory mechanisms stroke patients use to ambulate. The results of his research will ultimately help guide and improve clinical rehabilitation strategies for survivors of stroke, the leading cause of long-term disability. On his initial project in the lab, Charles helped Jessica Ventura, a current Mechanical Engineering graduate student, create several prosthetic ankle prototypes using selective laser sintering technology that are currently being tested with transtibial amputees in collaboration with a research team at the VA Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

The Awards Ceremony

Dr. Rick Neptune, nominator, and Charles Beaman.

Dr. Rick Neptune, nominator, and Charles Beaman.

Wednesday, the April 29, 2009 was a day to remember for a select group of University of Texas at Austin students, parents and faculty. The winners of the Tenth Annual University Co-op George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence were announced at the Four Seasons Hotel. These awards celebrate and reward undergraduate students who have demonstrated unparalleled dedication and achievement in their fields of study. Chairperson of the University Co-operative Society, Dr. Michael Granof hosted the event. Attendees included University Systems Regent Janiece Longoria, President Bill Powers, Provost Steven Leslie and many Deans and Vice Presidents of the University, as well as past grand prize winners of the award.

"This banquet serves another purpose in addition to honoring the students. It is to remind us all that when we step back from the targets of our day to day issues, the University of Texas is extraordinary. By any reasonable standards it is one of intellectual treasures of our country. And the students that we honor tonight — as well as many of their classmates — will be the scientific, literary, artistic and political leaders of the future. They give us every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead for Texas, the United States and indeed the world," said Dr. Michael Granof in his opening speech.


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