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Lauren Dalal ’15 Completes First College Honors Program Independent Study on Dance and Biology

July 22, 2015
  • Lauren Dalal ’15 and Adjunct Professor of Physics Dr. Debra Tillinger

Lauren Dalal ’15 completes first College Honors Program Independent Study on dance and biology under the direction of Adjunct Professor of Physics Dr. Debra Tillinger.

During a presentation on May 21, 2015 entitled “The Potential of Markerless Motion Capture Technology to Identify Bilateral Asymmetry in Dancers,” dance major and biology minor Lauren Dalal ’15 explained her Independent Study thesis for the College Honors Program (CHP). The study was an ambitious attempt to use new technology to assess muscle imbalance in dancers, which is a frequent contributor to injury. In order to analyze the data, Lauren learned to write computer code and wrote her own computer programs under the supervision of Dr. Debra Tillinger, Adjunct Professor of Physics.

Lauren’s project not only demonstrated the ability of technology to reduce risk to dancers, but also emphasized how much creative and useful work can be done where science and art intersect. “Lauren was our first CHP student to engage in an Independent Study for CHP credit,” noted CHP Director Adrienne Baxter Bell. Bell added, “Under the astute direction of Professor Tillinger, Lauren devised a project that would try to answer a question that vexes all dancers: ‘how can I avoid injury?’ Having studied dance since childhood, she now sought a more scientific answer. She learned the fundamentals of MATLAB, a language of technical computing, in order to probe, from a scientific perspective, the essential components of dance, such as the plie and grand jeté. Using herself as a test subject, she analyzed photographs of her body in motion and determined where slight asymmetries—potential triggers for injuries—resided. In so doing, she seamlessly blended the pragmatic perspective of science with the creative impulses of dance in an original and highly ambitious project. Her success not only bodes well for her own future but serves as an inspiration for future CHP students at MMC.”