Vicon is a proud sponsor of National Biomechanics Day. This year we are celebrating with an interview series called “Q&A with a Vicon Biomechanist”. Read on to find out more about one of our Application Engineers.
John, Senior Application Engineer – 28 years at Vicon
What is your profession within biomechanics?
I’ve gravitated toward the motion capture/measurement research product side of biomechanics. I’ve had a number of roles in this area from R&D to Support but my primary role now is in Support of our motion capture products. This includes installing and optimizing a system for a customer and teaching them how to use it for their application, supporting customers who have questions or issues that may arise and collaborating with the sales team to demonstrate the product and to ensure a customer’s technical requirements are addressed.
How did you get interested in biomechanics?
I was heavily involved in sport growing up, through college and beyond. I also have academic interests in mathematics and science, particularly physics. When I received my physics degree I really wasn’t interested in becoming a physicist but rather wanted to apply the principles of physics to sport. I had read a book called Sport Science by Peter Brancazio which discussed these principles with a variety of sport applications but at the time I didn’t know how widespread the field of sport biomechanics really was or which institutions had established programs. So I did some library research and discovered the Journal of Biomechanics where I found an article on the biomechanics of the hammer throw by Jesus Dapena. I made some inquiries and the world of sports biomechanics opened up for me. I received my degree from the University of Iowa under the mentorship of the brilliant and prolific James Hay and continued as a research assistant at the US Olympic Training center where my biomechanics interests solidified. From there I entered the motion capture industry and the rest is history.
What is your favorite aspect of working in biomechanics?
During my studies in biomechanics I became fascinated by research methodology…system calibration, data collection, data processing, modeling and the mathematics behind it all. I’ve always enjoyed calculating things so I consider myself a computational biomechanist. These interests steered me toward the motion capture industry where I get to help develop our products, work with the leaders in each area of biomechanics to help them achieve their research goals, and, of course, calculate things. Every lab is different and there are new and exciting applications across the diverse field of biomechanics. I love to be a part of it and am always learning something new. Working here in the company with my fellow biomechanist colleagues, each with their own background, is a real treat.
Advice for people looking to study/work in biomechanics?
Biomechanics is very multidisciplinary and has many branches. Explore the field that interests you most, find out who its leaders are and contact them directly. They may be affiliated with your college or university or have colleagues who are. People who are passionate about their work love to talk about it, particularly to young students who share their interests. Find the program that suits you and get involved!