Performing arts meet science; heal through nutrition

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Performance meets science

A recent MTSU alumnus is using cutting-edge research to help improve the health of performers.

Rawsam Alasmar, a 2021 MTSU graduate, is the first performing arts health, science, and education postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

“My primary role is to work collaboratively with faculty and staff between the Peabody Conservatory and the Johns Hopkins Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” Alasmar said.

The Peabody Institute, a conservatory dedicated to training musicians and dancers for high-level performances, has been affiliated with Johns Hopkins since 1977. Alasmar, who is himself a dancer, specializes in Latin dances. However, neither show business nor exercise science was her first career.

Alasmar worked in the printing company from 1993 to 2012. But in his late 40s, he pursued a doctorate in exercise science at MTSU.

“I would rather change my life these last few years before I go to my graveyard and say I died happy and content and not say it was too late,” Alasmar said.

Now, at 53, Alasmar works at Johns Hopkins on a multidisciplinary approach to injury prevention for performers.

“You have musicians who sit for hours practicing certain instruments,” Alasmar said. “It’s so repetitive that it could create some postural imbalances.”

Part of Alasmar’s research aims to determine whether verbal cues or visual biofeedback are more useful in determining the best approach to help performers use their physical attributes in healthy ways without compromising their artistry.

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Research mixes old and new

MTSU alumnus and registered dietitian Monique Richard practices yoga atop Mount Mansfield in Vermont in this 2022 photo. Richard incorporates yoga into her Integrative and Functional Medicine practice.

Monique Richard, a 2020 MTSU summa cum laude graduate, was hired in June as a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a trade organization of food and nutrition professionals based in Chicago, IA. Illinois, which has more than 112,000 members.

For the organization, she seeks to dispel the fog of pseudoscience that baffles consumers every time a new study hits the headlines.

“Research is constantly evolving,” Richard said. “Therefore, we are constantly learning, testing and refining. It’s wonderful to have this open dialogue with a wider audience on so many different media platforms.

For practitioners, the academy offers the latest in education, funding, research and career opportunities.

She cites her international experiences as key parts of her time at MTSU. As part of the McNair Scholars program, she has presented research in China and India. In Israel, she participated in the American Overseas Dietetic Association Regional Conference on the Mediterranean Diet.

Richard has also taught nutrition to primary school children in Egypt. In 2014, she became the first dietitian to join doctors and nurses on relief missions in Haiti sponsored by the nonprofit Azil Foundation.

Today, balancing her academy duties with her own nutrition consulting and counseling service is all about practicing what she tells her clients to do, Richard said.

She calls her own practice a “whole person-centered approach,” including nutrigenomics, the study of how an individual’s genes interact with certain nutrients, and the inclusion of activities such as yoga, tai chi and acupuncture which are now supported by research.

Scientific grants

National Science Foundation Research Experiments for Undergraduate Chemistry students gather for a photo while at MTSU in the MTSU Science Building.  This is the second year of a three-year NSF REU agreement with MTSU faculty mentors.

MTSU’s Faculty of Science has just completed another year of National Science Foundation-funded research experiences for undergraduate students.

The university’s science departments – chemistry and engineering technology with one group and math, computer science and physics with a second – welcomed students from colleges across the United States for research, collaboration, visits in the field, etc. Students are chosen after a rigorous application process.

For nine weeks, a group conducted chemical research using X-rays or CRUX REU exploration. For eight weeks, the second group focused on the development of practical research skills in the field of computer science, or COMS REU.

The National Science Foundation's Computer Science Group Research Experiences for Undergraduates gathers for a photo to wrap up the two-month research and poster session in the MTSU Science Building.  This is the fourth year of a five-year NSF REU agreement for MTSU faculty mentors.

One of 60 such programs in the country this summer, the research includes characterization using methods involving X-rays, said Andrienne Friedli, acting chair of the chemistry department and mentor. This is the second year of a three-year grant.

In COMS REU, students learn a mix of computational approaches from the fields of Computer Science and Mathematics with an emphasis on problem solving in applied sciences (in particular, biology and physics). This is the fourth year of a five-year grant.

Contact reporter Nancy DeGennaro at [email protected] Keep up with restaurant news by joining Good Eats in the ‘Boro (and beyond) on Facebook and follow Murfreesboro Eats on TikTok.

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