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Student Travel Grant Report – Erica Beaucage-Gauvreau

Posted on July 19, 2010

It was with great pleasure that I opened the email from Dr. Peter Milburn last February announcing that I had been awarded a Student Travel Grant.  After receiving this great news, my supervisor, Dr. Geneviève Dumas, and I started planning our trip to Benin (West Africa) to carry out a study on the biomechanics of head load carriage and pregnancy.  This study was performed through a partnership with Dr. Mohamed Lawani of the Institut National de la Jeunesse, de l’Éducation Sportive et Physique (INJEPS) in Porto-Novo, Benin. Concurrently, Dr. Lawani also received a Travel Grant from the ISB allowing him to visit our group at Queen’s University, in Canada, last May.

 His stay helped tremendously in the planning and design of experimentation protocols. He provided relevant information on the on-site field conditions, equipment available at the destination, techniques of head load carriage, lifestyle of pregnant women in Benin, and many more!  Shortly after Dr. Lawani’s sojourn in Canada, it was our turn to travel to the African continent. Dr. Dumas stayed for one week to help us set up the laboratory and perform the first data collection sessions before taking off to Capetown, South Africa, for the ISB bi-annual conference. I stayed one month in Porto-Novo to complete data collection, in the field as well as in a laboratory setting.  July 2009 was in fact a very busy month as we collected data on 51 subjects. We looked at trunk inclination angles of pregnant and non-pregnant women while walking under two conditions, namely with and without a load on the head. Students at the INJEPS contributed very valuable support and this study could undoubtedly not have been completed without their assistance. They helped us transform a classroom into a data collection laboratory in a matter of minutes and also served as translators for communication with the subjects using their respective local dialects.

Apart from my research, this trip exposed me to a new part of the world where I had never stepped foot previously.  I discovered a country with different food and customs. I also found out that Beninese hospitality goes beyond imagination as I was welcomed like I never have before. This experience was truly unforgettable and I will always remember my summer of 2009.

Finally, I would like to sincerely thank the International Society of Biomechanics for awarding me a Student Travel Grant.  This bursary allowed me to complete the work for my Master’s Thesis and exposed me to biomechanics in a whole new setting.  I would also like to acknowledge the precious help and support of my two supervisors, Dr. Dumas and Dr. Lawani, without whom this project would not have been possible.

Erica Beaucage-Gauvreau

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