ImPhys PhD student Rick Waasdorp best Graduate of the Faculty of 3mE

News - 04 November 2020 - Communication ImPhys

We know that the brain sends a muscle a message before it moves. But we are not entirely sure what happens next. Rick Waasdorp has come up with a swift, non-invasive technique for looking at exactly this. It is perfect for further research into muscular dystrophy.

Administering an electrical charge to a muscle makes muscle fibres contract, which then causes movement by the body. Rick Waasdorp’s friends and house mates can confirm this. The young researcher has used them, and himself, as guinea-pigs many a time. “I wanted to know exactly how a muscle works, so I used an electric stimulator to see what happens when an electrical current activates a muscle”, he explains. “I once hit myself in the face in the process. All of the shocks were completely safe, but when experimenting on other people, I used smaller shocks to avoid accidents.”

The fact that this mechanical engineering student specialising in BioMechanical Design took an LUMC training course in nerve stimulation of the muscles before embarking on his experiments, only serves to illustrate his drive and passion. His high research ambitions are further evidence of this. Waasdorp wanted to combine two advanced biomedical techniques to map the precise progress of muscle contraction: ultrafast ultrasound (UUS) and high-density EMG (HD-EMG).

Right from the start, Waasdorp consulted with other parties to take his research to the next level. When developing his innovative measuring technique, for instance, he worked with the departments of Imaging Physics and BioMechanical Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Sciences and the Faculty of 3mE respectively. Once his ultrafast measuring technique was up-and-running, he turned to the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) to ask medical experts there how it could help them. “Why? Because the whole point of my research is that it can be put to practical use.” After presenting his results to experts in the fields of radiology, rehabilitation and neurology, it became clear that his research could be particularly beneficial when studying muscular dystrophy. Existing research methods have proved inadequate for people with muscular dystrophy.

The rest of the story can be read here.