A Passion for Helping Students Achieve Their Research Goals
If Dr. Robert Creath has a passion, it’s designing research projects.
“If you want to start a personal research project, my job is to help you figure out how to succeed,” said Creath, LVC associate professor of exercise science and director of the Lewis Human Performance Lab. “That includes completely novel areas and topics we haven’t explored before.”
Creath is adept at compiling scientific literature, identifying measurement and analysis techniques, coding computer programs, and organizing the innumerable details so researchers can get their projects up and running.
He’s currently collaborating with numerous LVC faculty, as well as researchers at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Penn State Department of Electrical Engineering, Temple University Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “This really is the ideal job for me,” Creath said.
His unique skill set grew out of his doctoral studies at the University of Maryland College Park where Creath earned his Ph.D. in Kinesiology, and as a faculty member in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Maryland School of Medicine where he pursued research studies in balance control and fall prevention in older adults.
Even though Creath splits his time between teaching courses on biomechanics and supporting faculty research, he’s still following his own research interests. “We’re conducting a study looking at the effects of hip stiffness on postural control and how it affects corrective ankle torque,” explained Creath, who uses dynamic analysis methods to characterize human movement. “More generally, we’re trying to understand how postural stiffness affects balance control.”
Like any experienced researcher, Creath cares about problem-solving skills which are the centerpiece of his teaching philosophy. “To succeed in the research world after graduate school, you have to have the patience and persistence to solve difficult problems,” said Creath. “That’s the real key. From day one, students need to establish a problem-solving methodology. Once they learn how to do that, it’s like practicing any skill.”
Even as a mentor, Creath pushes his students to develop their own problem-solving frameworks. “If I’m mentoring somebody, I want them to feel like they’re a colleague rather than a student,” said Creath. “If you expect more, students will rise to the occasion.”
Underneath his scientific rigor, Creath insists, he’s never lost sight of why he decided to pursue scientific research in the first place. “I’m excited about the science behind everything,” said Creath. “I was that little kid who always asked, how does this work? Why?”
“It’s just fun,” he added. “Science is fun.”