Professor Ryan Rosario and student-researcher Jack Blackmar working in a research lab

By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Professor Ryan Rosario conducting research in a laboratory

Ryan Rosario, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Ryan Rosario, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was recently awarded his first National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for his research on the mechanics of ligament and tendon failure. In addition to providing funding for laboratory equipment and supplies, the two-year, $200,000 award also will provide support for student-researchers to work alongside Rosario on the project. This is Rosario’s first NSF award as a principal investigator.

“I feel excited, proud, and validated that a panel of experts in my field chose me and my project for this honor,” Rosario says.

Rosario’s study will look at the different components that make up ligaments and tendons—the tissues that connect bone to bone, and muscle to bone, respectively—and the potential role each component plays in the failure of these tissues. “We will be utilizing a simulation model, camera-based measurement system, and universal mechanical testing system to analyze sheep tendons and get a better understanding of how failure might initiate. This, in turn, could give us an idea of how we can potentially prevent that failure—and related injuries—from happening in humans,” Rosario says.

Professor Ryan Rosario and student-researcher Jack Blackmar conducting research in a laboratory

Jack Blackmar ’26 and Prof. Ryan Rosario work on patellar tendon research

The study also will be one of the first of its kind: “The way that I’ll be thinking about tendon and ligament mechanics, and measuring their properties, is different from what any other researcher is doing,” Rosario says. “By using a computational tool to separate out the different components, I’ll be taking the first steps I’ve seen to understand the whole tissue as two separate component parts rather than one homogenous structure.”

During the first half of this summer, Rosario will be working with two student-researchers—Jacob Hinnes ’26 and Jack Blackmar ’26—to complete the designing and building of the simulation model and measurement system, which was initiated last year with the help of Hinnes and Will Sherwood ’25. Rosario, Hinnes, and Blackmar will spend the remainder of the summer conducting test runs and collecting preliminary data.

Jacob Hinnes ’26 closely examines data in Prof. Ryan Rosario‘s research lab

“It’s amazing to be able to conduct lab research with a professor as a second- and third-year undergraduate student,” says Hinnes, who has a major in integrative engineering with a focus in bioengineering. “I’ve gained a lot of experience: tendon dissection, proper lab technique and maintenance, 3D modeling and printing, and team collaboration with my peers.” Rosario also will be using his NSF funding to send his student-researchers to scientific conferences to present their work. “Giving me the opportunity to put these on my resume at my age truly sets Lafayette apart from other institutions,” Hinnes says.

For Rosario, the most rewarding part of the research process, he says, is working with the students and seeing them grow as independent researchers: “I want to be able to instill that sense of excitement for discovery—the understanding that science isn’t some inaccessible thing that only certain people can do. [Participating in research] gives students confidence in their own ability, intellect, and problem-solving skills, which is an experience that can sometimes be hard to get from courses.”

Categorized in: Academic News, Engineering, Faculty and Staff, Faculty Profiles, Faculty Research, Featured News, Innovation and Research, Mechanical Engineering, News and Features, Research

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