by Karen Richardson
The knee joint may be her specialty of research, but Tara Kajaks is also an avid rower who loves being out on the water in the city of Kingston as a coach for the Queen's Rowing Varsity Development Program. "Kingston has much to offer - from a world-class university to a body of water that is home to one of the best rowing programs in the country. The balance between academics and athletics makes this city a great place to be a student," says Kajaks, a second-year Master's student in the Department of Science in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies (Biomechanics).
Kajaks is currently studying the occupational risk factors for knee osteoarthritis and conducts her research in the gait lab and at the world-renowned Human Mobility Research Centre, a joint partnership between Queen's and Kingston General Hospital. Under the direction of Professor Patrick Costigan, she is looking specifically at kneeling and the effect that this posture has on knee-joint stability during walking. "We are testing to see if kneeling induces gait parameter changes as well as changes in muscle activity measured through electromyography," says Kajaks. Last summer she worked with Dr. Joan Stevenson to build a neck strength testing device for junior hockey players. "This device will eventually be used to determine if neck strength plays a factor in concussions."
Kajaks enjoys being a rowing coach at Queen's and for high-school teams in the spring. "It's great being involved in Queen's rowing but also being involved in the community at the Kingston Rowing Club. When our season takes place during the fall it actually ends up being the best part of my day. The first-year students who have sacrificed that whole experience of partying and staying up late say they have no regrets about their involvement with the team. It's so rewarding to contribute to the success of such dedicated student-athletes."
One of the reasons she chose to study at Queen's was because of the city of Kingston - "the water, the people and the whole sense of community. Both Queen's and Kingston have a really friendly environment, and people work very well together here. It's very easy to collaborate and everyone is very willing to share their equipment - it's a good team environment." She is also familiar with the university from completing her undergraduate degree here. "It's good to be back in Kingston." Kajaks enjoys working at Queen's where there is a "reputation of well-known researchers across the board in rehabilitation science, mechanical engineering, as well as within our department."
She has been inspired by attending conferences on topics such as ergonomics, sports medicine and biomechanics while at Queen's, and will be giving her first presentation at a conference for the upcoming Ontario Biomechanics conference on kneeling-induced joint instability.