RUNC: Olivia Sallis

Olivia Sallis researches how altering gait can prevent osteoarthritis after ACL reconstruction.

Olivia Sallisphoto by Megan Mendenhall
January 17th, 2024

Olivia Sallis is a senior majoring in exercise and sport science and minoring in sports medicine and chemistry within the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. She studies the risk of developing osteoarthritis after ACL reconstruction and the gait interventions that could prevent further injury.

Q: How did you discover your specific field of study?

A: I did not know the exercise and sport science major existed until I took a first-year seminar and had a discussion with Meredith Petschauer, a teaching professor in the department. I’m fascinated by how sports and physical activity combine with health care and the intricacies of the human body. From an early age, my aspiration to become an orthopedic surgeon was firmly rooted, even before fully comprehending the nuances of the profession. This field aligns perfectly with my long-term goals, and I have been captivated by the study of biomechanics, which has been the focus of my research for the past two years at the MOTION Science Institute.

Q: Academics are problem-solvers. Describe a research challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.

A: Persisting through the “dry” parts of research studies — the troubleshooting. Last summer in particular, my mentor Cortney Armitano-Lago gave me resources and led me through the processing of our biomechanics data. Going into it, I thought that it would be straightforward: Export the raw data from Qualysis and VICON into the correct formatted files, create folders with the data needed to run through our MATLAB code, and analyze the data using statistical methods we choose.

I quickly learned that most of my time would be spent troubleshooting why our data was not being run through the MATLAB code and fixing what I could. With the help of the graduate students in our lab, I was finally able to run the full code for all our timepoints in the data and can now analyze our results. Going through that process was frustrating at times, but I was glad to have support from my mentor and the others working in the lab.

Q: Describe your research in five words.

A: The gait-way to osteoarthritis prevention.

Q: Who or what inspires you? Why?

A: The physicians I have encountered while working in UNC Hospitals’ emergency department as a medical scribe. Many are involved in research in some capacity, and some are even PIs for their own labs.

Q: If you could pursue any other career, what would it be and why?

A: Running a custom quilting business. I started quilting when I was 13 years old and absolutely love the artistry of quilts, their history, and their longevity. They are great gifts, and when I give or sell them to friends and family, I feel that a piece of my love is being shared as well.

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