Young research scientists seek to improve post-stroke hand rehabilitation after receiving NIH Diversity Supplement Awards

Samantha Paternoster
December 12, 2022
TheraBracelet team NIH


jenna b headshot 
Jenna Blaschke
Adam Baker 
Adam Baker

Jenna Blaschke and Adam Baker have each been awarded NIH Diversity Supplement Awards which will foster the early stages of their research careers while bringing new scientific insight to Dr. Na Jin Seo’s grant study on hand function recovery after a stroke. Together they’ll collect longitudinal data to determine if combining the TheraBracelet, a new rehabilitation method, with hand task practices during therapy produces greater results in recovery.

Applicants for NIH Diversity Supplement Awards are required to propose research that will expand upon a clinical trial being led by a mentor. For Blaschke and Baker, it was a unique opportunity to create an entire project around questions they had already begun asking as staff members in Dr. Seo’s lab.

Therabracelet closeup NIH 
close-up view of the TheraBracelet

Baker, who found the pathologies related to movement fascinating during his undergraduate studies, chose to focus on understanding how specific motion capture parameters and quantitative aspects of sensory motor control correlate to brain connectivity patterns. Blaschke’s research project focuses on how sensory impairment impacts a stroke survivor’s motor recovery to determine why stroke survivors with more severe sensory impairment have worse motor outcomes.

Their collective data, in combination with the results of Dr. Seo’s clinical trial, will help provide greater insight on how hand rehabilitation therapies can be improved to help restore stroke survivor’s hand function to pre-stroke levels.

“I hired both Adam and Jenna even before the Diversity Supplement grants, because I found them to be highly capable of helping me conduct research,” says Dr. Seo. “Having these awards encourages them to think differently about research compared to just being a research staff member. With the grants, they now have the formal setup for being trained to become a researcher.” Under the grant awards, Baker and Blaschke are challenged to do more discovery work in terms of analyzing data, doing literature reviews, trying to disseminate the discovery in conferences or publications, and thinking about the next research trajectory path. It’s an opportunity for them to see the bigger picture, both for their careers and the research at hand.

researcher and participant 
Jenna works with a research participant.

Although the grants were just awarded in September, both recipients are already witnessing the impacts receiving the grant award and working with Dr. Seo has had and will continue to have on their career paths and experiences. “I think one of my favorite things about Dr. Seo is that she pushes you and finds every opportunity,” says Blaschke. “It’s cool to see how hard she works herself. It makes you want to work harder too.”

In addition to experience, the NIH Diversity Supplement Awards also foster developing future researchers with diverse backgrounds, including those from educationally or financially disadvantaged backgrounds. “It’s a great mechanism to get people excited and experienced with what they need to explore a research career path,” says Dr. Seo.

Both Baker and Blaschke feel fortunate for her guidance, as Dr. Seo has been a key driving factor behind their developing careers. “She saw the opportunity from the outset,” says Baker. “She’s really helpful for getting us career development opportunities and just telling us about up and coming activities and programs that might be beneficial for our careers.”

Students, postdoctorates and eligible investigators interested in exploring a career in research can learn more about the NIH Diversity Supplement Awards here.

Additional resources can also be found here: (PDF)