Thompson Rivers University

Physics Research—Q & A with Natascha Hedrich

April 3, 2014

Natascha Hedrich at the 2014 Undergraduate Research and Innovation Conference, where she presented her Honours Mathematics thesis.

Meet Natascha Hedrich, who is completing her final semester of a Bachelor of Science, with a double major in Physics and Honours Mathematics. The Newsroom asked Natascha about the ins and outs of conducting her own research project through TRU’s Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP).

TRU: Your project is titled, “The Correlation Between Snoring and Sleeping Position“. Boil it down for us.

NH: My project was aimed at determining if and how one’s sleeping position can impact snoring, by measuring the position of a sleeper’s torso and head as well as recording their snoring throughout the night. I developed and put together the measurement equipment using a program called LabView. After collecting data, I analyzed it by picking out moments at which the participants were snoring and examining the participant’s position at that time. If the snoring periods occurred primarily when the participant was in a particular position, it would suggest that avoiding that position should help prevent snoring – a problem that many people suffer from.

TRU: What attracted you to doing this research?

NH: I was first approached by Physics professor Dr. Normand Fortier, who mentioned that Les Matthews from the Respiratory Therapy department was looking for someone in Physics to develop some measurement equipment. I was intrigued by the overlap between physics and respiratory therapy. The far-reaching applications of physics are what first drew me to the field and so this project was a natural choice for me.

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TRU: How has your UREAP grant helped you get into doing research?

NH: I was lucky enough to have had several research-based co-op work terms previous to this UREAP project, but this was the first time I had a chance to work through my own research. I was completely in charge of developing the equipment and analyzing the data as well as working through the ethics approval. My UREAP showed me parts of research that I had never seen before, and having this kind of ownership of a project was a very educational experience. Since undergraduate students are so often only exposed to theoretical aspects of a field, especially so in physics, it can be difficult to get exposure to experimental work. Following this opportunity, I realized that I was most interested in experimental research, and the UREAP has given me an edge in future endeavours, such as graduate school.

TRU: Will your project lead to a presentation or publishing opportunity?

NH: In science, delays often occur, and I learned certain events are simply out of one’s control. I was unable to present this project at the TRU Undergraduate Research and Innovation Conference as I’d hoped, but the project is being continued by a fellow student and based on the preliminary results from my contribution to the research, I am confident it will develop into a published paper.

“To delve so deeply into one particular area and to ask ‘Why?’ when others just take it for granted is such a valuable experience.” —Natascha Hedrich

TRU: What have you learned from this experience?

NH: Research helps you grow as a student and as an individual because it teaches you the importance of time management, hard work and a healthy sense of curiosity. To delve so deeply into one particular area and to ask “Why?” when others just take it for granted is such a valuable experience.

TRU: Who in your field do you admire and why?

NH: As someone who is facing the daunting but exciting prospect of graduate studies, I find anyone who has chosen to dedicate themselves to a field to the degree that is required to gain a PhD is inspiring. I really admire Dr. Richard Taylor from Mathematics, as he began in physics and branched out into math. He is not only a very talented person and mathematician, but his natural curiosity is inspiring, and his teaching style is very engaging.

I also really admire Fabiola Gianotti, who is the former spokesperson of the ATLAS collaboration at CERN. As a female physicist, I am so excited to see her reach such a position, and receive awards such as the 2012 Special Fundamental Physics Prize, also received by Stephen Hawking.

TRU: What impact do you hope your research will have?

NH: Based on the preliminary results obtained during the UREAP project, I feel this experiment has the potential to help many people who suffer from snoring and even more serious health issues such as obstructive sleep apnea. Though there has been some previous research in this area, to my understanding this project was the first to focus on examining both the head and torso position and whether it is directly related to snoring. I hope that others continue the research and gain results that could be published in a journal such as the Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy.

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