Ken Clark: 31, Applied PhysiologyMix brains and brawn and what do you get? You get Ken Clark, a former college football player and professional trainer, who’s working on a Ph.D. in applied physiology and biomechanics.
During his undergraduate years, Clark attended elite school Swarthmore, where he was a running back on the football team. Wondering what separates the athletes who compete at pinnacle levels from the Average- Joe athletes, he did research on the biomechanics of walking and running at West Chester University, earning an M.S. in 2009.
Coaching internships with Villanova University and the Philadelphia Eagles led to a position as Director of Performance Training for Summit Sports Training Center in West Chester. There, Clark worked with high school and college athletes, as well as NFL and NHL players.
In 2010, Clark began work on a Ph.D. in applied physiology and biomechanics at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. He studies the mechanics of running at the school’s Locomotor Performance Laboratory under the mantle of lab director Dr. Peter Weyand.
Athletes of a variety of backgrounds, from SMU varsity soccer players to Olympic runners, run on a special treadmill in the lab that measures the forces their pounding feet create. Clark and Weyand also photograph the runners with a special, ultra-high-speed camera, and then analyze the movement. “We’re looking to see what separates the elite sprinter from the weekend warrior,” Clark says. While Clark’s role in the lab is primarily “brains,” he occasionally provides “brawn.”
“Whenever we need to work out the details of a hypothesis, whenever we need a guinea pig, I’m the one who gets up there on the treadmill.”
Clark expects to complete his Ph.D. in 2014.