People


The Motor Control Lab brings together experts in the field of motor control science. Directed by Dr. James Thomas, P.T, Ph.D., our lab includes physical therapists, engineers, neuroscientists, and more!

A headshot of Dr. James Thomas

James
Thomas, Ph.D.

Director

Dr. Thomas, director of the Motor Control Lab at VCU, has been a licensed physical therapist for 32 years with over 15 years of clinical experience specializing in orthopedics and lower back pain. Over the past 17 years, he has melded his clinical experiences and knowledge with his training in neuroscience to advance knowledge on trunk control and low back pain. Dr. Thomas takes a multi-track approach understanding trunk control.

This approach includes:
1) The development of novel virtual reality assessment and treatment tools for a variety of orthopedic and neurologic impairments
2) Developing techniques to elucidate neural control of trunk movement
3) Using randomized clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of classic and novel treatments for low back pain.

Education:
University of Illinois at Chicago - 2000, Ph.D. Kinesiology
University of Illinois at Chicago - 1997, M.S. Kinesiology
Saint Louis University - 1985, B.S. Physical Therapy

Courses Taught: Multivariate Statistics, Differential Diagnosis, Bioinstrumentation, Physical Agents, Functional Anatomy, Advance Case Study, Management of Ageing
A headshot of Dr. Van Der Veen

Susanne van der Veen, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. van der Veen is a licensed physical therapist with clinical experience specializing in mobility in the elderly population with neurological and orthopedic disabilities. During her master’s degree and doctorate studies, the primary research focus has been on motor control and factors that affect foot placement accuracy. This determined how important balance is for safe gait and gait adaptability.

Since January 2018 she has been working with Dr. Thomas on various VR projects and is responsible for running the VIGOR study (Phase II RCT examining the effectiveness of virtual dodgeball to reduce pain in and disability in chronic low back pain). Further, she has worked with our lead programmer to develop a series VR tools for balance assessment and treatment.

Education:
Salford University, Salford, United Kingdom - 2018, Ph.D. Health Science
Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands - 2014, M.S. Human Movement Science
Hoge school van Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands - 2010, B.S. Physical Therapy

ResearchGate Profile
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Alexander Stamenkovic, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Having a keen interest in the link between human structure and function, Dr. Stamenkovic’s research focuses on the underlying neuromuscular coordination that drives human movement. Under an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, his doctoral studies (University of Wollongong, Australia) investigated the role that body posture plays in the control of balance and movement preparation during goal-directed reaching. During this time, he was awarded the University of Wollongong Vice Chancellor’s Sessional Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning (OCTAL) and inducted as a Fellow of the Wollongong Academy for Tertiary Teaching & Learning Experience (WATTLE).

Currently, he assists Dr. Thomas in the NIH-funded Phase II Clinical Trial, ‘Project VIGOR’ and is exploring how immersive technologies influence sensorimotor control. He is an active member of the International Society of Posture & Gait Research (ISPGR), holding roles on both the Communications and Strategic Planning committees.

Education:
University of Wollongong, Australia – 2018, Ph.D. Motor Control
University of Wollongong, Australia – 2011, B.S. (Hons. Class I) Exercise Science

ResearchGate Profile
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Alex Peebles

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Peebles is passionate about injury prevention, and his research focuses on identifying, understanding, and improving movement deficits associated with injury risk/progression. He graduated with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Tech in 2020, where his dissertation focused on developing methods to assess human movement which are reliable and feasible to use in clinical settings. He later used these methods to identify movement deficits present during jumping and landing in patients following ACL reconstruction surgery during routine outpatient physical therapy sessions. Alex has been a contributing member of the American Society of Biomechanics since 2015, and recently joined the American College of Sports Medicine in 2018.

Alex joined the Motor Control Lab in 2020, and has been helping the team with the VIGOR project, a phase II clinical trial examining the effectiveness of a virtual reality-based intervention for improving movement and reducing pain and disability in patients with chronic low back pain.

Education:
Virginia Tech – 2020, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering
University of Kansas – 2017, M.S. Bioengineering
Roger Williams University, Rhode Island - 2015, B.S. Mechanical Engineering

Google Scholar Profile
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Tiffany Amos

Clinical Research Coordinator

Tiffany is a highly competent Research Coordinator with a background in Traumatic Brain Injury research, in the Veteran population. She is experienced in preforming and scoring qEEG recordings, preforming Computerized Posturography tests and administering and scoring neuropsychological tests. Tiffany is currently a Research Coordinator with CERSE and helps with grant applications, regulatory submissions, and study coordination.

Education:
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University - 2003, B.S. Psychology
A headshot of Matt Underation

Matt Underation

Lead Software Engineer

Matt is a Software Engineer who specializes in VR/AR development using Unity Engine and C#. He also has experience with web development and creating .NET applications.

Joining the team in early 2017, he worked with a small team of developers to create the VIGOR study VR games. Since then he has been leading the development of new VR software solutions, as well as handling most things involving technology within the lab (including this website!).

Education:
Ohio University - 2018, B.S. Computer Science

LinkedIn Profile
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Interns

Current:

Past:

Imani Yeboah

Maria Hamilton

Victoria Passmore

Marisa Strosnider

William O'Hora

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Collaborators

Peter Pidcoe, Ph.D. - Virginia Commonwealth University

Christopher France, Ph.D. - Ohio University

Stephen Coombes, Ph.D. - University of Florida

Brian C. Clark, Ph.D. - Ohio University

Daniel Corcos, Ph.D. - University of Illinois-Chicago

Steve Lavender, Ph.D. - Ohio State University

Robert J. Ploutz-Snyder, Ph.D. - PStat, University of Michigan

Guang Yue, Ph.D. - Kessler Foundation
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Past Employees