Faculty / Staff Resources Student Resources
University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Stacey Schepens Niemiec | Healthy Aging Research and Technology (HART) Lab

About the HART Lab

Led by Stacey Schepens Niemiec PhD, OTR/L, DipACLM, research in the HART Lab centers on promoting older adult wellness by investigating interventions designed to support healthful, meaningful activity participation in later life. Special emphasis is placed on application of cutting-edge technology for both assessment and intervention. Tools featured in HART Lab research range from real-time physical activity tracking monitors and smartphone applications to virtual reality and multimedia systems. The HART team works closely with stakeholders and older adults in the community, frequently adopting a community-based participatory approach to develop evidence-based interventions relevant to the older adult population.

A primary ongoing study in the HART Lab is the Moving Up project. Despite the health benefits of physical activity, less than 10% of older adults meet national physical activity guidelines. Health-related smartphone apps, which are now being used to improve health behaviors, provide a promising approach to improve older adults’ activity patterns. Unfortunately, few apps are scientifically evaluated or tailored for older adults. Our team developed and is presently investigating and optimizing Moving Up — a multi-feature app designed to facilitate older adults’ physical activity. Specialty features include messaging that promotes positive views of aging, sedentary activity monitoring with peer-generated suggestions, and activity coaching. Additionally, investigations of an adapted version of Moving Up are underway to address the needs of underactive older adults with mild impairments in cognition.

Another key project in the HART Lab is the FitSitt study in collaboration with Activ Sitting, Inc. and Senseer Health Inc. Sedentariness in older adults is associated with a number of negative health consequences and poses a significant, costly public health burden. This project works toward making available a highly convenient, scientifically developed, dynamic seating solution for older adults that targets sedentary activity and has potential to help individuals live more active, healthier lives.

In addition to the above studies, the HART Lab has other ongoing projects or is actively seeking grant-funding opportunities for a variety of studies aligned with our mission:

  • ¡Vivir Mi Vida!: a telehealth lifestyle intervention for rural-dwelling older Latino patients in primary care.
  • USC Center for Sleep Health using Bioengineering (SleepHuB): a transdisciplinary collaborative center focused on addressing critical issues in sleep health by incorporating technological and methodological contributions from bioengineering, artificial intelligence, and data science. The HART Lab contributions relate to application of OT to improve lifestyle factors that could reduce sleep problems in older adults.
  • Moving Up Wellness Suite: cultural adaptation of the already established Moving Up app for older African Americans in collaboration with the Advocates for African American Elders.
  • FallScape with Brookside Research & Development: a multimedia, educational, and behavioral tool to provide high fall-risk individuals individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia and their care partners with support to participate in fall prevention.

About the residency

The OTD resident will be immersed in a variety of HART Lab activities based on the active projects throughout the duration of the residency. Roles and activities may include:

  • Project management: Organizing and running team activities and meetings, managing project activities and delegating tasks as appropriate, addressing project communications with participants and stakeholders, coordinating training of lab support staff, and additional project tasks as they arise.
  • Participant recruitment/retention: Outreach and recruitment of participants through phone, email, database queries, and community-based activities; retention of participants actively engaged in ongoing research.
  • Community partner engagement: Initiate, engage, and develop community partnerships appropriate for the needs of current and potential studies in the lab.
  • Data collection/management: Data collection activities range from administration of standardized mobility assessments and self-report questionnaires to database extractions and face-to-face interviews. Data management involves use of software such as Excel, REDCap, and SPSS. Some data analysis may be required.
  • Research and academic writing: writing tasks will range from grant proposals and IRB forms to literature reviews and journal publications.

We are looking for an OTD resident who meets the following eligibility criteria:

  • Knowledge of and experience and interest in working with older adults
  • Interest in participating in all aspects of research ranging from intervention development and data collection to analysis and dissemination
  • Comfortable and adept in engaging older adults in-person, by phone communications (both verbal and text), and through virtual means (e.g., Zoom)
  • Proficient in utilizing and troubleshooting smart technology and training others to do the same
  • Has basic level skills in computer science or engineering that can be applied to creating and programming smartphone app content (not an absolute requirement)
  • Willing to travel independently off site to various senior centers and community partner sites across LA

The resident will dedicate 30 hours/week for three consecutive semesters.

Note: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HART Lab has modified study protocols to largely take place through virtual, telehealth mediums. With the evolving nature of COVID-19, technological progress made over the course of the pandemic, and interest in protecting the health of target participants, current and future studies will primarily be implemented through remote means and will explore the efficacy of such methods within the older adult population.

Financial support

Individuals may apply for competitive division scholarship awards. These scholarships will cover up to 18 units of tuition.

Contact information

For additional information, please contact Dr. Schepens Niemiec at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).