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Professor doesn't just teach ergonomics, he lives it

August 6, 2010

The first thing you notice when you walk into John Rosecrance's office is the height of his desk. A closer inspection reveals that the desk surface moves up and down to transport its computer and accompanying work materials to differing heights allowing for a standing or seated work position. A selection of chairs complements the different desk heights, and small accoutrements (e.g. ergonomically designed mouse) make you acutely aware of the lackluster design of your own workstation.

Improving the quality of worklife

Rosecrance doesn’t just teach and research ergonomics, he lives it.

John Rosecrance, associate professor of environment health, specializes in ergonomics and is also a physical therapist.

“We see ergonomics all around us every day and are affected by it every day,” said Rosecrance. “When you check in at the airport, the service agents have been standing all day long, they are physically and mentally fatigued, and they often have had customers complaining to them. Is that going to affect how well they are able to deliver good customer service? Absolutely. Is that going to affect you? It probably will, and not in a good way.

“Through ergonomics, we try to prevent injury and illness, increase efficiency, and enhance the quality of product or services while improving the quality of worklife. A better workplace is a win/win for everyone, from workers to employers to customers.”

Background in physical therapy

Rosecrance, originally from California, has a background in physical therapy. He graduated with his undergraduate degree in physical therapy from California State University, Fresno, and specialized in sports medicine. He worked in hospitals and clinics in Santa Barbara, then eventually decided to pursue higher education.

After taking a year off to cycle around Australia and New Zealand, he moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., where he completed his master’s in biomechanics and exercise physiology. Still not ready to settle down, he spent six months cycling in eastern and western Europe then moved to the University of Iowa to work on his Ph.D.

Multidisciplinary aspects of ergonomics

Professor Rosecrance's office desk surface moves up and down to differing heights, allowing for a standing or seated work position.

At the University of Iowa, he became involved with research in the field of ergonomics. The multidisciplinary aspects of the field along with the ability to apply science to improve people’s lives led to his doctorate.

He arrived at Colorado State University in 2003 with a charge to develop a nationally recognized graduate program in ergonomics and has been devoting himself since to that endeavor. He now is director of the Interdisciplinary Ergonomics Training Program, and also affiliated with training funds and research through the Mountains and Plains Education and Research Center, one of 17 national centers funded by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Very satisfying work

“It’s rewarding to be a part of this program, particularly in regards to the success of our students and the impact we have on industry,” said Rosecrance. “The work we do, whether helping to improve worker safety in dairies or helping local microbreweries improve their work environments, is very satisfying.”

Article originally published in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences Emitter newsletter, Summer 2010.