Jordan Feldman has always been a big sports fan, but she never thought she’d be the one analyzing the shoes athletes wear to help them compete at their best.
As an intern with Puma’s Footwear Innovation team, the Carolina senior is doing just that this summer.
The Morehead-Cain Scholar has spent the past two months in Boston helping the team at Puma study how the company’s shoes impact biomechanics, drawing on the knowledge she has gained studying biomedical and health sciences engineering in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Keep reading to learn how Feldman combined her studies in biomechanics with her love for sports at Puma this summer.
What is Puma’s Footwear Innovation team, and what are you doing with them this summer?
I work in the performance lab. We do mostly performance running testing, looking at different biomechanical outcome measures. We’ve just recently started doing a bunch of basketball shoe testing.
Usually, we have a data collection or two a day. We have a journal club meeting in the morning, so I will be presenting an article that I chose, or sometimes we vote on them. So I’ll be presenting an article and we’ll talk about it. Then we’ll have a participant come in for basketball testing. So we’ll be taking a bunch of different performance measures and I’ll be doing some data analysis, putting things into charts and graphs and all sorts of figures. Then over the next couple of weeks, we’ll finish that basketball testing, and my coworkers and I will give a presentation to the people in the basketball business unit on our findings. So that’s what I’ve been busy doing now.
Why were you interested in this internship?
I’ve been a research assistant in the Applied Biomechanics Lab at UNC for two years, so I’ve been doing it since my sophomore year with Dr. Jason Franz. I love it, and it’s been really awesome. A lot of what we do is biomechanics with regard to gait. I knew that you could apply biomechanics in the sports world, and I grew up loving sports, and I was like, ‘This is really cool that I could merge my interest in sports and science.’ So I talked to Dr. Franz about what I wanted to do for the summer, and he had some contacts. That’s how I ended up speaking to Laura Healey, my boss at Puma, and we just hit it off right away. I just knew that it was something I was interested in pursuing, and now that I’ve been here for a couple of months, I know that this is where I want my career to go.
How have you used what you’ve learned in the classroom for this internship?
My concentration in biomedical engineering is rehab engineering, and it’s a lot of the same tools. There’s motion capture, metabolic data and all that kind of stuff. So it’s a lot of the same techniques that I use with data collection in Dr. Franz’s lab. A lot of the physiology classes and biomechanics classes I’m taking are really helpful for me. It’s all been really beneficial — especially the computer programming, like learning how to use MATLAB and Python has really helped me a lot because I use that a lot at work. I really am applying a lot of what I’ve been learning in my classes.
It’s like I can see the PowerPoint slides in my head sometimes when I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, that does make a lot of sense now.’ I felt really surprisingly prepared, and I think everyone around me is kind of surprised at how prepared I am at work.
What skills have you gained through your experience with Puma?
I think a lot of it has been helping with scientific communication with people who really need to understand where you’re coming from but may not understand the full depth of the science that you’re doing. Effective communication has been really helpful from that standpoint.
I’ve been very scientifically minded for years — that’s what I decided to study — but in working at Puma, everyone in every job has been so generous and willing to help. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in a lot of different roles. I’ve found that the business stuff does interest me and the footwear development part interests me, so I’ve found that I can bridge a lot of my interests, and it’s not just science that’s cool to me anymore, which is really awesome. I think I’ve gotten knowledge from a bunch of different fields that I will be able to bring back into my classes now that I didn’t really have before.
What has been the biggest benefit of interning this summer?
It’s really helped me figure out what I’m passionate about in this field, what I really am looking for in a job after graduation and what I really want out of a workplace. I’ve been able to figure out, ‘OK. These are the types of environments I like. This is what I don’t like.’ It’s really helped me figure out what I like to do every day and what I wake up excited for.
I would love to keep doing this. I really enjoy it, and I think there’s a lot of room to grow in this field and industry and pivot if I want to because it’s so new and there’s so much excitement going around it. Part of the reason I decided I didn’t want to go to medical school is because I wanted a more dynamic career that I could change if I wanted to do something different, and I really feel like this area of science lets me do that. I think I’m going to stay in this area for a while.