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March 20, 2011 - 4:33pm

Professor Profile: Daniel Ferris

BY JENNA SIMARD

Associate Kinesiology Prof. Daniel Ferris said he first developed an interest for the field of movement science as a football player at the University of Central Florida.

“I broke both legs, my hand, my nose, and back all at different times,” he said in an interview yesterday. “It made me want to understand how to train to become a better machine for human performance in order to keep from breaking”.

After going on to receive his Ph.D. at the University of California-Berkeley, Ferris said he came to the University of Michigan to use his knowledge about the human body in hopes of teaching others about its wonders.

Ferris said he strives to make his classes more hands on by using an unconventional teaching style that incorporates real world situations, like designing a prosthetic leg.

His newest course, which will be offered in the fall, is all about the movement science of Batman. A book written by Ferris’s good friend, E. Paul Zehr of the University of Victoria, inspired the topic of the freshman seminar.

Though the intended audience of the book is more general, Ferris said he thinks the book could be a great tool to get freshmen students interested in Kinesiology.

“The course focuses on understanding physiological principles that go into making one human the best machine he or she can be,” Ferris said.

The course will examine the anatomical factors that go into making a superhero like Batman and will give students the chance to consider the possibility that a human could achieve Batman’s abilities with the proper training.

If the Batman course is a hit, Ferris said he will open more sections, adding that he may even introduce a new superhero into the mix after Zehr completes his second book about Iron Man. Ferris said he is even better qualified to talk about a superhero in an iron suit, because his main area of research is developing robotic exoskeletons for people who need to re-learn how to walk.

Ferris said he even believes that one day students will see a real life Iron Man walking the streets.

“Give us 50 or 60 years and we may have a suit you could fly around in,” he said.

Ferris said that when he isn’t enlightening his students about the mechanics of superheroes, you can find him playing beach volleyball or spending time with his wife — who is also a professor at the University of Michigan — and two daughters.


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