The Upside Newsletter
The Upside Newsletter
🔥Upside Chat: Dr. Josh Hagen, Research Associate Professor at Ohio State University, Department of Integrated Systems Engineering On Human Performance, The Future of Wearables

🔥Upside Chat: Dr. Josh Hagen, Research Associate Professor at Ohio State University, Department of Integrated Systems Engineering On Human Performance, The Future of Wearables

This week we have the honor to interview Dr. Josh Hagen, Associate Research Professor at the Ohio State University where he leads the Human Performance Collaborative and is a member of the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering.

📝Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, his role at Ohio State University, and how he is collaborating with pro teams (NFL, NBA, US Soccer Federation). We also touched on the research he conducted and the future of wearables and sensors.

🚀Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Dr Josh Hagen:

  • On his background in engineering and the military at the Air Force Research Lab:

    • “ I started out as an engineer. I did my undergraduate research in chemical engineering master's. I have a PhD in material science and engineer. I took a brief pause after my bachelor's and started working as a chemical engineer and I was board to tears. So I went back to grad school where I was really interested in the department of Defense Research in the United States. And I knew a professor that had connections with Air Force Research Laboratory, which is in Ohio”.

    • “That's what really gravitated me towards, the military based research, and that's where I was. So being a materials engineer, I was into polymeric type flexible sensors in my graduate research. And we basically just got lucky and got into the human performance wing at Air Force Research Lab post doctorate. That's where I got really excited”.

  • On the research he is currently doing on future wearable technologies and sensors:

    • We're actually creating novel flexible sensors. This will go into our discussion a little bit later. And part of our job at the Air Force was to project forward. So what's going to be in the future, 10, 20, 30 years from now? And in our mind, that is where the future is heading”.

    • “So things such as blood-based interstitial, fluid based, sweat based biomarker monitoring. So we're doing a lot of a novel research on how do we actually create those sensors. Our dream was to have where the continuous glucose monitors are today with continuous biomarkers”.

    • So we got into that and then the world of wearables just started exploding in 2012. And I saw an opportunity there to take a little bit of a pivot. So I thought maybe we don't need to invent. We are still going to invent sensors for sure, but if this market, the multi-billion dollar market now is going to be creating these things, what we have to do is we have to understand everything about it”.

  • On how he transitioned from the military to Ohio State University:

    • “In the military, it's very hard to say, Hey, we want to optimize performance. Well, what, how do we define performance? How do we measure performance? How do we measure outcomes? That's a pretty hard thing in a lot of military environments”.

    • “If we look in the athletics environment, which obviously all this stuff is happening in athletics as well. But there were opportunities for us to get discreet outcomes. We know how somebody performs because there are games, there are statistics, there's all these other things where we can actually quantify what we're trying to predict this data”.

    • I called Ohio State University one day. It was geographically pretty close to where I was working. And I thought, if anybody's doing this at the highest level with no economical barriers, it's probably Ohio State Football. And that's where we struck up that conversation in 20 13, 20 14 time range. And that's when we just really started working together head-to-head, how can we figure these things out”.

    • “Fast forward, I am now part of Ohio State University. So I was in the DoD for about a decade and I've been in academia at a different university for three years and now at Ohio State for the last year and a half years”.

  • On his role as director of the Human Performance Collaborative effort at Ohio State University:

    • "So half of my job is to really find out all the brilliant research that's going on at Ohio State that has performance in mind. We defined performance pretty broadly and how we create big multidisciplinary teams. So now we've got experts in exercise, physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, nutrition (…) That's where we're going after, the really big research on that side. And then my other 50% of my hat is my own personal research, which is in elite performance and physiological monitoring and recovery science”.

    • “And so we've created what we call the performance innovation team. And that's the idea where we have very hand selected academics and graduate students, very selected people on the athletic side where we can sit at the table and talk together”.

  • On the collaboration he has built with pro teams (NFL, NBA, US Soccer Federation..):

    • “I'm a sports fan and being able to put those worlds together is great. So we actively collaborate with teams. There is a number of professional teams in Ohio that we have just great ongoing conversations with. We've got some exciting work with the US Soccer Federation. A lot of it's just information sharing and talking together and meeting together”.

    • “We typically go to the NFL combine and just meet with lots of different people. It's a good place just to get together. And so we are kind of bulking up that professional relationship and trying to solve similar problems. So it's just those conversations such as, what are you guys interested in? What are we interested in? How can we use some data sets in controlled environments? How can we use applied data sets together? And we all have data. So let's figure this out”.

  • On the future of wearable technologies and sensors:

    • “The future to me is biomarkers that changes the game. Being able to have reliable and accurate biochemical assessments because it doesn't exist today. Right? It is starting to exist now with continuous glucose monitors. I think it's super fascinating. I'm wearing one right now”.

    • “We're starting to do work with CGMs overlaying that, looking at that with sleep physiology. So take the example of a user using a wearable, we don't know the interaction between glucose and autonomic nervous system during sleep to really understand how restorative was that sleep”.

    • “And that's just talking glucose. But now imagine, with all the innovation going on the sensor space, what if you had all these other different markers, and I remember talking to some Australian rugby teams years ago when they would do creatine kinase measurements, post-match 24 hours, post-match, 36 hours, and actually use that for the recovery”.

    • “But that was a device that we couldn't get in The States. We still can't, I don't think. But now imagine having that kind of precision based biochemical. And I still love heart rate variability. I love all the others, but I still think that there it doesn't tell you the whole story. So I'm hoping that with biochemical sensing we can get there. I am definitely interested in the hydration side of things. I think the technology is evolving. It's still not quite there yet. But again that innovation keeps happening on the biosensor side”.

  • On companies like Levels focusing on metabolic health and generating health insights:

    • “For example, Levels, as a company, and there's half a dozen others, I think that's the game changer. That's now letting people be curious about their own data and buy it with their own money. There's a doctor in the background prescribing it and you get an app, but now you can learn about yourself, and that's what our goal is behind all this stuff. It is how can I enable you to do clinical trials on yourself to understand how well flotation therapy can help my stress resilience, and can I get that ecosystem of sensors to allow you to capture all that information, analyze it for Yourself?”.

    • “Because we know generally how these things work, but I don't know how some people respond to things. And now with my own nutrition, I can now do an experiment on how this coffee can affect my glucose rating versus this”.


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