Irish traditional musicians will soon be able to practice and perform without fear of injury thanks to a new product developed by an Ulster University researcher.
Product designer Mark Porter, who also works as a technician at the University's Magee campus, graduates with a PhD today. He conducted pioneering research into Playing-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders - a problem which widely affects Irish traditional fiddle players.
After discovering the severity and prevalence of the disorder amongst Irish traditional musicians, he came up with a unique design to help reduce and prevent the problem.
Mark, who spent six years working as a product designer with Dubarry of Ireland, before returning to education to embark upon his PhD, said: "Professional musicians are akin to elite athletes in terms of the amount of pressure they put on their muscles and joints during hours of practice and performance.
"Previous research into the prevalence of Playing-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders has mainly focused on classical musicians - however, it is now clear that Irish traditional musicians, especially fiddle players, experience equally debilitating symptoms that impact on their performance and wellbeing."
As a result of his PhD research findings Mark went on to develop a new product, called Boweasy, which is now in the process of coming to market.
Mark said: "Boweasy is an in-play ergonomic solution designed to reduce and prevent the effects of PRMDs. Initial findings and feedback from trials with Irish traditional musicians has been positive with reports of high level function performing as intended.
"The positive nature of these findings indicate that Boweasy has valued benefit in the opinion of the Irish traditional musicians and may be a viable solution for reducing the extent of wellbeing issues which is associated with PRMDs."
Mark is currently taking the next steps towards bringing his product to market and says he has enjoyed the experience of completing his PhD studies at Ulster University.
He said: "I have always had a great connection with Ulster University.
"I completed my undergraduate degree and masters at Magee before moving straight into employment as a product designer for six years.
"When the time came for a new challenge I knew that a PhD was the next step for me and after a lot of hard work and dedication I now look forward to using my research findings as the basis for launching my new product."