Saul inducted into Brown Athletics Hall of Fame
Katherine Saul, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, was immersed in movement biomechanics long before she became director of the Movement Biomechanics Lab (MoBL) at NC State University.
As the coxswain for the Brown University Varsity 8 women’s rowing team, thinking about mechanics was an essential part of her role as the eyes of her boat, guiding her teammates’ movements, analyzing their stroke rating and adjusting the race plan as needed.
“Rowing is truly a mechanical sport,” she said. “It continues to be a good example I can use in classes, whether from the boat design or the way the oars work or human movement.”
Last fall, Saul and her teammates were inducted into the Brown Athletics Hall of Fame for their 1999 and 2000 NCAA national championships. Women’s rowing was designated an NCAA sport in 1997, and Brown’s team has been to every NCAA championship.
Rowing is a team sport — everyone is literally in the same boat. The team’s coaches, who have been there since the 1980s, elected to wait until all the women on the 1999 and 2000 teams could be inducted into the Hall of Fame together.
“Our team feels really strongly about the team, and generally doesn’t nominate individuals who have earned a position in the Hall of Fame because of the importance of the team,” Saul said.
At the ceremony in Providence, Rhode Island, many of her teammates brought their children with them, and Saul was struck by how many women there had a Ph.D., M.D. or DVM.
“Almost everyone is also successful in their careers at this extremely high level, which I think is really remarkable,” she said.
Saul started rowing in high school, when friends’ older siblings suggested that her short stature at just under 5-foot-1 and assertive personality were good qualities for a coxswain.
She was drawn to engineering and medicine from a young age, and at Brown, which had strong rowing and engineering programs, she was able to start connecting her interests. Her time as a coxswain influences her work today, including her research in dynamics and neural control of the musculoskeletal system, as well as in her team-oriented approach to teaching.
“It shapes everything else about my life, and it was such a value,” she said. “It says a lot about what it takes to be a student athlete and to have that kind of commitment, and that teamwork, and how that helps you in the rest of your life as well.”