An Opportunity Like No Other

My name is Nicolette Horvath. I am currently a student at the University of Alberta’s francophone faculty, the Campus Saint Jean, and am entering the fourth year of my undergraduate studies in sciences. I am also the 2017 recipient of the GCCIR Experience Abroad Award.

During the summer of 2017, I have been participating in the University of Alberta’s e3 French Alps program in Grenoble, France. This program consists of three components (a French course, an internship, and an academic course); however, I have chosen to participate in only two of them, the 6 week internship from mid-June until the end of July and the 3 week academic course during the month of August.

My internship took place in a laboratory, Laboratoire HP2 (Hypoxie PhysioPathologie), in the South Hospital situated in Grenoble. I worked with a research team called “Hypoxie-exercice” under the supervision of researcher and pulmonologist, Dr. Bernard Wuyam. One of the main focuses of this research team is to study physical adaptations of the body when faced with intermittent or chronic hypoxia due to physical effort, illness, or altitude.

A previous study has shown that there appears to be a link between muscle weakness in lower limbs and the morbidity and mortality rates of patients with certain pathologies, notably for those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) (Swallow et al., 2007). A testing technique proposed in a technical sheet titled Maximal isometric voluntary quadriceps strength assessment in COPD by Bachasson et al. was published in 2014. In order to measure the isometric MVC (maximum voluntary contraction) of a person’s quadriceps, this test uses an immobilized hand-held dynamometer, an inextensible belt (comparable to a seat belt), and some small cushions for comfort and stability. Data obtained through a test such as the one described in Bachasson et al.’s technical sheet appear relatively simple to acquire and could be very useful to healthcare professionals in the assessment and treatment of some patients, but there has not been any previous official or standardised description of how to carry out this type of test. My internship was mainly focused around the immobilized hand-held dynamometer testing technique that measures the isometric MVC of a person’s quadriceps muscles. Among other things, I tested the reliability of the hand-held dynamometer used to measure the isometric MVC of the quadriceps, the reproducibility of the isometric MVC test of the quadriceps, as well as the sensitivity of the test to muscle fatigue. I am also very pleased that Dr. Wuyam wishes to use one of the data sheets that I created when evaluating patients who take the isometric MVC test in the future at the South Hospital in Grenoble.

Test pic 1

This internship opportunity provided through the University of Alberta e3 program and the support from GCCIR have allowed me to both challenge myself and grow on personal, academic, and professional levels while simultaneously working to improve my French skills. I believe that this opportunity has provided me with skills and experiences that are invaluable, and that they will surely play a major role in my future endeavors.

I would like to express that I am very grateful for the support provided by GCCIR, the staff at University of Alberta GoAbroad office, as well as certain administrative staff and professors at the Campus Saint Jean. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation for the knowledge, guidance and friendliness provided by Dr. Bernard Wuyam, Marie Guillard, Carole Cerutti, other staff members, and other interns at Laboratoire HP2 throughout my internship.


Bachasson, D., Villiot-Danger, E., Verges, S., Hayor, M., Perez, T., Chambellan, A., Wuyam, B. (2014). Mesure ambulatoire de la force maximale volontaire isométrique du quadriceps     chez le patient BPCO. Revue des Maladies Respiratoires, 31(8), 765-770. doi:0.1016/j.rmr.2013.10.645

Swallow, E.B., Reyes, D., Hopkinson, N.S., Man, W.D-C., Porcher, R., Cetti, E.J., Moore, A.J., Moxham, J., Polkey, M.I. (2007). Quadriceps strength predicts mortality in patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Thorax, 62(2), 115-120. doi: 10.1136/thx.2006.062026