Kurian '11 Researches Frisbee Throwing, Heads to Medical School

August 19, 2011

David Kurian, a 2011 Knox College graduate who's attending medical school, is a huge fan of flying discs, and he knows that throwing them accurately requires just the right technique.

A biology major from Elburn, Illinois, Kurian chose a senior research project that combined his interests in science and Ultimate Frisbee, a game he describes as a mixture of soccer, basketball, and football.

"We looked at the backhand throw and what factors go into creating an accurate throw -- why one person is more consistently accurate than another person, and why a new player may be more prone to be inaccurate," said Kurian, who was co-captain of the Knox College Ultimate Frisbee Club. (Photo below right: David Kurian at 2011 Commencement ceremony, wearing a flying disc as a cap.)David Kurian at 2011 Commencement

He used a video camera to get a bird's-eye view of the backhand throws of individuals who had different levels of experience in throwing the discs. Then he analyzed the position of each person's wrist, elbow, shoulders, and head over the course of each throw.

"What we found that was most interesting was that in the wrist, they tended to have a much more consistent throwing motion. They had a pattern of releasing at a constant point, whereas inexperienced players tended to have a very circular delivery on the backhand throw," he said. "They would release anywhere along that path, so the throw would be wildly inaccurate."

Kurian presented his research, "A Comparative Survey of Backhand Frisbee Throw Mechanics," at the 103rd annual meeting of the Illinois State Academy of Science. He was awarded first place in the Health Sciences division.

"At Knox, most of the upper-level biology classes I've taken really prepared me for that," he said. "We were required to do presentations and speak in front of a class and know our subject material well."

David Kurian on Belize field tripBy coincidence, an Ultimate Frisbee tournament had been scheduled for the same weekend at Eastern Illinois University, where the Illinois State Academy of Science convened. After finishing his presentation, Kurian dashed out to join his Knox teammates for the tournament.

"Ultimate involves a lot of athleticism, and it's pretty intense because the action never really stops," he said. The Knox Ultimate team also has "a cool family vibe."

A member of Sigma Chi fraternity, Kurian has enrolled at The George Washington University Medical School in Washington, D.C. As a Knox sophomore, he secured admission to the medical school through the Knox-George Washington University Early Selection Program. He hopes someday to practice medicine while traveling the world.

Kurian, who was home-schooled for several years, said he decided to attend Knox because "it presented me with the most opportunities to do what I was interested in." Knox also offered a "homey environment" and "one-on-one attention" from faculty members, he said.

David Kurian in Knox lab"Even though I said I was coming in as a biology major, I didn't feel like I was being pigeonholed into being this biology major," he said. "I felt Knox was admitting me as a person, not as a biology student specifically."

"Knox has allowed me to pursue interests outside of just my major field," Kurian added. "I've been able to do a lot of photography and ceramics and music, while also staying committed to my biology major."

"That's one of the main things I appreciate about Knox -- the fact that it gives you the freedom to do so many things at once."

(Photo upper left: Kurian conducting research while on a field trip to Belize for Professor Linda Dybas' marine biology class. Photo lower left: Kurian in the marine biology laboratory at Knox College.)