Researcher profile: Dr Simon Rosalie
Dr Simon Rosalie, School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, has just returned from Italy where he undertook a Marie Curie Fellowship at the University of Florence. His research focuses on the learning, retention, performance and transfer of perceptual-motor skills, and he has a particular interest in elite sports in the areas of motorsport and field hockey.
Provide an overview of your research career to date.
I’ve enjoyed a diverse research career which started in exercise physiology, progressed through anatomy to anatomical pathology, and now focuses on the learning, retention, performance and transfer of perceptual-motor skills.
During and following my PhD, I have focused mainly on elite sports performance. I’ve researched elite performance in karate, taekwondo, Australian football, rugby, field hockey, baseball and motorsport, usually with athletes competing at the highest levels. I have also applied the theoretical models and research methods developed in the field of sports expertise to road safety and visual perception in autism.
How long have you been at Curtin?
I first started at Curtin almost five years ago, in November 2012. However, I temporarily departed in November 2015 to undertake a Marie Curie Fellowship with the University of Florence. I returned to Curtin in mid-August.
Why were you drawn to academia/research as a career?
The need to know ‘why’ and ‘how’. When I was child I used to disassemble and reassemble any machine that I could get my hands on. That progressed to trying work out how people accomplished exceptional feats of skill and why they used a particular technique.
What are your current areas of research interest/specialisation?
Elite skill performance is my area of specialisation; particularly with respect to how athletes adapt (or transfer) previously learned skills each time they perform them. I work predominantly in two sports: motorsport and field hockey.
Motorsport is really a collective noun describing any sport in which athletes pilot a powered vehicle including: cars, motorcycles, boats and go-karts to name a few. While the vehicles are different, coping with speed, severe time stress and high g-forces are common. As a result, the consequences of ‘pilot error’ can be catastrophic. My work in motorsport focuses on understanding the cause of ‘pilot error’ as a foundation for the design of preventative training. I work mostly with 600cc and 1000cc motorcycle riders and open cockpit Formula car drivers.
Despite designing the theoretical models and research methods that I use for elite drivers and riders, they are just as applicable in understanding why everyday road users make errors. Hence, my Marie Curie Fellowship which examined rider behaviour and rider training in a high traffic density, urban environment.
While the connection between elite performance in motorsport and field hockey might seem tenuous, both require exceptional anticipation skill and the ability to transfer learning across constantly changing conditions. It is my interest in anticipation skill and the transfer of learning that have formed the core of my research career.
Who do you collaborate with?
During my Marie Curie Fellowship, I developed collaborations with University of Florence, Ducati Motorcycles, TU Delft, Siemens PLM and Monash University. For my work in motorsport I have collaborated with INDE Motorsport Ranch, Raptor Motorsport, Magneti Marelli Motorsport, OMP, Comftech, and riders from Rhoades Racing, Ghilli Man Racing Team, Palmetto Motorsport Team New Zealand. Locally, I collaborate with Hockey Australia and colleagues from Murdoch University.
What have been the challenges and highlights of your career to date?
I think that like many researchers, the highlights of my career seem to have coincided with the moments that have been most challenging both professionally and personally.
Taking a risk and heading to Italy to undertake a postgraduate fellowship is certainly a case in point. The professional opportunities I’ve enjoyed as part of the Marie Curie programme have been very rewarding. For me the standout was a 3-month secondment at INDE Motorsport Sport ranch in Arizona, USA, where I spent my days researching skill performance in elite racing drivers and motorcycle riders. I was privileged to work with both current and prototype technologies used exclusively in Formula 1. I can’t say exactly what they were, but it’s the only time the particular technologies have been used in a vehicle other than a Formula 1 car. Negotiating to have them flown out from Italy especially for my testing programme was a real coup. They even came with their own team of engineers which included former members of the Yamaha Racing Team!
At the same time, not only have I had to live out of a suitcase for the past two years, but so have my wife and our four children. Moving between Italy and the USA numerous times in less than two years has certainly been very challenging for all of us. Not to mention the slew of trans-European travel for meetings and conferences which is part-and parcel of a Marie Curie Fellowship. Sometimes I still wake-up wondering which country I’m in.
What are your interests outside of work?
Funnily enough, I spend a lot of time on motorsport. Coaching, watching it, reading about it and tinkering with cars. I also have an abiding interest in the martial arts, both armed and unarmed. But without a doubt, the thing I enjoy most is spending time with my family while building my career.