Research in Exercise Science Lifts Students to Center Stage

Published as undergraduates, students use the experience to refine their career paths.

Published: Jul 28, 2011
Research subject Justin Mosley ’13 takes a swing while Nevine Duncan ’12 records data gathered by wireless electromyography which is used to analyze the nervous system’s role in human performance.
Research subject Justin Mosley ’13 takes a swing while Nevine Duncan ’12 records data gathered by wireless electromyography which is used to analyze the nervous system’s role in human performance.
In July, six UT undergraduates attended the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s national conference where they presented their five abstracts, all of which were published in the proceedings of the NSCA.
In July, six UT undergraduates attended the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s national conference where they presented their five abstracts, all of which were published in the proceedings of the NSCA.
It isn’t unusual to find Nevine Duncan ’12 in the exercise science lab, spending hours analyzing data, running statistics and helping compose her team’s research project manuscript.

“Honestly you don't realize how tedious studies are until you are in there collecting the data. It takes so much concentration and focus to control for all of the variables,” said Duncan, who estimates having spent at least 150 hours on the baseball performance study.

Under the guidance of Jacob Wilson and Abraham Miller, assistant professors in the department of health science and human performance, these students used the latest technological tools like a force plate to analyze instantaneous force, velocity and power in real time and wireless electromyography to analyze the nervous system’s role in human performance. The students studied the effects of various warm-up implements and rest period lengths on peak muscle performance in baseball swings in relation to things like forearm contraction and swing velocity.

Duncan, who is majoring in exercise science with a double concentration in allied health and adult fitness, said the work was worth it.

“Before I became involved in research, I was planning on becoming a physical therapist. After all of my experiences in the lab after this past year I have reconsidered,” said Duncan.

Her new plan is to earn a doctorate and work in the field of human performance research, and she is well on her way. While only a junior, she has been offered an internship at one of the largest pharmaceutical companies, Abbot Labs, for next summer and a research assistantship for graduate school at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“These students are special and are at a whole different level,” said Wilson. “It’s just phenomenal.”

In July, their efforts culminated in a trip to Las Vegas for the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) national conference where their five abstracts were all published. Four students each presented a division of the overall study.

“The most rewarding part of the study was receiving the letter from the NSCA accepting our abstracts,” said Christopher Bergman ’11, who is majoring in exercise science with dual concentrations in physical education and adult fitness. “Our research team was ecstatic because all of the long hours and hard work we put in really paid off at that point.”

Throughout the study the students, who also included Timothy Morrison ’12 and Christopher Baietto ’11, bonded like a family. They’d come into the lab on weekends and late at night to crunch results, test subjects and bounce ideas off one another. By the end, they had absorbed the data.

“This is the most prestigious, largest gathering of scientists on the science of human performance research,” said Wilson, who introduced the students to the authors of one of their textbooks and the NSCA president who were also at the conference. “So these students literally presented in front of some of the greatest minds from around the globe and did wonderfully.”

The experience changed Zane Alcantara’s feeling on research. The May graduate with a degree in exercise science with a concentration in adult fitness has accepted a research assistantship with Southeast Missouri State University and begins his master’s program at the end of August to study nutrition and exercise science.

“I hadn’t planned on being a part of the research group but decided to do it for the academic credits. But doing the research and presenting has definitely got me interested in research,” said Alcantara. “It’s almost a professional experience for undergrads.”

Along with Wilson and Miller, the students have submitted their manuscript to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Wilson anticipates it will be accepted this fall.

“Not many undergrads get the opportunity we got,” said Michael Cannata ’11, who is majoring in the pre-professional program for allied health with a concentration in exercise science, and who can’t believe as an undergraduate he has five published abstracts at a national conference. “I can site myself in research. I will be able to Google Scholar myself. That’s amazing.” 
 

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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