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Undergraduate Research

One of the best ways to learn is by doing. In their coursework, students learn how to read and critique research studies. But our students go beyond reading research articles by designing, running, and analyzing their own projects. Understanding what goes into studies and how they are conducted is critical for being an informed professional. Exercise scientists who stay up-to-date on the latest scientific advancements can deliver the most effective interventions and treatment plans for their clients.

The Exercise Science Department is a campus-wide and regional leader in undergraduate student research. In the past 5 years alone, our students received funding for over 15 research projects and gave over 75 presentations at local and regional conferences. Students usually work together in small groups on these projects and presentations, meaning that the total number of students who went the extra mile is much higher. Our students publish in the Keystone Journal of Undergraduate Research, which is for high-caliber student research conducted at PASSHE institutions. And each year at least 20 students attend either the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Conference (MARC-ACSM) or the Northeast Atlantic Sport Psychology Conference (NASP). We believe research is so important that we dedicated an entire course to it!

This focus on student research is one thing of many that sets the Exercise Science Department apart from other majors and universities. We invest a great deal of effort to support our students because students who understand how to analyze and conduct research studies make better practitioners. Research can help physical therapists to test new rehabilitation protocols, strength and conditioning coaches to teach the biomechanics of a lift, and corporate fitness specialists to determine the best way to encourage physical activity in the workplace. Our students graduate prepared to ask and answer tough questions by making use of the research skills learned from class, conferences, and experience.

Want to know what our students have explored the past couple of years? Keep scrolling to check out our featured student-developed research projects!

Student Research Spotlights

Cardiovascular Recovery in Two Different Recovery Positions in Male College Students

Student Researchers: Amanda Stubits, Abby Wagner, Thomas McIntyre & Angela Tarabrella
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joohee Sanders

This project examined the effects of two recovery positions on heart rate recovery (HRR) and systolic blood pressure recovery (BPR) after a submaximal run. Thirteen male students participated in the study. Subjects were required to complete a VO2 max test on the first day of testing. For the two following testing days, subjects completed a 10-min submaximal run on a treadmill followed by 5-min in one of the recovery positions. The two recovery positions were active recovery at 3.5 mph and supine with legs elevated. Significant differences were found between active recovery and supine with legs elevated for HRR (p <  .05). However, there were no significant difference in BPR between the conditions. This research suggests that different recovery positions could enhance recovery after aerobic exercise.

Physiological Effects of an Elevation Mask on Endurance Trained Athletes vs. Non-Endurance Trained Athletes

Student Researchers: Tara Bicko, Jamie Blair, Kyle Fields, & Makenzie Magnotta
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Sam Forlenza & Dr. Turi Braun

Many athletes train with an elevation training mask, however, studies are still unclear regarding the effectiveness of these training tools. The purpose of this research was to observe physiological adaptations in college endurance trained athletes and non-endurance trained athletes while performing 100 yard sprints with and without an elevation training mask. Participants were 10 collegiate athletes who had their heart rate, blood pressure, rate of perceived exertion, and lactic acid values recorded throughout the exercise protocol to assess changes over time. The results showed significant differences between pre to post time values, but no significant interaction effects between groups.

This project was funded by a 2017 Undergraduate Research Grant for $393.00 and presented at the 2018 Minds@Work Conference.

Influence of Caffeine on Resistance Exercise Performance and Post-Exercise Glucose Control

Student Researcher: Daniel Hauck
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Turi Braun

Dan was interested in learning more about how caffeine affects resistance exercise performance and blood sugar following the completion of a weightlifting exercise. To explore this topic, he completed a research internship under the supervision of Dr. Braun and was awarded a student research grant. Dan used these funds to examine the influence of pre-exercise caffeine on resistance exercise performance. Further, he examined whether caffeine affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Based on the study outcomes, caffeine supplied prior to the OGTT (with and without resistance training exercise) tended to suppress blood sugar clearance.

This project was funded by a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience grant and presented at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Conference and at the Success Now! Exposition.

Acute Effects of Loaded Jump on Vertical Jump and Perception Performance

Student Researchers: Taylor Halteman, Austin Hoffman, Selma Hamzabegovic, & Caitlin Wallace
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Sally Paulson & Dr. Joohee Sanders

The purpose was to investigate if performance and perception of the vertical jump (VJ) were acutely impacted by applying an external load. Sixteen subjects completed three testing sessions which entailed performing three sets of five VJ. During the second set of jumps, subjects wore a weighted vest at either 5%, 10% or 15% of their body mass. Results showed VJ displacement, average power, and average velocity were significantly higher following the removal of the vest. All subjects perceived they jumped higher and felt lighter while wearing the 10% and 15% weighted vest. These findings suggest performing a vertical jump with external load can increase acute vertical jump height, average power, and velocity following the removal of the load.

This project was presented at the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Conference, where it was nominated for the Matthew Kerner Undergraduate Student Investigator Award, and preseneted at the 2018 Minds@Work Conference.

Effects of a Six-Month Walking Intervention on Physical Activity among Older Adults

Student Researchers: Joseph Farabaugh, Tyler Cover, Morgan Horowitz, & Hector Raya
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Sally Paulson, Dr. Sam Forlenza, Dr. Ben Meyer, & Dr. Joohee Sanders

The purpose of this study was to track and evaluate a pedometer-based walking program evaluating physical activity levels in a sample of older adults living in a rural community. Sixteen subjects self-selected to participate in the walking group (WG) and 5 volunteered for the control group (CON). The WG followed a ramping protocol designed to increase steps weekly by 1,000 steps until they reached a daily goal of 10,000 steps/day. The CON was asked to continue their normal activity while wearing a pedometer. Results showed that the WG significantly increased their physical activity compared to the CON, with a higher 12-week average in the WG (7251±3305 steps/day) versus the CON (2692±799 steps/day). These results suggest that implementing a pedometer-based walking program, with goals for individuals to achieve, is an effective way of increasing physical activity in older adults.

This project was funded by a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience grant and presented at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine conference and the Success Now! Exposition.