Over the past 16 years (including my post-doctorate and Ph.D. work), I have had the opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate students in the university setting. At the University of Kansas I have taught multiple lecture-based undergraduate and graduate courses, including Exercise Physiology (HSES 672, undergraduate class sizes up to 100), Exercise Biochemistry (HSES 674, undergraduate class size up to 80), Skeletal Muscle Physiology (HSES 825, graduate class size up to 20), and Exercise and the Cardiovascular System (HSES 872, graduate class size up to 20). I possess a wide knowledge of current issues that help students understand the relevant topics about Human Physiology. This is highlight by the fact that during my time at the University of Kansas I have taught twelve different classes.
Generally, my approach to teaching the undergraduate and graduate classes are quite different. For the undergraduates, I found that I have to work a little harder to get students engaged in the classroom. In the graduate classes I can focus more on the subject matter. Regardless of the class, the subject matter must be interesting to all students in the class, not just to those students sitting in the first two rows. Thus, I employ several techniques to engage all students in a two-way exchange of information. I try to formulate questions that foster the simultaneous development of critical thinking and invite group discussion. I feel that this is crucial, since group discussion allows students to deal with the class material and information from different perspectives, allowing for a fuller understanding of the topic. A tool that I have been using more often is dividing the class into smaller groups. I have found that collaborative learning allows students to work together to solve a problem or answer a question and allows students to communicate in a less intimidating environment. I also emphasize to my students that it is ok to give a wrong answer. In fact, I would much prefer a wrong answer from a student rather than no answer at all. Laboratory classes are where I not only anticipate, but require students to become independent critical thinkers. Instead of having students follow a written set of procedures or methods, I give students a series of questions and they are required to design and execute experiments to answer these questions. Depending upon the project, the class as a whole will collaborate on the design and data collection or I will divide the class in smaller groups. In upper-level laboratory classes, students are required to develop their own experiment as a class, write an application to the human subjects committee and perform the experiment. Obviously, I supervised and intervened when necessary, but for the most part, these students are independent. One problem with this approach is that some students were not as involved or perhaps felt a little intimidated. Thus, I still feel like there is some fine-tuning needed to improve learning in these types of classes.
I have taken time in several of my classes to determine what is the most important information and what do the students need to know if they are going to be ‘experts’ in the field. This does not mean that I am going to be known as an easy teacher. I take pride in comments like “class was really challenging, but interesting” and for an undergraduate class, “class seemed more like a graduate level course”. I have been trying to become a better teacher throughout my career and I have attended the Best Practices Institute at the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Kansas. This two-day seminar discussed teaching in higher education and identified ways to incorporate the best practices into our teaching. I believe my teaching skills are have improved as evidence by the fact that I received the Joyce Elaine Pauls-Morgan Teaching Award for the Department of Health, Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Kansas in 2009. There will always be aspects of my teaching that I can improve upon and my interest in becoming a better teacher will not stop until I retire.
I have performed both basic and clinical based investigations over the past 15 years with emphasis on two primary lines of research. The first line of my research attention is on physiological and metabolic mechanisms related to skeletal muscle hypertrophy and atrophy including the activation of signaling proteins in skeletal muscle in response to different forms of stress (e.g. metabolic, physical, etc.), and examining the effects of supplements and resistance exercise. The second line of research involves the role of stress in the etiology of disorders and disease. This line of research has expanded to included diseases and disorders associated with physical activity (or lack thereof). I am particularly interested in the inflammatory response to various conditions such as the combination of mental and physical stress, aging, and lack of physical activity, and methods to reduce the inflammatory response to stress.
My broad, long-term goal is to develop countermeasures to prevent muscle loss associated with aging and other disorders (e.g. cachexia). One of my more intriguing research findings is that resistance training induces an increase in fast-twitch fibers in the young, but older individuals display a further increase in the percentage of slow-twitch fibers. We have noted that cytokine levels at rest are higher in older individuals and that these levels remain elevated following a resistance-training program. These data have important implications for the study of physical fitness among older populations. These data also suggest that the field should focus future studies on how the regulation of muscle fibers differs between younger and older adults and on how we can attenuate the basal level of stress experienced by older individuals. Two major questions that remain to be answered are what role does activity plays in this fiber-type transformation, and how is the mitochondria involved in the reduction of fast-twitch fibers as humans age in response to exercise? I would like to develop a strategy to counteract the fiber-type specific atrophy associated with aging. Thus, I submitted a proposal to NIH/NIA on February 17th to compare markers of mitochondrial function and turnover in slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers in younger and older adults. This study will also examine the efficacy of using resveratrol as a countermeasure to oxidative stress in older adults. This research will hopefully help change the way treatments are prescribed to combat the loss of fast-twitch muscle fibers, resulting in reduced fatigue, increased activity, and improved ability to perform activities of daily living for the aging population.
There is a critical need to predict the onset of cachexia at the earliest stages as patients experiencing cachexia have poor long-term outcomes, including increased fatigability, weakness, and decreased quality of life. A proposal that I submitted in November to NIH/NIAMS to identify biomarkers of cachexia was reviewed by the scientific review group, but did not receive a fundable score. I plan on resubmitting this proposal in June or October of this year.
Another interesting research finding is that Acetaminophen appears to increase integrin signaling in skeletal muscle. For this study, Acetaminophen was administered for 8 weeks and this resulted in higher levels of the 70 kDa alpha7 integrin subunit, total Focal Adhesion Kinase, cSrc and s6k, independent of training status. The role that Acetaminophen and other potential COX enzyme inhibitors play in muscle hypertrophy is controversial, but this data suggests a possible mechanism of how Acetaminophen may cause hypertrophy. Considering the extensive use of NSAIDs with older individuals, this research may prove to be extremely relevant to this population. I plan on submitting the manuscript concerning this data to the Journal of Applied Physiology in April. I am also in the early stages of preparing a proposal to NIH to examine the mechanisms of these findings.
I am also the Co-PI on a proposal that was recently awarded by the Office of Naval Research to study a duel stress model (martial arts) with US Marine stationed at Fort Leonard Wood. For this study, we will evaluate the physiological and psychological response to repeated bouts of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) training. More specifically, we will increase the effectiveness of MCMAP by identifying optimal training intervals and/ or cognitive stimuli that will improve the training environment. In addition to my administrative role on the project, my particular role in this study involves the inflammatory/immune response that occurs during this high-stress environment.
I have significant administrative experience at the department level, and organizational related service at the school and university level. In my role as the Department’s Director of the Exercise Science programs for the past nine years, I am responsible for program planning, designing student assessments, procedural issues, coordinating curricular changes with the department’s faculty, as well as student recruitment and retention. Part of my responsibilities includes assigning classes for Exercise Science faculty and graduate teaching assistants. The number, diversity and quality of students in our programs are at an all-time high. We have approximately 200 undergraduate Exercise Science majors and 20 graduate students. The majority of undergraduate Exercise Science students are interested in the health care field and the graduate students are pursuing careers in academia or are currently in healthcare positions. As Director of the Applied Physiology Laboratory, I implement and monitor our standards of performance to ensure quality research. I have developed a safe laboratory environment in compliance with good practice and with federal and university regulations. I also coordinate research with our lab and other institutions, including the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Medicine. I have served as a member of the Human Subjects Review Board at the University of Kansas for the past nine years. In this capacity, I am acutely aware of ethical issues that are associated with human research, including HIPPA issues, respect for human dignity, privacy, and autonomy and special precautions that need to be taken with vulnerable populations. I have served on the Center for Undergraduate Research Faculty Advisory Board, which has the goal of providing more research opportunities to undergraduate students. Furthermore, I was appointed by the Dean to serve on the Advisory Board of the Assessment and Achievement Institute, one of only twelve research centers at the University of Kansas. I have served on search committees as chair or member many times over the past several years for both my department and other departments within the University. Furthermore, I have served as a Faculty Mentor for an untenured faculty member in our department. At the professional level I am active in the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and am currently applying for Fellow status. I have served as President and as the Kansas State Representative for the Central States Chapter of ACSM and I am a member of the American Physiological Society and the National Strength and Conditioning Association, serving as an active contributor to their meetings.
- Ph.D, Human Bioenergetics, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 2000
- M.S., Exercise Science, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan, 1997
- B.S., Human Biology, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, Wisconsin, 1994
Muscle Physiology, Exercise Physiology and Metabolism
- Joyce Elaine Pauls-Morgan Teaching Award, Department of Health, Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Kansas (2009).
- Faculty Achievement Award: Promising Scholar, School of Education at the University of Kansas (2008).
- Accepted to and attended the Baltic Summer School - Signaling in muscle metabolism (August - September 2002).
- Inducted into University of Wisconsin - Green Bay Phoenix Hall of Fame (2000).
- Nominated for Chancellors Leadership Medallion and University Leadership Award, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay (1994).
- Individual Qualifier for NCAA National Championships in Cross-Country Skiing (1991, 1992, and 1994).