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HHP Annual Research Symposium showcases graduate students and faculty

Elevator pitch contest won by Emily LaVoy; new faculty present research to colleagues

Over two days, graduate students and faculty in the Department of Health and Human Performance briefly presented their research to their peers during the HHP Annual Research Symposium.

Audience members listened to more than 30 individuals present research on a wide variety of topics, including obesity, physiology and sports medicine on October 29th and 30th in the Rockwell Pavilion of the M.D. Anderson Library.

Austin Bigley, a doctoral candidate pursuing a Ph.D. in exercise immunology, recently had an article accepted for publication. His research examines the relationship between exercise and the functionality of NK (natural killer) cells, which play a role in the body’s early responses to viral infections.

Also presenting was Marius Dettmer, who was recently awarded a 2013 CLASS Dissertation Completion Fellowship to complete work for his doctorate degree.

“I am examining the application of low-level vibration to the feet as an intervention to improve older adults’ postural stability,” said Mr. Dettmer during his presentation. “This research provides insight into the complex mechanisms of aging, and it could lead to future implementation of low-level noise vibration shoe inserts designed to promote balance control in the elderly.”

Dr. Yoonjung Park, who joined the department this year as an assistant professor, discussed his research in obesity-induced vascular dysfunction and physical activity. His presentation included video footage of the mice he experimented with as part of his research.

A highlight of the event is the “elevator speech” contest during which students give a two minute informative and persuasive sales pitch to a panel of UH professors. The top three contestants receive funding to support their research. This year’s winner was Emily LaVoy, also a current recipient of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship.

“The focus of my dissertation research is whether we can use the immune-enhancing effects of exercise to improve cancer immunotherapy,” LaVoy said. “Initial results appear to support this hypothesis, and my next goal is to identify what it is about exercise that may exert this beneficial effect.” 

The symposium was organized and moderated by Dr. Thomas Lowder, assistant professor of Health and Human Performance, and was open to all students, faculty and staff.

- By Monica Byars