Tag Archives: Researcher Spotlight

Exercise, stress and Star Wars: Best of 2017 roundup

Happy New Year! In 2018, we look forward to more physiology fun, and to giving you an insight into the exciting new developments in the Science of Life!

Physio-what, you ask? Take a look at our animation below introducing physiology! Scroll down to find out more about a centuries-old shark patrolling the deep Arctic Ocean, how being active gives children’s hearts a head start for life, and why it’s time scientists took back control from exercise gurus, in our best of 2017 roundup!

1. Exercise scientists should fight the exercise gurus

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Exercise gurus build strong rapports with their audience to encourage commitment, but they will often simplify a large body of scientific evidence to back up their advice.

In this post, Gladys Onambele-Pearson and Kostas Tsintzas discuss the risks of letting exercise gurus disseminate exercise science to the public, and why it may be time for scientists to become the actual celebrities.

2. The Myth of a Sport Scientist

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There is a mismatch between the perceptions and reality of what a sport scientist is and what skills this career entails: just because exercise scientists use models of sport performance, exercise bouts or physical activity sessions, doesn’t mean that there aren’t complex scientific skills, theories, analytics and techniques behind the work.

Read more from sport scientist Hannah Moir in this post.

3. Shark Diary, Episode I: On the trails of the Greenland shark

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How do you keep lab chemicals cool when there’s no fridge in your room? Well, if you’re in chilly Denmark, you could just hang them outside your window.

Holly Shiels did just that in Copenhagen, on her way to Greenland to join a team of physiologists on a shark research mission. Their aim was to gather data on the physiology of the Greenland shark. Clarifying how these animals reach hundreds of years of age without developing diseases associated with human ageing, like cancer and heart disease, could lead to new therapies down the line, and understanding shark physiology is also important for their conservation.

Read more about the mission in this post, and check out watch below to see the researchers braving the icy waters of the North Atlantic and releasing a tagged Greenland shark.

4. Breath of the Sith: a case study on respiratory failure in a galaxy far, far away

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Have you always wondered what actually is going on behind the mask? Darth Vader’s acute respiratory failure appears to be the consequence of a number of factors, including direct thermal injury to the airways, chemical damage to the lung parenchyma caused by inhalation of smoke and volcanic dust particles, carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as secondary effects to his severe third degree burns, which seems to cover ~100 % of his total body surface area.

Read on as Ronan Berg and Ronni Plovsing make a tongue-in-cheek diagnosis of the numerous respiratory ailments of everyone’s favourite Sith Lord.

5. Exercise now, thank yourself later

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Exercise is good for the heart, but the benefits fade soon after we stop training… or so we thought. Studies so far have focused on adults, but research published last November in The Journal of Physiology reveals that exercise in early life could have lifelong benefits for heart health.

This is because young hearts are able to create new heart muscle cells in response to exercise, an ability that is mostly lost in adulthood. Glenn Wadley, Associate Professor at Deakin University and author of the study, explains the findings in this post, and makes the case for children to get active!

As if that wasn’t enough reason to exercise, being active is one of three tips that can help relieve the stress we feel for instance at the approach of exams. Watch our animation below to find out more about what stress does to our bodies, and start making good on those New Year resolutions!

The Myth of a Sport Scientist

Back in school, I was a sporty student taking part in a plethora of activities from netball and hockey, to kayaking, tennis and 1500m, but I was never keen on becoming a professional athlete. I was always nominated for the sport day events and typically took charge as captain. When looking at my A-level choices and what career to follow, I naturally pursued the sport route, aligning with topics such as physical education and biology.

Then, when it came to higher education, studying sport science was at the top of my list. Whilst visiting institutional open days, and speaking to friends, family and teachers, it became apparent that there was a mismatch between the perceptions of what a sport scientist is about and what skills it entails. Here I present some top common misconceptions of being a sport scientist.

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Myth #1: You have to be an elite sportsperson

This is my pet hate and the main myth I try to debunk! It is not true that a sport scientist has to be good at sport; yes it can sometimes help to have an interest in physical activity, exercise or sport, but you don’t have be a Messi or Ronaldo. The whole benefit of studying sport science is that you can inspire anyone from the inactive to the elite. Studying sport science is more about being interested in the application of science to the interpretation and understanding of how the body responds to exercise. It involves expertise across a range of scientific disciplines including physiology, psychology, biomechanics, biochemistry, anatomy, and nutrition.

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Myth # 2: You are either a physical education teacher or a coach

Another persistent myth about being interested in sport and studying sport science is that you run around a rugby pitch with a whistle. As much as I respect the talents and skills of PE teachers and coaches, and although many of our students may go into these careers, these are not the only skills and applications of a sport scientist. Sport scientists can be performance analysts. Or they may specialise in exercise physiology. They may even go into marketing, rehabilitation, PR, sport media, or education. The diversity and depth of transferable skills means that there are a variety of options and directions to take, whether you want to help improve the health and wellbeing of a population through exercise plans or the recovery of injured athletes. I always had an interest in teaching sport or science. It was during my PhD that I became aware of the opportunities and careers in academia. Then, becoming a lecturer became my focus, combining my love of the subject and passion for the research!

Finally, Myth #3: It’s not a ‘real’ science

This final myth really bothers me, and is most applicable to the research aspect of my job. It can be frustrating when we are not as respected in the field of science, where some say it’s not a ‘real’ science’. Many of us who are in the field of sport science are specialised in a discipline. For me, it was exercise physiology and biochemistry.

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As an exercise physiologist, I am specifically interested in the relationship between the use of exercise as a stressor and how the body responds at a cellular level with specific use of biochemical and immunological analytical techniques. Just because we use models of sport performance, exercise bouts or physical activity sessions, doesn’t mean that there aren’t complex scientific skills, theories, analytics and techniques behind the work. My primary research focuses on how the immune system and metabolism help our skeletal muscles repair after physical activity, exercise, and training. My current research is about ultra-endurance running profiling of endurance performances, rehabilitation techniques for muscle damage and inflammation, and the use of exercise plans in management of diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

With the developments and interest in sport across the nation following events such as the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and other events such as Wimbledon, the Football leagues and the Rugby World Cup, hopefully people are starting to realise how sport science can advance sport performance and health.


Dr Hannah Jayne Moir is a Senior Lecturer in Health & Exercise Prescription, at Kingston University, London. Her research is driven in the discipline of Sport & Exercise Sciences and she is co-chair and theme leader for the Sport, Exercise, Nutrition and Public Health Research Group.

This post is part of our Researcher Spotlight series. If you research, teach, do outreach, or do policy work in physiology, and would like to write on our blog, please get in touch with Julia at jturan@physoc.org.

Researcher in the Spotlight April 2016

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Dr Melitta McNarry is a Senior Lecturer, College of Engineering at Swansea University and specialises in cardiorespiratory fitness across the health, fitness and lifespan with a particular interest in paediatric populations. 

 

 

What is your research about?

My recent work has focused on the development of non-pharmacological intervention strategies, such as inspiratory muscle training and high intensity interval training, for people with asthma and cystic fibrosis. I specialise in cardiorespiratory fitness across the health, fitness and lifespan with a particular interest in paediatric populations. Recent work has focused on the development of non-pharmacological intervention strategies, such as inspiratory muscle training and high intensity interval training, for people with asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Furthermore, I am interested in the role of pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with respiratory disease, especially Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, and the potential modifications that can be made to traditional strategies to optimise the outcome for the patients. With regards to such patient populations, I have recently begun to investigate the relationship between rheological parameters, namely blood clotting, hypoxia and exercise. Finally, following on from my PhD work, I continue to investigate the interaction between training and maturity on the bioenergetics responses of children and adolescents.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

While studying for my Biology degree at the University of Exeter, I realised that I was more interested in human physiology than plants or microbiology, so when a conversation at training one evening led to the offer to complete my dissertation in the School of Sport and Health Sciences I jumped at it! Little did I know this was just the start as following the success of my undergraduate dissertation I was offered a scholarship to complete a PhD at the University of Exeter. Whilst not something that I planned to do when I was “older”, I have been brought up in an academic family so it wasn’t a foreign concept when the opportunity arose.

Why is your work important?

My work unites theory with application, aiming to provide real-world solutions to pathophysiological conditions that do not revolve around pharmacological interventions. I therefore believe that my work has the potential to improve patients’ quality of life on a daily basis – even if this is only one patient I would count this as an important impact from my work.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

I think my work has the potential to make a difference on the individual patient level, improving the functional capabilities and enhancing their quality of life.

What does a typical day involve?

I would say that the joy of this job is that there is no such thing as a typical day, every day differs with the only common features being that they are generally too busy and that I never get what I planned to do that day done but a thousand other things instead! Nonetheless, a ‘typical’ day involves getting to work early in the morning to try and fight a rising tide of emails before numerous meetings with everyone from undergraduates to internationally renowned professors. This is then combined with giving lectures and running lab sessions for our undergraduates and, on the good days, with conducting testing to advance our studies and research.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

I enjoy working with children and patients in the lab and field, interacting with them and seeing research translated into real-life. The mundane (aka, admin-related) elements of the job often make you wonder why you continue working such hours but the rare moments you get to run physiological tests with participants reminds you why you started.

What do enjoy the least?

The requirement to be a jack-of-all-trades from teaching to research to administration, resulting in you being a master of none.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

I am not formally trained in Sport Science or Exercise Physiology! My undergraduate degree was in Biosciences.

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Working hard is more important than intelligence, but sometimes things will happen at their own pace and nothing you can do will speed it up; be patient as if it is meant to be, it will be.