Joshua Wooten, assistant professor of kinesiology and health education, works with students in the exercise physiology lab.
A room originally used for storage, then a cramped lab space, now houses an expansive exercise biochemistry and physiology laboratory, fostering research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Education, Health and Human Behavior.
“It provides a great learning opportunity for students that sets us apart from many other universities in the region,” said Erik Kirk, associate professor. “Students and other visitors are very impressed with the lab and the opportunities that it provides.”
The workspace, renovated during summer 2014, is more than double its previous size, spanning 700 square feet. It includes six workstations, accommodating up to six students and two faculty members at once.
The addition has cultivated more streamlined research among students completing class assignments, students funded through the university’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Program, faculty funded through Seed Grants for Transitional and Exploratory Projects, and external grants, as well as the SIUE Weight Management Clinic.
“The field of exercise science has expanded into understanding the cellular and molecular mechanism related to health and disease. Instead of just learning about these conditions in books, students get to learn in an applied hands-on setting,” Kirk said.
A valuable new addition within the lab is a vivarium. It includes exercise-running wheels to study the effects of physical activity and exercise on obesity-related metabolic diseases, Kirk said.
The newly acquired space within the exercise physiology laboratory allows faculty to conduct research concurrently. This provides more opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in research projects.
Dr. Joshua Wooten, assistant professor of kinesiology and health education, and his students are using the lab for two ongoing studies. One study is determining the effects of fructose on fatty liver disease during weight loss. The other is examining the effects of physical activity on fatty liver disease after failed weight-loss or weight regain.
“The greatest benefit the newly renovated lab offers my team is flexibility in daily productivity,” Wooten said. “Previously, we were limited due to space in the number of experiments that could be performed daily. Now this is not an issue, and I have been able to expand my research team to offer more students the ability to gain hands-on experience in research.”
Dr. Brianne Guilford, assistant professor of kinesiology and health education, is using the laboratory to house a cohort of mice at the same time as Wooten. Guilford is examining mechanisms underlying high fat diet-induced neuropathy.
“Our exercise physiology laboratory at SIUE is as well-equipped as any basic science laboratory at a Research I institution,” Guilford said. “This provides tremendous opportunities for students at SIUE.”
Several SIUE students, who have completed research in the laboratory, have earned awards for their exceptional research at both regional and national conferences.