UMU Students and Faculty Present at San Diego Experimental Biology Conference

May 10, 2016

SAN DIEGO, California – Members of University of Mount Union science programs were chosen to present at the Experimental Biology Conference in San Diego, California this past April.

Junior exercise science major Bridget Smith, junior biochemistry majors Ellis Beardsley and Grant Slack, Dr. Lonnie Lowery, associate professor of exercise science and Dr. Keith Miller, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry were all selected to present their research at the conference.

“The part of the trip that was most exciting was the presenting,” Slack explained. “The Experimental Biology Conference is a large conference with many professionals representing a multitude of fields. It was a great opportunity to get to present research as an undergraduate student that I have been a part of conducting. Also, I had never been to California, so that was a perk too.”

In fact, the researchers agreed the location of the conference was an added bonus.

“I was super excited that the conference was in California so that I could represent Mount Union and the Exercise Science program as an undergraduate scientific author in a part of the country that I had never been to before!” Smith states. “Plus, it was very warm, which was a nice change from the cold Ohio weather!”

While the warmer temperatures are exciting, the true fun comes from the conference itself.

“I also could not wait to meet other researchers and see what they are doing in their labs,” Smith continues. “It was a great opportunity to learn about all areas in the field of biology and be able to network.”

Both students have worked with their peers and faculty to conduct the most well-rounded and in-depth research possible. Lowery also stated that he feels it is important to collaborate with other faculty members across Mount Union’s campus. He feels the ability to bolster student’s knowledge helps with the chance to be interdepartmental in research opportunities.

“The research I conducted for this abstract involved seeing if caffeine could be used to enhance stretch reflex induced bench press repetitions in resistance trained college students using VIA instant coffee,” explains Slack. “Our hypothesis was that because the stretch reflex is a dopaminergic system and coffee is known to increase catecholamine production that stacking the two should yield further lifting enhancement. The results we found indicated significant increases in bench press power and velocity for the VIA vs. Decaffeinated and trends toward increases in force and time to peak power.”

“My research looked at how bench press performance was affected after consumption of coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and water,” Smith said. “Our participants came in three separate times. Each time they were given a different drink and they were not told if it contained caffeine or not. Water was the exception to this though, because there was no way to disguise water. The participants took a survey before they drank the coffee, an hour and a half after they drank the coffee, and after they exercised to measure psychological levels of alertness, focus, and energy.”

“Then, the participants performed a series of bench press exercises while hooked up to an EMG machine and a machine that measured power output. Previous research has found that caffeine consumption does improve bench press performance, so we wanted to see if performance improved when a person believed that they consumed caffeine but didn’t. This research found that while participants did report feeling more alert when they thought they drank caffeine, they did not physically perform as well as they did when they actually drank it.”

Of course, this conference was not just a singular chance to present their research – it was a stepping-stone toward the goals of both researchers.

“My plan for the future is to attend medical school. It is my goal to become an orthopedic surgeon,” Slack stated. “This conference will be a great opportunity to network with professionals from many scientific fields. Additionally, it is a great resume builder to have published research as an undergraduate.”

Smith agreed with her fellow researcher, saying, “After graduation, I want to go to medical school and become a cardiologist. This conference is really useful in reaching this goal because it will give me a chance to learn about research and possible advances in the medical field that may be seen in the future. I’ll also be more competitive for medical school because I’ll have had the opportunity to publish my own research, and present it among masters and doctorate candidates. Most undergraduate students, especially at a small university, don’t get the opportunity to do either of these things.”

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