Dr. Matthew Kilgas Graduates with KIP’s First Ever PhD in Integrative Physiology

Matthew Kilgas will become the first recipient of a PhD in Integrative Physiology from Michigan Tech.

KIP graduate student Matthew Kilgas successfully defended his PhD in Integrative Physiology on November 26th, 2018. At Commencement on Saturday, December 15th the Graduate School will confer to Matthew Kilgas the first Doctor of Philosophy degree in Integrative Physiology from Michigan Tech.

The department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology (KIP) began offering a PhD in Integrative Physiology in the 2017-18 academic year. Dr. Kilgas was one of two PhD students at Michigan Tech who transferred into the program in its inaugural year (the other student, Kevin Phillips, is scheduled to defend this Spring).

“Matt’s graduation marks a major milestone for the KIP department,” Dr. Carter explains.

Integrative physiology can be defined as the study of organisms as functioning systems of molecules, cells, tissues and organs. Application of these concepts and experimental approaches are used to understand human health, disease and performance.

The Integrative Physiology PhD program was started under the leadership of Dr. Jason Carter, founding Chair of the department (Dr. Carter now serves as Associate Vice President for Research Development for Michigan Tech’s Vice President for Research Office), and Dr. Steven Elmer, Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director for KIP. Dr. Carter was a founding member of the KIP department in 2006 and still serves as a Professor with active NIH-sponsored research under KIP.

“We envisioned a highly research-active department that would ultimately be capped off with a strong doctorate degree.” -Dr. Jason Carter, Associate Vice President for Research Development and KIP founding Chair

“Matt’s graduation marks a major milestone for the KIP department,” Dr. Carter explains. “When we established the department thirteen years ago, we envisioned a highly research-active department that would ultimately be capped off with a strong doctorate degree. Our faculty and staff, along with a supportive administration over the past decade, deserve the credit for their persistence and steadfast commitment to that goal.”

Dr. Kilgas completed his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering here at Michigan Tech, and then went on to complete his M.S. in Exercise Science at Northern Michigan University. He returned to Tech in 2015 to begin working on his PhD.

“I would really like to thank the department for all their help in getting me this far,” Kilgas says. “Specifically Dr. Elmer for pushing me, I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Dr. Kilgas defended his thesis on “Acute and Chronic Responses to Exercise with Blood Flow Restriction” under the advisory of Dr. Elmer. For his research he used a variety of experimental techniques to investigate how partial restriction of blood flow to exercising muscles can improve health and enhance performance.

Matthew Kilgas defends his PhD thesis “Acute and Chronic Responses to Exercise with Blood Flow Restriction” in front of his Advisory Committee and other audience members on November 26, 2018.

“Matt has already begun a tenure-track faculty position in the School of Health and Human Performance at Northern Michigan University earlier this Fall,” explains Dr. Elmer. “We wish him the very best with his career in academia.”


KIP Students Travel to Present at Annual ACSM and MSGC Conferences

KIP students and Assistant Professor Dr. Steven Elmer at the MSGC Conference in Ann Arbor, MI.
From left to right, top row: Jeremy Bigalke (MS), Dr. Steven Elmer, Alex Gabe (MS), Derek Verbrigghe (MS), Hannah Cunningham (MS), Thomas Bye (MS), Benjamin Cockfield (Undergrad), Kevin Phillips (PhD); bottom row: Abby Sutherland (Undergrad), Jana Hendrickson (Undergrad), Stephen Hook (MS), Kelvyn Van Laarhoven (MS).

Twelve KIP students, including undergraduate, Masters, PhD and DPT students, recently had the opportunity to travel downstate with Assistant Professor Dr. Steven Elmer to attend and present their research at two regional academic conferences.

On Friday November 9, students attended the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference in Grand Rapids, MI. Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student Alicia Denherder from Central Michigan University’s MTU satellite DPT program gave a presentation of her research on exercise with blood flow restriction after total knee replacement or reconstruction.

Three KIP undergraduate students, Abby Sutherland, Jana Hendrickson and Benjamin Cockfield represented Michigan Tech in the annual ACSM Jeopardy competition against students from twenty other universities. They finished the competition as one of the top ten competitors.

Aerial view of MSGC poster presentation session at the University of Michigan on Saturday, November 10, 2018. KIP students shared their research with fellow students and colleagues at the 2018 MSGC annual conference.

On Saturday, students continued their journey to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to attend the 2018 annual Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) conference. This conference highlights research by aspiring students, academics, industry leaders and community members related to space and NASA strategic interests.

In addition to their annual conference, the MSGC awards annual undergraduate and graduate fellowships for research aimed at advancing our knowledge and understanding of space. KIP PhD student Kevin Phillips and Masters student Thomas Bye were among a total of fifty MSGC award recipients who presented at the conference last weekend.

“We are unsure of how [liquid cooling garments worn by astronauts in space] influence the mental workload of human brain activation, or the perception of fatigue during physical activity.” -Kevin Phillips, PhD candidate, KIP

Integrative Physiology PhD candidate Kevin Phillips presented research funded through an MSGC Graduate Fellowship where he investigated the effects of water immersion on pre-frontal cortex activation in humans.

KIP PhD student Kevin Phillips presents his research on the effects of thermal alteration on human brain activation.

“Astronauts wear liquid cooling garments in space to help with their body’s thermoregulation,” explains Phillips. “However, we are unsure of how this influences the mental workload of human brain activation, or the perception of fatigue during physical activity. I use a variety of techniques in my research to develop a better understanding of the effects of thermal alterations on the human brain.”

“It was wonderful to get both my first and second oral presentations under my belt.” -Thomas Bye, MS Student, KIP

Kinesiology MS student Thomas Bye also presented MSGC Graduate Fellowship-funded research at the conference on Saturday. He has been examining the impact of respiratory muscle fatigue during space flight.

“Astronauts are always moving in space, primarily with their arms,” Bye explains. “In order to stabilize themselves in micro-gravity they must use their upper-body muscles. This causes muscles such as the diaphragm to become tired and their breathing and performance to become compromised during space walks.”

MS student Thomas Bye presents his MSGC Fellowship-funded research on the impact of respiratory muscle fatigue on human performance during space flight.

All twelve KIP students either presented posters or gave oral presentations at the MSGC conference. Some, like Phillips and Bye, gave presentations on their independent research projects.

“In order to stabilize themselves in micro-gravity [astronauts] must use their upper-body muscles. This causes muscles such as the diaphragm to become tired and their breathing and performance to become compromised during space walks.” – Thomas Bye, MS student, KIP

Masters students gave presentations based on projects they had completed for their Advanced Exercise Physiology (KIP 5000) class this Fall. MS students Hannah Cunningham and Jeremy Bigalke presented their analysis of the new Mars extra-vehicular suit, and its implications for affecting human metabolism, the walk-to-run transition, and its theorized cost of transport.

MS students Hannah Cunningham (center) and Jeremy Bigalke (right) present a poster detailing their analysis of the new Mars extra-vehicular suit and it’s implications on human performance.

Undergraduate students Abby Sutherland and Jana Hendrickson gave presentations regarding their experiences in kinesiology-based K-12 outreach projects. One undergraduate student, Benjamin Cockfield, presented results obtained from exploring effective techniques of teaching physiology – specifically, skeletal muscle contraction.

“I began by improving the current muscle contraction model used in the undergraduate anatomy and physiology lab course to include several key molecular structures that were omitted in previous models,” Cockfield explains. “We also wanted to determine if adding a stair climbing activity would help improve real-world understanding of muscle contraction – specifically eccentric, or lengthening, muscle contraction.”

Undergraduate students Abby Sutherland (left) and Jana Hendrickson present their poster on kinesiology-based K-12 Outreach in local schools.

Cockfield and his team implemented the stair climbing activity in half of the anatomy and physiology lab sessions, and had students in all lab sessions complete surveys to determine the students’ perception of the effectiveness of the activity in helping to improve their understanding of muscle contraction. Results showed an improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms of muscle contraction with Cockfield’s improved teaching model.

KIP Masters students pose in front of Michigan State University’s Spartan statue. From left to right: Derek Verbrigghe, Alex Gabe, Stephen Hook, Kelvyn Van Laarhoven, Thomas Bye, Hannah Cunningham, Jeremy Bigalke.

In addition to the two academic conferences attended, masters students from the KIP 5000 class had an opportunity to visit with faculty at Michigan State University during their trip. Specifically, students met with Dr. Erica Wehrwein and Dr. Stephen DiCarlo in MSU’s Department of Physiology and Dr. Christopher Kuenze in the Department of Kinesiology. Students were able to tour research labs, ask questions, and meet students and research staff in each department; an invaluable networking opportunity for these young students.

“The trip was a blast,” says KIP Masters student Thomas Bye. “It was wonderful to get both my first and second oral presentations under my belt. I got lots of great feedback, had good discussions, and even got to have pizza with the legendary Dr. DiCarlo.”

Our students would like to thank the Graduate Student Government, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, Dr. Elmer’s research laboratory, and the MSGC for supporting their travel and helping to make this experience possible.

KIP Students at Midwest ACSM conference in Grand Rapids, MI. From top left: Dr. Steven Elmer, Stephen Hook (MS), Ben Cockfield (undergrad), Thomas Bye (MS), Kevin Phillips (PhD), Jeremy Bigalke (MS), Kelvyn Van Laarhoven (undergrad), Derek Verbrigghe (MS), Alex Gabe (MS), Alicia Denherder (DPT), Jana Hendrickson (undergrad), Abby Sutherland (undergrad) and Hannah Cunningham (MS).

Welcome to Dreamland: Michigan Tech Sleep Research Laboratory Opens

Sleep monitor

The recently opened Michigan Tech Sleep Research Laboratory combines sleep analysis technologies to provide a window into the effects of sleep on cardiovascular health.

The two-bed sleep study facility is located in the Student Development Complex and has a core staff of two faculty researchers, a sleep physician, a registered nurse who is also a certified sleep technician, a lead doctoral student researcher, as well as other graduate students and undergraduate students.

Studies at the facility hinge on research into the effects of sleep on cardiovascular health, contributing to the broader field of sleep research—a field that is growing rapidly.

Read the full story on mtu.edu/news.


Stephanie Dietrich’s Physical Therapy Experience

Stephanie DietrichWhen I first decided to pursue a career in physical therapy (PT) I had no clue how to go about the application process or what steps were involved. Being clueless is OK. There’s a lot of people in the same boat. Start by talking to your advisor and developing a plan. Current PT students are also an excellent resource because they’ve “been there”.  In addition, Michigan Technological University provides many other resources to support students on this path (the writing center was one I highly recommend using for essays).


Graduate School Announces Fall 2018 Award Recipients

Kevin PhillipsWe are happy to announce grad student Kevin Phillips (Integrative Physiology) is among the winners for the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Award. Congratulations!

Finishing Fellowships provide support to PhD candidates who are close to completing their degrees. These fellowships are available through the generosity of alumni and friends of the University. They are intended to recognize outstanding PhD candidates who are in need of financial support to finish their degrees and are also contributing to the attainment of goals outlined in The Michigan Tech Plan.


Associate Vice Presidents Selected for the Research Area

by Vice President for Research Office

Vice President for Research David Reed announced the selection of two associate vice presidents—Jason Carter, associate VP for Research Development and James Baker, associate VP for Research Administration. Both will begin serving in their new roles on July 1.

Carter will provide strategic leadership with a focus on the coordination and promotion of excellence in research. This includes the facilitation of developmental opportunities, the oversight of academic/virtual centers and core facilities, and activities related to the translation of research discoveries into application.

Baker will also provide strategic leadership and direction, however, he will focus on the planning, implementing, improving and evaluating of the VPR administrative sponsored programs and sponsored accounting, industry contracting and the technology commercialization units while promoting operational improvements.

According to Reed, these two positions will help the overall unit strategize the best ways to efficiently handle the administrative needs of a growing research institution. The realignment in services will help to improve the coordination of activities across divisions and serve the researchers in a stronger capacity as the campus community works to achieve future institutional research goals.


Kamm’s Research Highlighted in Unscripted

Kelly Kamm 1

Small populations in rural areas of the Upper Peninsula mean big gaps in state health care data. Kelly Kamm’s research on infant feeding seeks to bridge those gaps.

What do Beyonce, Gisele Bündchen, Mila Kunis and Blake Lively have in common? Fame and fortune, check. Breastfeeding their babies, check.

Considering these celebrities’ public endorsement of breastfeeding, it might seem like breastfeeding is popular in the United States. But that’s not the case. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that has been trying to raise the national rate of women breastfeeding, race and socioeconomics heavily influence if a woman ever breastfeeds. The numbers are even lower for women who breastfeed for six months and longer.

Kelly Kamm, research assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology is unsatisfied by the CDC’s statistics. She hopes to better understand how families feed infants in the UP.

“The question ‘have you ever breastfed’ means, to some extent, did somebody try in the hospital, but it’s not really a good metric of what’s going on in the UP. We’re such a small percentage of the population, any state or national data doesn’t actually survey anybody up here, so there’s really not much known about what’s going on.”

Kelly Kamm

The full article, “How Do Upper Michigan Mothers Get Breastfeeding Support?” was featured on the Unscripted blog and written by Mariana Grohowski.


2018 Portage Health Foundation Making a Difference Scholarship Recipients

 Twelve students have been awarded the Portage Health Foundation Making a Difference Scholarship.  The scholarships are part of a Michigan Tech-Portage Health Foundation partnership established in 2015 to support health education. This year’s recipients have an average GPA of 3.87 and represent the breadth of health-related research happening on Michigan Tech’s campus.

The $8,000 scholarships went to:

  •    Bailey Poyhonen, Dollar Bay, medical laboratory science
  •    Brennah Wasie, Hancock, biochemistry and molecular biology
  •    Laura Lyons, Lake Linden, biomedical engineering
  •    Sarah Dix, L’Anse, exercise science

Receiving $1,000 scholarships were:

  •    Kierstyn Codere, Lake Linden, biological sciences
  •    Grace Liu, Houghton mechanical engineering
  •    Mara Hackman, Houghton, medical laboratory science.
  •    Jaden Janke, Dollar Bay, biological sciences
  •    Ally Fenton, Hancock, biomedical engineering
  •    Jada Markham, Houghton, exercise science
  •    Kellan Heikkila, Chassell, biomedical engineering
  •    Dawson Kero, Hancock, biological sciences

“The merit-based awards reflect the high caliber student talent we have locally, thanks to exceptional teachers, HOSA high school advisers, and Michigan Tech faculty and students who do outreach in the schools,” says Jodi Lehman, director of foundations at Michigan Tech.

At a dinner for finalists, the scholarship recipients had a chance to talk one-on-one with Michigan Tech researchers. Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics faculty Ye Sarah Sun shared with students how she develops new interfaces for heart monitoring that are reliable and won’t disturb a patient’s life at home, while driving or at work.

Biomedical engineer and health care entrepreneur, Megan Frost, shared  how she is working to improve wound care with a product designed to prevent infection and reduce the need for some post-acute care.

Scholarship recipients also heard from current students, Adison Cook, a 2016 Making a Difference scholar; Stephanie Bean and Maddie Morley, both PHF Undergraduate Research Interns; and Kelsey Saladin, a Portage Health Foundation and Randy Owsley Memorial Athletic trainer scholar.

“The Portage Health Foundation has also been very generous in granting need-based scholarships to students enrolling at Michigan Tech, Finlandia University, Gogebic College, Northern Michigan University, and Michigan State University in health-related degree programs,” says Joe Cooper, Director of Financial Aid at Michigan Tech, “These scholarships make a significant financial impact for students in our own local communities.  Thanks to the Portage Health Foundation, students from Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon counties have extra support so they can attend college and focus on health related careers.”

Portage Health Foundation Making a Difference Scholarship applications will open in the fall for incoming high school seniors and transfer students applying to Michigan Tech for fall 2019.  Questions about the scholarshipcan be directed to Rachel Connors, assistant director of admissions, 7-1880.


KIP Students and Faculty Receive Michigan Space Grant Consortium Awards

Ian GreenlundGraduate students Ian Greenlund (Bio Sci/KIP) and Kevin Phillips (KIP) along with KIP faculty member Steven Elmer were among the 2018-19 recipients of the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) Awards.  Greenlund and Phillips each received $5,000 research fellowships while Elmer received a $5,000 pre-college education grant.

Ian will work with Jason Carter on his project entitled, “Sleep in Space: Sleep Restriction, Neurovascular Control, and Orthostatic Intolerance.”  This project aims to compare nervous and cardiovascular responses between chronically sleep restricted individuals (most college students) and normal sleep individuals.  This will provide potential insight to how proper sleep may impact orthostatic challenges like standing, which is a problem for astronauts post-spaceflight.

Phillips
Kevin’s project entitled, “Cold Water Therapy as a Recovery Intervention during Spaceflight Operations” will focus on how cold water immersion may improve performance and its effect on the brain. Specifically, Kevin is examining how the prefrontal cortex responds to fatiguing exercise following cold water immersion.  He will work with Steven Elmer and Tejin Yoon on this project.
In addition to the two students, Assistant Professor, Steven Elmer was awarded $5,000 for pre-college education with his project entitled, “Introducing Space Medicine to High School Students in the Upper Peninsula”.  Elmer’s abstract states, “Our objective is to implement space medicine activities as part of existing regional, national, and international educational outreach events to highlight the integration of Health Science and STEM (H-STEM).  Through the construction of 3-D physical models, calculations/graphing, exercise, demonstrations, and teamwork, high school students will learn how astronauts live, move, and work in space.”  KIP Academic Advisor, Kathy Carter, and Portage Health Foundation Endowed Professor, William Cooke, will assist Elmer with this project.
MSGC provides funding opportunities each year for undergraduate and graduate fellowships, research seed grants, pre-college education, teacher training, and public outreach pertaining to space-related science and technology in an effort to support their vision and mission to “foster awareness of, education in, and research on space-related science and technology in Michigan.”

KIP Lab Featured in 2018 Michigan Tech Research Magazine

Steve Elmer Research Magazine 201712200128In Steve Elmer’s lab, researchers explore the limits of the human body in a quest to make people move—and feel—better. Elmer’s team designs cutting edge equipment and training regimes to help every body reach its highest potential, regardless of age, profession, or ability.

The benefits of strength training are many and well known: Strength training helps you maintain a healthy weight. It protects your bones and preserves your muscle mass. It helps develop better body mechanics, boosts your energy, and improves your mood. It even plays a role in disease prevention and pain management.

In fact, strength training is so beneficial that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends adults engage in a strength-training program a minimum of two non-consecutive days each week. And their recommendations don’t stop there—ACSM outlines specific types of strength-building exercises and target numbers for repetition.

So everyone should be strength training, right?

While it’s easy to say everyone should, not everyone can, at least not in a “traditional” manner.

Take, for instance, someone who uses a wheelchair or someone who has recently undergone knee surgery. Finding effective lower-body strength-training exercises that don’t overtax the heart, lungs, and joints can be a challenge. And many with old injuries run into the same problem.

Michigan Tech researchers have found a solution. Steve Elmer is an assistant professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology, an affiliated assistant professor of biological sciences, and an affiliated assistant professor of mechanical engineering. His lab is interdisciplinary, where students, participants, and researchers explore the edges of physiology.

For more on Elmer’s research, read the full story “Exercise for Every Body” published in the 2018 Michigan Tech Research Magazine.