Mentored Research in Exercise Science

ESS 499 – Exercise Science Independent Research Guidelines

Undergraduate research in exercise science, ESS 499, is typically a minimum of two semesters of mentored research (1 – 2 credit hours per semester). The goal of this experience is for you to embark on a deep research experience in a topic area in exercise science with a faculty mentor in the Department of Exercise Science. To be eligible you must have a 3.0 GPA. This experience takes motivated students who are willing to take initiative and be self-driven with the guidance of their mentor. It is important at all phases to have conversations with your mentor about your expectations and their expectations. Keep them updated on progress and be honest if the experience is not right for you. Undergraduate research is not required but the credits earned (up to a maximum of 4) can be used for the ESS elective requirement. Importantly, it is an opportunity that should be meaningful in your education if you take responsibility for it.

Exploratory Phase (you are interested in exploring research opportunities in ES, typically second and third-year students):

  • Talk with your advisor
  • Look at the ESS website and what types of research faculty are doing
  • Identify at least 3 faculty members to have a conversation about your interests. There are links on the website of papers to read/or ideas to explore before you meet with a faculty member
  • Either identify a mentor and discuss availability and/or ask to explore/shadow several students in different labs to get a sense of what would work

Project Development Phase (you have identified a mentor, time to get your feet wet, typically third and fourth-year students, occasionally second-year students). The length of time (and credits) for this phase varies but work with your mentor to:

  • Explore the literature/write a literature review
  • Identify a research design
  • Create a timeline so you can update progress
  • Submit IRB / pilot test
  • Write an introduction, methods, hypotheses
  • Explore/Submit URP grant, scholarship, etc. if appropriate

Project Execution Phase (you are ready to address your research questions, typically third and fourth-year students). The length of time (and credits) for this phase varies but work with your mentor to:

  • Recruit subjects
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Write results and discussion
  • Present at a conference(s) (SURF is a minimum)
  • If appropriate submit the paper for publication

Faculty Research Areas

Each faculty member has specific research interests and expertise. The list below is a place to start learning about these expertise before you set up meetings to discuss your own research interests and opportunities they may have. Each faculty member has a brief description that will expand once you click on their name and some have an ‘assignment’ for you to complete prior to meeting with them. These ‘assignments’ will help you come to your meeting with some background knowledge and/or direction.

Professor Elizabeth Bailey

A certified Exercise Specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine and a certified Wellness Coach through Wellcoaches Corporation. She has a strong background in clinical exercise programming and health education. She coordinates three programs offered on campus for children in 4th -7th grade which provide physical activity programming, health education, and mentoring relationships with Elon student volunteers, and teaches exercise classes in the Faculty/Staff Wellness program. Her research interests include investigating the impact of various programming techniques to promote exercise behavior for health in children and older adults, and the nutritional and exercise patterns of college students.

Dr. Joyce Davis

Current research projects focus on the biomechanics of dance. They use motion analysis, electromyography, and ground reaction force plates to study kinematics and kinetics. Examples include studying the effect of ballet shoes on hip and knee movements and the relationship between a history of injury and impact forces on landing. Reading the following article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of research in dance biomechanics and inform our conversation.

Dr. Eric Hall

Dr. Hall’s research interests are in the psychological aspects of physical activity, exercise, and sport. I have two major areas of research. The first line of research focuses on physical activity and mental health with a specific interest on exercise and its ability to change affect/mood and cognitive function. He is interested in the physiological/neuroscientific basis for why people feel better or have a better cognitive function with exercise. His second line of research comes from my work on a project called Elon BrainCARE which I am co-director. This is a collaborative research project examining the impact of concussions on a wide array of variables (e.g., cognitive function, balance, gait, somatosensory processing, academics and quality of life) in collegiate student-athletes. Please identify and bring three journal article abstracts that you find interesting to our meeting.

Dr. Simon Higgins

I am a behavioral exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning specialist whose research focuses on the behavioral and lifestyle-related factors that contribute to (1) skeletal and (2) cardiometabolic health across the lifespan, with a particular interest in youth and young adulthood. Within these two complementary streams of research, studies aim to a) identify modifiable determinants of disease risk, b) improve on current methodological paradigms, and c) implement risk prevention through early intervention. I have expertise in behavioral measurement, (e.g. physical activity, sedentary behavior, sleep, diet, stress, etc.) as well as skeletal imaging (DXA and pQCT) and cardiometabolic risk assessment via blood biomarkers and other non-invasive means. This expertise has contributed to recent projects, including 1) sex differences in the muscle-bone unit via serial mediation modeling, 2) determinants of metabolic syndrome risk factor development in youth and young adults, and 3) the effects of sedentary behavior on bone mineral and structural accrual. I have a passion for mentorship through research and hold a strong belief that Exercise is Medicine®, serving as the faculty advisor for Elon’s Exercise is Medicine On Campus initiative. For further detail about my interests and expertise, see:


Dr. Caroline Ketcham

Dr. Ketcham’s research interests include movement control and coordination, seeking to better understand how the central nervous system controls and regulates coordinated movement in healthy individuals and those with neurological disease and/or brain injury. Current projects surround topics related to concussion (Elon BrainCARE), and the motor and speech systems using tDCS in kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Please identify and bring three journal article abstracts that you find interesting to our meeting.

Dr. Takudzwa Madzima

Dr. Madzima’s primary research interests involve investigating the efficacy of exercise and dietary interventions to counteract the physical and psychosocial side effects of both cancer and cancer therapies in breast and prostate cancer survivors. Specifically, his goal is to identify non-pharmacological interventions such as aerobic and resistance exercise, protein and anti-inflammatory supplements can attenuate, and possibly reverse the loss of muscle mass and strength as well as the physical function and quality of life of these populations. In addition, he is interested in the effect of nighttime eating (food consumed at night prior to sleep) on metabolism, body composition, appetite and cardiometabolic risk in both active and sedentary adults. Please identify and bring three journal article abstracts that you find interesting to our meeting.

Dr. Paul Miller

Dr. Miller’s primary research interests involve the examination of muscle function, adaptation, and recovery.  This includes issues pertaining to healing, attenuation of delayed onset muscle soreness, and supplementation strategies.  He is also interested in the impact of various nutritional supplements have on exercise performance, physical function, and cognitive function. Please identify and bring three journal article abstracts that you find interesting to our meeting.

Dr. Svetlana Nepocatych

research interests are in the areas of sports nutrition, public health (physical activity, nutrition knowledge, and dietary behaviors), yoga, and exercise performance and recovery. She has several active research projects including: the effects of rinsing vs. drinking water on physiological and psychological response during running and effects of yoga on psychosocial well-being and salivary cortisol. Future projects will include evaluating the effects of protein intake and supplementation on appetite, energy consumption, and body composition. Please identify and bring three journal articles that you find interesting to our meeting.

Dr. Aaron Piepmeier

My research approaches the mind-body question through a multi-disciplinary lens with a foundation in Exercise Psychology. I have two major lines of research: 1) Conducting studies to understand and explain the complex relationship between physical activity and cognitive and brain health by examining the relationships between cognition, brain activity, bio-markers, and psychological processes. 2) Leveraging the utility of behavior change theory and mobile health (mHealth) technology to develop physical activity interventions that improve cognitive and brain health. I have specific interests in conducting this work in the context of cancer. I am happy to meet to discuss student research opportunities!

Dr. Lauren Walker

Dr. Walker’s expertise lies in the psychosocial aspects of sport. Broadly, her primary research interests focus on life skill development through sport and athletic coach learning/behavior change. Specifically, current projects are focused on: (1) building leadership skills through the captaincy experience, (2) empowering athlete leaders with conflict resolution skills and the skills to discuss diversity issues in sport, and (3) understanding how to leverage social network connections between coaches to understand the dissemination of coaching knowledge. Additionally, much of Dr. Walker’s work is focused directly on working with community partners to enact change, while also understanding the research phenomena of interest. As such, projects often have slightly different timelines than traditional lab-based research. If interested in working with Dr. Walker, please identify and bring 2-3 journal abstracts to our meeting and consider an answer to the following question: What specifically intrigues me about the topic of study in these abstracts?

Dr. Matthew Wittstein

The goal of his research is to understand how physiological rhythms change and relate to each other as a function of health and performance. The coupling of physiological systems could be an indication of increased demands on a person either due to their health (or lack of health) or the task they are performing. Using a combination of biomechanics, exercise physiology, and motor behavior it may be possible to better diagnose and treat complex pathologies or improve performance in sport and activities of daily living. His recent research has examined aging populations, but future projects aim to explore this principle to sports performance and patients with cardiac dysfunction, respiratory dysfunction, or concussion. If you have interest in potentially conducting research in these areas please read the abstracts for these two articles (Aging and Performance) and prepare one or two questions to start our conversation.

Lumen Scholars (Mentors italicized)

Molly Burgoyne ’15 (Dr. Ketcham) “Rocking Chairs, Yoga Balls, and Fidget Toys: Role of Heightened Sensory Tools on Classroom Performance for Students with Learning Differences”

Kathleen Hupfeld ’16 ( Dr. Ketcham)  ‘Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation: Behavioral and Neurophysiological Effects on Motor Planning and Motor Learning in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”

Nicole Doolen ’17 (Dr. Bixby) “Examining the third pillar of exercise prescription: ratings of pleasure-displeasure”

Ashley King ’17 (Dr. Davis) “The Effect of Chronic Knee Injury on Kinematic Knee Performance for the Saut de Chat in Collegiate Female Dancers”

Sara Corning ’18 (Drs. Ketcham and Hall) “Striking down barriers, striking out the ‘fix’ mentality: Impact of sport on children with special needs and their support team”

Daniel Cavarretta ’19 (Dr. Hall) “We Can Do Better: Increasing Rates of Physical Activity Through an In-Depth Exploration of ‘The Pump’”

Jonathan Martinez ’20 (Dr. Wittstein) “Implications of the Cross Education Phenomenon on Rehabilitation and Training”

Alexandra Smith ’21 (Dr. Higgins) “The behavioral determinants of metabolic syndrome risk factor development during the college transition”