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.

Prof. Elizabeth Bailey

Prof. Bailey’s area of research includes the impact of nutrition education and physical activity participation on metabolic risk factors in adults and perceptions of health/self esteem in children. She also investigates the incidence of the Pediatric Inactivity Triad and the impact of the lack of physical literacy on self-esteem and perceived competence in children. She is keenly interested in ideas or projects that address factors/programs that enable people to adopt and maintain behaviors that improve or sustain health.

Dr. Eric Hall

Dr. Hall’s research interests are in the psychological/neuroscientific aspects of physical activity, exercise, and sport. He has two primary lines of research: the first focused on physical activity and mental health with a specific interest in creating exercise environments that are enjoyable and likely to lead to behavior change, the second through the Elon BrainCARE Research Institute, of which he is a co-director. Elon BrainCARE is a collaborative research project examining concussions in student-athletes (i.e., varsity, club and dancers) from a variety of perspectives. Additionally, the institute investigates issues related to mental health in student-athletes and the student body as a whole.
Dr. Hall welcomes conversations about research. If you would like to meet, please email him to schedule a meeting prepared to discuss a couple of questions you might be interested in researching.

Recent Publications:


Dr. Caroline Ketcham

Dr. Ketcham’s research interests include movement control and coordination, concussions, and mental and holistic well-being. In addition, her research has focused on access and engagement of neurodivergent and physically disabled populations in higher education. Current projects surround topics related to concussion and holistic well-being (Elon BrainCARE) and experiences of neurodivergent students. Please identify and bring three journal article abstracts that you find interesting to your meeting with Dr. Ketcham.

Learn more about Dr. Ketcham’s work and interests at her website.

Dr. Takudzwa Madzima

Dr. Madzima is a muscle-centric body composition researcher. His primary research interests involve investigating the interaction between the body composition compartments: muscle, bone and fat, and how these compartments impact metabolism, hormones and inflammation.

He has applied this research to several populations including cancer survivors, athletes, dancers as well as sedentary and recreationally active adults. Among cancer survivors, Dr. Madzima is interested in 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.

Dr. Madzima is an exercise physiologist with a focus in exercise oncology and body composition. His primary research interests involve investigating the efficacy of exercise and dietary interventions to counteract the physical and psychosocial adverse effects of both cancer and cancer therapies. His interests began with the hormone dependent cancers of the prostate and breast, but has extended to include other cancers as well. Specifically, his research goal is to understand the mechanisms by which non-pharmacological interventions such as aerobic and resistance exercise, protein and anti-inflammatory supplements can attenuate, and possibly reverse the loss of muscular mass and strength as well as the physical function and quality of life of these populations.

In addition, his research interests include the measurement of body composition and energy metabolism and the relationship of these with health outcomes. Specifically, through body composition analysis techniques such as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and bioelectric impedence analysis (BIA) and metabolism techniques such as indirect calorimetry I seek to investigate the interaction between nutrition, body composition, and metabolism.

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 your meeting with Dr. Miller.

Dr. Svetlana Nepocatych

Dr. Nepocatych research interests are in cardiometabolic disease development and prevention strategies. This research addresses the complex relationships between cardiovascular health, weight management and metabolic disease risk factors. In addition, it explores the innovative strategies to understanding cardiometabolic disease, prevention, and treatment of these diseases to improve overall health outcomes.

Specifically current projects are focused on:

  1. Health E Start Study identifying behavioral and social determinants of cardiometabolic disease risk factors in young adults during the transitional period from high school into college
  2. HealthyEyou Study determining the effectiveness of a nutrition and physical activity workplace intervention for the treatment and prevention of cardiometabolic risk factors in adults, and
  3. Mothers on the Move “MOMS” Study determining the biomechanical, musculoskeletal, and physiological changes during pregnancy and after childbirth in females.

If you have interest in getting involved with undergraduate research and this area of study, please reach out.

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. 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”