Exercise Science Research Center Hosting Open House to Highlight New and Expanded Labs

Karyn Esser and Brian Umberger will present dedication seminars at the Exercise Science Research Center's open house Oct. 21.
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Karyn Esser and Brian Umberger will present dedication seminars at the Exercise Science Research Center's open house Oct. 21.

The U of A's Exercise Science Research Center will host an open house on Oct. 21 to celebrate new and expanded lab spaces.

The event will include tours, a reception and dedication seminars featuring two distinguished speakers in the field, Karyn Esser and Brian Umberger.

The center, in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, recently added gait biomechanics and expanded its wet lab capabilities for work in muscle biology. Tours will begin at noon on Oct. 21 in the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER) building. At 1 p.m., the event will move to the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center for a reception and symposium.

The symposium will begin at 1:30 p.m. with a Zoom option.

Esser, Ph.D., is the associate director for basic studies at the University of Florida Myology Institute. Her lab pioneered research in the role of circadian rhythms and the molecular clock mechanism in skeletal muscle homeostasis and health. Esser is currently the principal investigator of multiple NIH-funded grant awards. She has been named chair of the recently integrated University of Florida College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Aging.

Umberger, Ph.D., is the program chair in movement science and director of the Locomotion Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology. He is a recent president of the American Society of Biomechanics, whose research focuses on bipedal locomotion including gait disorders and the evolutionary basis for human bipedalism. He also holds affiliate appointments in the U-M Robotics Institute and the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery and Engineering.

"The Exercise Science Research Center is a source of great pride for our college. Faculty affiliated with the center have been at the forefront of research in exercise and performance, environmental physiology, muscle biology, aging and biomechanics," said Kate Mamiseishvili, interim dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. "We are excited to celebrate the center's most recent growth and renovations that will allow faculty to continue producing cutting-edge research and training the next generation of leading exercise scientists."

Several previous Exercise Science Research Center directors are expected to attend the event, including Barry Brown, Ro DiBrezzo, Inza Fort, Matthew Ganio and Michelle Gray. Nicholas Greene is currently the interim director.

"Our exercise science faculty have a strong reputation for high-impact research, and I am thrilled to have the newly renovated Exercise Science Research Center's bench-top and biomechanics labs," said Michelle Gray, Ph.D., interim chair of the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation. "This increase in research infrastructure is necessary to keep pace with the outstanding and transformative research being conducted by our current faculty."

Renovations to the center were completed following the addition of two new faculty. Abigail Schmitt, Ph.D., runs the Neuromechanics of Human Movement Laboratory - or the "MOVE Lab." Her research focuses on helping people move in better or safer ways.

Kevin Murach, Ph.D., created the Molecular Muscle Mass Regulation Lab (M3R Lab), which helps people prevent muscle mass loss with age and improve muscle performance in health and disease through exercise.

The MOVE Lab is a new 3D motion capture laboratory designed for human locomotion research. It's equipped with 16 infrared cameras and three embedded force platforms to track human movement with sub-millimeter accuracy. The new space complements a second lab with an eight-camera motion capture system that measures postural control and human ergonomics.

The Exercise Science Research Center's wet lab space houses the primary research efforts for groups led by faculty, including Tyrone Washington, Murach and Greene. The space was updated in 2014 with funding from the College of Education and Health Professions. With the addition of Murach, the new renovation expands the main laboratory space to approximately 1,700 square feet and almost 300 square feet of freezer space. This space now houses equipment and room for state-of-the-art approaches in molecular biology.

The center currently includes the research efforts of nine faculty and their teams. Research focuses on concussion; physical activity; thermoregulation and hydration; aging, sarcopenia and Alzheimer's Disease; muscle biology; and biomechanics. Exercise science faculty in 2021 were part of 67 peer-reviewed publications with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Federation for Aging Research and the Arkansas Bioscience Institute, among others.

The open house event is partially funded by the College of Education and Health Professions WE CARE initiative; the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation; and the Arkansas Integrative Metabolic Research Center.


Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu


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