International student completes research fellowship in KSU's exercise physiology laboratory

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct. 4, 2018) – Andrea Sal, a college student from Spain, is currently spending about 2 ½ months immersed in multiple research endeavors in the exercise physiology laboratory at Kennesaw State University. With guidance from her KSU faculty mentor Yuri Feito, she has gained valuable undergraduate research experience thanks to a unique professional development program of the International Mentoring Foundation for the Advancement of Higher Education (IMFAHE).

Sal is a recipient of IMFAHE’s Excellence Fellowship from the European University Miguel de Cervantes, her home institution located in Valladolid, Spain. IMFAHE is a U.S. non-profit organization focused on connecting European university students with top institutions in America through an international mentoring program.

For a year, Sal had already been communicating online with an IMFAHE mentor, Paula Rodriguez, who is a biomedical researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University. Sal explained that she felt the next step in her academic career was to visit the U.S. and gain hands-on experience related to exercise physiology, her area of interest. She had already graduated this summer with a bachelor’s degree in sports science.

“Coming to a country like the U.S. seemed to be a unique opportunity for me to experience how research is conducted in ways that would be unavailable for me in Spain,” said Sal, who was paired with Feito after finding his research profile on Twitter.

The 40-hour-week research internship allows Sal to participate in projects, utilize related equipment for physiological assessments, and explore career possibilities in her field of study by interacting with the faculty and students in KSU's WellStar College of Health and Human Services.

“Andrea’s knowledge and understanding of exercise physiology has allowed her to incorporate well into our laboratory and participate in several projects with limited training,” said Feito, associate professor of exercise science.

Andrea Sal and Yuri Feito
International undergraduate researcher Andrea Sal with her KSU faculty mentor Yuri Feito, associate professor of exercise science.

Feito explained that he wanted to ensure Sal’s limited schedule at KSU would allow her to experience all aspects of the research process, including experimental design, data collection and manuscript writing. As such, she has had the opportunity to work on several projects that involved a research collaboration between Feito and Kansas State University exercise behavioral science professor Katie Heinrich.   

For example, Sal and Cassie Beattie, her undergraduate researcher counterpart from Kansas State, have been working on the design of a new project examining how individuals with diabetes respond to various forms of exercise. She is also learning how to complete the Institutional Review Board process, which regulates KSU research activities involving human subjects.  In addition, she is helping with several aspects of a manuscript on another collaborative project that examined how eight weeks of resistance training and high intensity functional training affected overweight adults.

“The experimental hands-on aspect of research is definitely having the greatest impact on my internship here,” said Sal.

Additionally, Sal has been engaged in projects supervised by KSU assistant professors of exercise science Trisha VanDusseldorp and Garrett Hester, including industry-sponsored research. For instance, Sal has been involved in assisting Allysa Holmes and observing Alex Olmos with their respective thesis research projects obtaining physiological measurements of healthy adults and older individuals.

While at KSU, Sal has learned to measure maximal aerobic capacity or oxygen consumption, muscular cross-sectional area using ultrasound, jump performance using force plates, and using several methods to assess body composition, as well as observing how to draw blood and conduct biochemical analysis.

exercise physiology research

“Andrea has been a valuable member of the laboratory during these past few weeks; her eagerness to learn and willingness to participate in each project is to be commended,” said Feito, whose research interests include the physiological and psychosocial aspects of high intensity functional training, as well as the use of objective measures to promote and measure physical activity.

Upon her return to Spain, Sal will begin her fall semester and finish the last two years of study to earn another bachelor’s degree, this time in physical therapy.

“Even though I am unsure what I want to do in my future, I am positive that this opportunity will, without a doubt, strongly impact my future career and how I develop and apply novel exercise and therapeutic protocols to my future patients,” said Sal.

--Joëlle Walls