This is my first post on this blog, and I am very excited to be a part of it. Because it is now July, you can imagine that I have done some work on my project! I started the preliminary gathering of supplies in May. This was a little more difficult than initially thought because of the construction going on. As you may or may not know, the Exercise Science major (as well as the PT/OT grad school, and the neuroscience and psychology majors I believe) is getting a new building! Previously, we have primarily held classes in the Fieldhouse, with our professors’ offices located in the Music building. Our classes were held in one classroom with no windows, and the lab was used for about 5 difference classes. Needless to say, we were due for an upgrade! I have heard rumors that in the new building we will have 3 labs! One will be for biomechanical analysis and will include our isokinetic machine that measures muscle torque, a force plate that we can use for analysis of motion and foot pressure, as well as the usual variety of bicycle ergometers and treadmills. In addition to that lab, we will also have an exercise physiology lab which will include an air analyzer to measure metabolism during rest and exercise, an underwater-weighing tank for measuring fat mass, and, in a separate room, we will have an environmental chamber. This is the room that I am most excited about. The chamber will allow us to manipulate humidity and temperature, and simulate altitude! It is not only really cool, but it will open the door for a lot of research opportunities that we didn’t have before. In fact, my classmate and I are jealous that we don’t get to use the chamber for our research, and we are trying to convince our professor to let us do an extra project in the fall just to use it!
But anyway, enough about the new building (can you tell I’m excited?). My research this summer is investigating the relationship between psychological competitiveness of athletes, and the way our bodies respond physiologically to a competitive atmosphere. To measure this, I am taking 2 blood samples from each subject (all of whom are female collegiate runners). One sample will be taken 24 hours prior to the racing event. This allows me to get a resting blood sample without introducing error related to menstrual cycle (i.e. if I took the “resting” sample 2 weeks before the race, the subject would be at a different point in her menstrual cycle and would have different hormone levels). The next sample will be take exactly 24 hours later, and will be drawn 15 minutes (or so) before the start of a race. The reason I need to take blood BEFORE the race to measure competitiveness, is that testosterone (the hormone I am measuring) naturally increases when we exercise. To make sure I am getting levels of testosterone in response ONLY to competition, I am taking samples before the race begins. In addition to blood samples, each subject fills out a psychological test, which measures their level of competitiveness. Later, after I analyze all samples for testosterone, I will correlated competitiveness scores with the percent increase in testosterone.
My next race day is coming up here in a few weeks (July 18 and 19), and in the mean time, I have been writing a lot! Because I am in the Honors program, it is required that I write a full-blown thesis. I have been spending a lot of time in the library, and they even had to kick me out last week!
I do find time to relax and enjoy myself though! I went down to the Freedom Fair this last Monday for the Fourth of July, and that was incredible. I also played some co-ed kickball, and my team was league champions! I think we’re planning on playing in the later summer league, where I hope we will win our 4th championship in a row.