Jan 292007
Authors: Anica Wong

Students in the Department of Health and Exercise Science are on their way to aiding in the prevention some chronic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The department – known for its studies in nutrition and physical therapy – is introducing a new Ph.D. program in human bioenergetics for the fall of 2007.

Bioenergetics is the study of how energy is transferred throughout the body. Matt Hickey, an associate professor in the department who is spearheading the new program, explained bioenergetics as a sort of cash.

“When you go to a foreign country and you have American money, you need to change the currency into that of the country, so you go to the bank. It is the same with bioenergetics; your body must change the energy it gets (through food) into energy it can use,” Hickey said.

With this new program in effect, students can start to understand how these energy pathways can contribute to health issues facing many people today, like cancer and cardiovascular disease.

“The content (of the program) brings a molecular to whole body approach to human health and disease,” said Robert Gotshall, the graduate program director of the department.

This program has been in the works for the last two-and-half years in order to work out funding and approval of course content. The university will be awarding four teaching assistantships to students and the faculty within the Ph.D. program will be receiving grants for their research to help with cost.

Also, committees have approved the idea itself along with the content of the curricula and new staff members have been recruited to teach alongside some of the existing staff already in the department.

“It is great seeing the faculty come together with a unified vision (of the new program),” Hickey said.

This Ph.D. program is only one of three such programs in the nation. The other programs are located at Ball State University in Indiana and East Carolina University in North Carolina. These two programs have been in existence since 1978 and 1999, respectively.

Both Hickey and Gay Israel, head of the Department of Health and Exercise Science, were students at both Ball State and East Carolina. This is one of the main reasons that they are now starting the program here.

The program at CSU will differ from others in that it will integrate other departments with interdisciplinary pieces. Students can take courses in nutrition, epidemiology and biomedical sciences, to name a few.

Five to six students will be accepted into the program for the fall of 2007, though Gotshall hopes to have 15 to 20 students in the program when it is fully running. It is expected that it with take each student approximately three to three-and-a-half years to finish the program.

With a Ph.D. in human bioenergetics, there are two career paths that a student can find him or herself on. The first is in an academic research setting. The second would involve doing research for companies involved in the health industry.

Gotshall hopes that the program will be reaching new heights within ten years of the its start. He believes that success will be measured by national recognition for the program as well as an increase or sustained level of funding.

Along with the idea being well received, Hickey attributes the strong start to the program to the backing it has received from the university.

“We have had tremendous institutional support; they have been great from the get-go.”

Staff writer Anica Wong can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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