Health and Exercise Physiology

HEP Honor Students Share Thoughts and Experiences

Health and Exercise Physiology (HEP) Department honor students, Evan Scott ’20 and Sabrina Tusavitz ’20, share a few thoughts on their research experience in the SkM Lab, and on their time in the HEP Department. The students also provide an update on their future plans.

Please tell us about your project.

Evan: When a muscle is injured, an inflammatory response occurs, which often includes pain and swelling. A common treatment for this pain associated with muscle injury is thermotherapy or increased temperature therapy. In addition to pain reduction, thermotherapy has been known to increase vascular permeability (the ability of small molecules and cells to pass through blood vessels), and as a result, increase blood flow to the area of injury. Previous research done in the Ursinus College skeletal muscle lab suggests that the amount of vascular permeability following thermotherapy may be different for male and female mice. The different hormones present in male and female mice may be the reason for these differences. This study intended to investigate this by looking at levels of vascular permeability in castrated male mice (mice with no testosterone present) that underwent thermotherapy to see how testosterone (or the lack of it) may influence vascular permeability.

Sabrina: My project focuses on skeletal muscle injury and repair in relation to inflammation, or swelling, in male and female mice. We made a timeline of permeability across ages ranging from 1 month to 1 year old. Permeability is how much “stuff” the blood vessel walls allow to pass from the blood stream to the tissue or muscle. The “stuff” that passes through are cells and proteins important for muscle growth and repair. We found trends that the male mice are more permeable when they are younger and as they get older they are less permeable after injury while in females this was opposite, being less permeable at younger ages and more permeable at older ages. To see if the differences between sex were due to sex hormones, we repeated our methods with castrated and ovariectemized 3 month old mice. We found no differences between the castrated vs uncastrated mice and the ovariectemized vs unovariectemized mice. This means that while there are permeability differences between sex, these differences are not caused by sex hormones.

What types of challenges do you encounter in research?

Evan: I think the challenging part of research is being patient. In research, you often have to fail 9 times to succeed one time. Being patient and remaining focused through obstacles is definitely difficult.

Sabrina: I’d say the challenging part of research is that nothing ever goes as planned. You can plan a project and realize the first week in that none of it is going to work, or you can complete most of it and at the end find a better way to do it. Research is constantly failing and trying to learn more from that failure than just that it didn’t work. The challenge is figuring out why it didn’t work and what you have change to fix it.

What will you miss about your time in HEP?

Evan: I will miss the positive, hardworking and supporting atmosphere that makes the HEP department so awesome!

Sabrina: All of the professors, whether I had them myself or not were so kind and supportive every step of my college career. They were there to talk to after class and were invested in everything I was apart of. I’ll definitely miss the summers spent in the lab because we would often get lunch together to take a break from research in the middle of a long week. Whether it was just in Wismer, going out to eat, or going to a professor’s house, we always had such an enjoyable time. They each had such major impacts on me and I will always be thankful for them.

Any additional thoughts or future plans you wish to share?

Evan: I have accepted a spot in Arcadia University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program for the class of 2022. I plan to become a physical therapist in some capacity (not sure what field yet) following this. definitely difficult.

Sabrina: I have not entirely figured out what I am doing following graduation, especially now that I am graduating during a global pandemic; however, I know research will be in my future either in a university setting or in the pharmaceutical industry.

Congratulations on your Honors Presentations, Evan and Sabrina!