The AHPRC provides health science students with opportunities for research studies

Last October, four College of Health Sciences students received $5,000 from the Center for Athletics and Human Performance Research’s Undergraduate Research Initiative to pursue undergraduate research.

Supporting AHPRC’s global goal of facilitating interdisciplinary, collaborative, and innovative research to understand and improve performance in athletic, health, and clinical populations, each student will use the money to further their projects and advance their research interests.

One of those students is exercise physiology major Grace Tostrud, who is conducting her research in Assistant Professor Jacob Capin’s Life After Sports Trajectories (LAST) physical therapy lab. Grace’s study is titled “Bone density in athletes participating in jumping, cutting and spinning sports: an understudied population.”

Grace sat down for questions and answered with Market today to talk about her training and her research aspirations.

What inspired your research? How did you become interested in the subject?

Grace Tostrud

Examining bone density seemed like an obvious way to connect nutrition to the athletes we were watching. As I did more preliminary research on the topic, it fueled my desire because much of the research involving bone density in athletes has been related to runners. The athletes we study in the LAST Lab participate in jumping, crossing, and spinning sports such as soccer, volleyball, and basketball. With the growing popularity of these sports across the country, this research is much needed. This is of particular interest to me because these are sports I grew up playing – so it adds a personal factor.

Last fall I took a nutrition class with Ken Knetzger, clinical assistant professor of exercise science, which sparked my interest in nutrition and how it affects so many aspects of life. As part of the research study in Dr. Capin’s lab, we already collect dietary information from participants, so I knew I wanted to find a way to incorporate this wealth of information into my project.

What are your postgraduate aspirations and how does your research inform your career plans?

Grace Tostrud recruits a test taker to Dr. Capin’s lab.

After graduation, I would like to work as a physical therapist on a sports team – at the collegiate or professional level – to have the opportunity to work with elite athletes. Our research is conducted on student athletes, so it would be directly applicable to many athletes I meet in my future career. I hope that the knowledge and experience I gain from the research process will help inform how I will rehabilitate and counsel not only athletes, but all my patients in the future.

What interesting things have you come across while conducting your research so far? Or something interesting you saw while planning that made you rethink your approach?

Something that struck me as interesting is how much research is available on bone density in runners—especially women—but the general lack of data on the athletes we study in the lab. I thought it was really interesting because sports like soccer, basketball and volleyball are extremely popular across the country, so I assumed it would be a much more researched area.

How has Dr. Capin helped you in your research?

Dr. Jacob Capin and Grace Tostrud

Dr. Capin was an invaluable resource throughout this process. He believed in my idea and encouraged me to make this project my own, while helping me refine my ideas so that I could maximize this research opportunity. Also, the entire LAST Lab team has been very supportive of my project and has given me very constructive feedback. Overall, I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Student Research Initiative and the support that Dr. Capin and the rest of the LAST Lab team have provided me.

How does being able to do research as an undergraduate help you in your pursuit of a degree? Does it empower your work in the classroom?

Participating in research as a student was a really special experience because it gave me a lot of hands-on experience. Through my participation in the LAST Lab, I have gained confidence in my interactions with research participants, which can transfer to interactions with future patients. I have also been exposed to many different opportunities to advance my knowledge, whether through seminars, by interacting with visiting faculty and researchers, or by utilizing the vast knowledge that lab team members bring.

Over the past year, I have seen the confidence I gained in the lab carry over to my work in the classroom. I’m more confident in myself and my skills and I’ve also been given the opportunity to ask questions instead of feeling like I have to have all the answers. Joining the LAST lab opened many doors – one of which is SRI – and it was one of the best decisions of my college career!

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