Department of Kinesiology to lead UW2020 project, Human Exercise Research Core Facility

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Department of Kinesiology to lead UW2020 project:
Human Exercise Research Core Facility

A team of researchers with the Department of Kinesiology received funding in April through a new initiative designed to jump-start innovative interdisciplinary endeavors on the UW-Madison campus.

Led by principal investigator Gary Diffee, the project is titled, “Human Exercise Research Core Facility to Serve the Broader Campus.”

Diffee, an expert in exercise science, explains that research involving nutrition, exercise or physical activity is currently scattered among a number of labs and clinics across the UW–Madison campus. The breadth, depth and impact of this research is limited by the lack of a centralized facility where scientists can conduct exercise-related studies and interact with each other regarding the wide array of variables that are affected by physical activity.

Cover of Fall 2016 On the MoveThe Human Exercise Research Core Facility will be a comprehensive, multidisciplinary core that facilitates research in this growing area of need.

“Physical inactivity is a primary cause of many chronic diseases, with some estimates indicating that lack of physical activity is responsible for over 5 million deaths per year worldwide,” says Diffee, the Virginia H. Marsh Professor of Kinesiology and chair of the department. “Due to the rising biomedical and social costs associated with a sedentary lifestyle, the National Institutes of Health has recently highlighted the need for better understanding of the impact that exercise has on a variety of aspects of physical and mental health. We believe that the establishment of this core facility represents a transformative improvement in the ability to conduct exercise- and metabolism-related research on this campus in this increasingly important area of research.”

This initiative was one of just 14 highly innovative research projects that were chosen from 134 submitted proposals for the first round of funding by the UW–Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education for the UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative.

Other co-investigators from the Department of Kinesiology on the Human Exercise Research Core Facility project include: Professor Dorothy Farrar-Edwards; Professor Dane Cook; Professor Bill Schrage; and Assistant Professor Jill Barnes. Other co-investigators of the team include: Barbara Bowers, an associate dean for research, the Charlotte Jane and Ralph A. Rodefer Chair, and Helen Denne Schulte Professor with the School of Nursing; and Randall Gretebeck, an associate clinical professor with the School of Nursing.

“A key strength of this core facility is the way it will bring researchers together in an outstanding collaborative environment,” says Diffee. “This flows both from the nature of the proposal, which is an exceptional partnership between the School of Nursing and the Department of Kinesiology, as well as from the broad support from across campus for the creation of this core facility.”

The new human exercise facility will be administered through the Department of Kinesiology but will utilize about 900 square feet of space in the School of Nursing’s state-of-the-art Cooper Hall, which opened in the summer of 2014 and is designed to support best practices in interprofessional health education. Cooper Hall is conveniently located between the UW Natatorium, which is home to many Department of Kinesiology faculty and staff, and other health-related facilities like the UW Hospital and Clinics, the Veterans Administration Hospital and the Waisman Center.

Pull QuoteThe facility will house a centralized space for measuring several aspects of exercise capacity and physical function. It will provide equipment to measure such factors as exercise capacity, exercise metabolism, muscle function and body composition and, for investigators new to this type of research, it will provide expertise in experiments related to exercise and cognition, metabolism and cardiopulmonary function.

Diffee says that the core should also help boost funding potential, catalyze collaborative initiatives, and enhance research impact for a diverse array of researchers on campus. At the same time it will open new avenues for innovative research and collaborations in this area.

“Researchers from across campus, representing over 10 different schools, centers or departments, indicated the urgent need for such a facility on campus to support exercise-related research in a wide range of disciplines — from psychological to biomechanical aspects of exercise — and a wide range of human populations — from children to older adults,” explains Diffee.

Underwritten by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), UW2020 will support selected projects with an average award of about $300,000 over two years. Included in the allocation for most research projects will be support from the UW–Madison Graduate School to cover a graduate student assistantship.

“By providing support to these projects, we think we can seed our research portfolio in important ways and position UW–Madison faculty and research staff for future success,” says Marsha Mailick, UW–Madison vice chancellor for research and graduate education.

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