Students pursuing a Doctorate in Bioenergetics and Exercise Science
I graduated from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, in 2012 with a B.S. double major in Biology and HNFE (Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise). At Virginia Tech, I worked first under Dr. Craig Nessler on ways to increase ascorbic acid production in crops and then under Dr. Kevin Davy on potential means to decrease arterial stiffness and ameliorate cardiovascular disease in humans. Now, at ECU, I am working with Dr. Carol A. Witczak on finding novel signaling pathways involved in glucose uptake, glucose metabolism, and muscle growth. Working with mice, we hope to pave the path for future human based research to help in the fight against diabetes. I am passionate about many branches of science, and being in the interdisciplinary Bioenergetics program gives me a great opportunity to learn about many fields of science, such as biochemistry, molecular biology and physiology.
I grew up in Fort Worth, TX. I earned my B.S. in Athletic Training from Boston University and my M.S. in Exercise Science from California University of Pennsylvania. I spent several years working as an athletic trainer with all levels of sports. I also spent some time working as an athletic trainer focused on injury prevention for a large aerospace manufacturing company. I decided that I wanted to move from a clinical role into research, especially research that is generalizable to the aging population. The interdisciplinary nature of the Ph.D. program at ECU was exactly what I was hoping to find as I returned to school. I am currently working in Dr. Zac Domire’s lab examining mechanical changes in the material properties of muscle with age. Outside of the lab I enjoy spending time with my husband, running, reading, and culinary experimentation.
I graduated from University of Texas-Austin with a M.S. in Exercise Physiology in 2011. During the Master's program, I worked in Dr. Coyle's lab, and my major work was on investigating effects of prolonged sitting and walking for two days on postprandial triglycerides: interaction with energy intake. After I received my Master's degree, I worked with Dr. Horowitz in University of Michigan in order to conduct projects and teach classes. During that time, I examined alterations in insulin signaling in myotubes derived from muscle of obese and learn adults in response to 12h incubations in lipid mixtures containing the most abundant fatty acids in human plasma. After working in University of Michigan, I came to ECU to work with Dr. Houmard, and I am currently investigating exercise effects on myotubes obtained from human muscle in response to fatty acids incubation. When I am not at work, I enjoy doing weight training, playing soccer, and reading a good novel.
I received my Masters in Exercise Science from National Taiwan Normal University. My research projects focused on exercise training in an aging population, studying the effects of Tai Chi training on lower-extremity isokinetic strength and balance performance in elderly women. In addition, I have focused on the cellular and molecular responses of skeletal muscle to resistance training, focusing on the effects of different protocols (intensity and frequency) of resistance training on the metabolic syndrome in obese college males. After graduating, I came to ECU because my research interests are in areas of bioenergetics, especially mitochondrial bioenergetics, skeletal muscle aging, and metabolic signaling pathways. I am currently working with Dr. Ronald N. Cortright studying impaired mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle of African-American vs. Caucasian women.
Maria Jose Torres
I’m from Uruguay, which is in the south of South America, hence, “the real south”. I consider myself both fortunate and blessed that my academic path has exposed me to a diversity of scientific fields, as well as cultural backgrounds. After getting my Bs. in Biochemistry and my Associate’s degree in Fitness in my country, I moved to the US on my own to pursue my graduate career.
My seemingly-opposing interests in science and fitness have taking me from enzymology and protein crystallography labs to athletic centers and gyms, and have spring-boarded me to study metabolism and bioenergetics at the mitochondrial level. Working at the East Carolina diabetes and Obesity Institute under the supervision of Dr. Neufer, my dissertation project is focused on elucidating the mechanisms of menopause-induced insulin resistance by studying the effects of female sex hormones (oestrogen) in skeletal muscle mitochondrial function. I am fully aware of the efforts made by the NIH these past years to improve the health of women through biomedical research, and feel proud to be a contributor of the cause through my pre-doctoral research. In addition to "science-mode", I enjoy training beast-mode! Lifting and road-cycling are my favorites, and I have also been competing in Fitness and Figure for some years now. I would be lying if I said that I don't miss my family and home country, but I can say with confidence that I am working in a dream place, and surrounded by a second family.
I graduated from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, in 2012 with a B.S. double major in Biology and HNFE (Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise). I have a passion for almost all branches of Biology, except for Botany, which I find quite uninteresting. Over the years, my interest in the field of science has narrowed to doing research that will help as many people as possible. At Virginia Tech, I worked under Dr. Kevin Davy and with Tim Werner, one of his PhD students, on potential means to decrease arterial stiffness and ameliorate cardiovascular disease. Now, at ECU, I am working with Dr. Carol A. Witczak on finding novel signaling pathways in the glucose uptake process. Working with mice, we hope to pave the path for future human based research to help in the fight against diabetes.
I grew up in northern California in the town of Santa Rosa. I graduated with a B.S. in exercise science from Brigham Young University in 2008. I remained at BYU for a couple of years as a graduate student where I conducted some research on muscle activation patterns and resultant fatigue in a 40-km time trial while comparing traditional road bicycles to triathlon bicycles. While sport performance was the catalyst that led me to study exercise science my interests became more focused on metabolism in skeletal muscle. Those interests led me to the Bioenergetics program at East Carolina University. I'm now working with Dr. Jeffery Brault studying how energetics influence atrophy in skeletal muscle. Away from the lab I enjoy spending time with my wife and newborn (July 2012) son. I love cycling and being outside.
I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and earned my B.S. in Kinesiology at Penn State University. During my undergraduate years, I became fascinated with research, specifically on the plasticity of skeletal muscle. To further pursue this interest, I went on to complete my M.S. degree in Exercise Physiology at Ball State University where I examined the molecular adaptations in skeletal muscle following short-term exercise training. Currently, I am working with Dr. Carol Witczak to examine how activation of calcium signaling in skeletal muscle alters the cellular environment to help increase glucose uptake.
I was raised in Gurnee, a far northern suburb of Chicago. Most of my undergraduate work was done at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee where I earned a B.S. degree in Kinesiology while working as a personal trainer. After meeting some of the Bioenergetics faculty and students at a conference, I was happy to come to ECU and earn my M.S. degree in the lab of Dr. Neufer studying how the anti-diabetic drug metformin reverses insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes by altering mitochondrial free radical production. Dr. Neufer was kind enough to keep me around for my doctoral work, which is focused on whether a novel pharmaceutical peptide that decreases mitochondrial free radical production can be used as an intervention for reversing metabolic disease. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exercising, watching any sport televised and spending time with my wife and daughter.