Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Bioenergetics and Exercise Science, Department of Kinesiology, East Carolina University


The field of bioenergetics is inherently interdisciplinary and incorporates many of the basic science and translational areas of research. Current research foci of the ECU Bioenergetics faculty include mitochondrial function, muscle mass regulation, glucose uptake, fat oxidation, fat mobilization, cardiopulmonary function, inflammation, peripheral circulation and the implications these physiological processes have in health and disease across the lifespan with consideration for gender and racial disparities. Each student receives a personalized training experience that integrates exercise physiology, basic cell physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology. The goal of the training is to enable graduates to address research questions from gene to whole body using the best available research approaches. Metabolic conditions studied in the program include rest, differing intensities of physical activity and exercise, and varied composition of nutrient intake in healthy individuals and in pathological states such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Models currently used by Bioenergetics faculty are cell culture, mouse, rat, chimpanzee and humans. Graduates from the program are trained for employment in academic, industry and government settings with the aim to investigate and promote the role of a physically active lifestyle in disease prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery from diseases. HPL studies are conducted with the following methodologies:

  • Investigation of gene-organism interactions using genotyping, transgenic mice, and transient overexpression and knockdown of genes in-vivo and in cultured cells.
  • Determination of in-vitro and in-vivo glucose transport, fatty acid uptake, and fat oxidation using isotope methodologies
  • Measures of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species emission and cellular/mitochondrial bioenergetics using respiratory and fluorometrically based systems
  • Cardiopulmonary function, vascular and erectile dysfunction using in-situ models
  • Tissue characterization from muscle and adipose tissue biopsies using immunohistochemistry or immunofluorescence microscopy, Western blot, ELISA, and real-time PCR analyses
  • Metabolic profiling using microarray, metabolomics and proteomics
  • In-vitro and in-vivo, using ultrasound elastography, testing of tissue material properties
  • Local metabolic and blood flow monitoring with microdialysis
  • Limb blood flow determination using plethysmography or Doppler ultrasound
  • Whole-body indirect calorimetry
  • Body composition analysis by DXA, MRI and CT
  • Whole-body thermoregulation investigations using environmental chamber
  • Resistance exercise testing and training in humans and rats
  • Exercise Performance and aerobic capacity measures using treadmill, cycle ergometers, rowing ergometers, and elliptical exercise testing and training equipment.


Despite inroads against disease, this nation continues to be burdened by preventable illness. In 1960 the share of the gross domestic product (GDP) directly consumed by medical services was 5 percent; by 1995 this nearly tripled to approximately 14 percent. When expenses associated with diseases such as cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses are added, total annual health care expenditures are approximately $1 trillion. The morbidity and mortality associated with cardiovascular disease alone accounted for over $259 billion in 1997. A relatively controllable disease such as diabetes afflicted nearly 16 million individuals with an associated cost of $91.1 billion; in contrast, AIDS and breast cancer combined afflicted 3.4 million citizens at an estimated cost of $16.9 billion. Fortunately, many of the expenses and the risk for developing disease can be reduced if one engages in regular physical activity. Thus, the benefits of an active lifestyle have been presented to the American public in a variety of programs such as Healthy People 2010 and in recommendations from the Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the benefits of a physically active lifestyle are widely recognized, the underlying biological and cellular mechanisms which mediate these positive changes are less well known. By integrating recent advances in biochemistry, molecular biology, and physiology, the discipline of exercise physiology is poised to take a more mechanistic approach to the study of the health-related benefits of regular physical activity. Such an approach, however, requires non-traditional interdisciplinary training that is not widely available. Typically, doctoral-level training in exercise physiology has been limited to a disciplinary approach within an exercise science department. Relatively few programs utilize an interdisciplinary curriculum and course of study to attack problems related to physical activity and disease prevention. The doctoral program outlined in this proposal is designed to train individuals to address these issues in an interdisciplinary fashion by providing an education in the field of bioenergetics.

American Kinesiology Association logo

The Department of Kinesiology is a member of the American Kinesiology Association.

Exercise is Medicine logo