Justine Renziehausen absorbs the bustling atmosphere surrounding her within one of the numerous research labs housed in the School of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences. Student researchers engage in a flurry of activity, and she takes it all in. Just months ago, she was one of the doctoral students completing research in the same lab. Now, she’s there as part of a new venture: serving as a faculty member.
In May, Renziehausen was the first graduate of the College of Health Professions and Sciences’ new Kinesiology PhD degree program and is now continuing her academic career as a lecturer in the Division of Kinesiology, joining the same team of faculty who once mentored her.
Renziehausen earned an undergraduate degree in exercise physiology from West Virginia University and her master’s in sport and exercise science at UCF. It was an unexpected source who led her to pursue research, rather than follow a career she originally thought would involve clinical healthcare. “At first, I was stuck in a clinical mindset, considering careers in various healthcare fields, such as cardiac rehab,” Renziehausen says. “My sister suggested doing research. I ended up calling my master’s advisor. And, we had a great conversation and one thing led to another and I ended up here.”
While in the PhD program, Renziehausen studied circadian rhythm, assessing how the time of day affects performance in healthy adults, and the differences between genders.
In her first semester teaching this summer, she taught Facts and Fallacies and Exercise is Medicine. Those two courses join Assessments and Evaluation as her course lineup this semester.
“I enjoy working with students who have diverse interests and helping them develop their professional goals over time,” says Renziehausen. “I’m excited to be teaching a variety of courses, where I’ll have the opportunity to teach students who are in different stages of their education.”
The Kinesiology PhD program began in Fall 2022 and evolved from what was previously an exercise physiology track in the Education PhD program. David Fukuda, professor and chair of the Division of Kinesiology, helped develop the new program. While Renziehausen is the first graduate of program, there are currently 20 doctoral students pursuing their degrees in Fall 2023.
Fukuda says he expects a large majority of the graduates will go on to pursue careers in higher education and teach or conduct research, helping to prepare the next generation of healthcare and exercise professionals. He notes that some may start in academia as faculty and then move on to do contract research, providing information to those who are treating patients each day and working to improve healthcare policies.
Maxine Furtado, one of the kinesiology doctoral students, obtained her undergraduate and master’s degrees in kinesiology at UCF. Furtado’s area of research is athlete monitoring and sports performance, and she’s been conducting research with UCF’s soccer team for several years. Her dissertation assesses frontal plane hip strength in collegiate female soccer players, and she monitors the athletes’ training load throughout the season.
“My graduate courses set me up to learn how to write and conduct research, while also learning more in-depth concepts in exercise physiology, sports nutrition and strength and conditioning,” says Furtado. “The faculty and staff actually care about the students in the program and always look for ways to improve courses offered and opportunities available for students.”
In addition to Renziehausen, three more faculty members joined the Division of Kinesiology and began teaching in its undergraduate and graduate programs this fall: Clinical Assistant Professor Caitlin Ann Cheruka, Associate Professor Grant Norte and Associate Instructor Shari Norte.
“Students and faculty are coming from across the country and around the world to be part of this program,” says Fukuda. “We’re preparing people to be industry-recognized teacher scholars and scientists who are leaders in the various fields encompassing kinesiology.”