Knight Life @UCFCHPS Spotlights Kinesiology Graduate Student Research

Written By: Lasha Markham | July 11, 2023

Graduate student Jason Pagan knew he wanted to major in kinesiology from a young age and now he’s using his passion to help others.

His interest in the field of kinesiology stems from a lifetime involvement with sports and fitness, coupled with a condition as a child that took a toll on his health. “Exercise just kind of really got me out that rut in my life, and from there, it just kind of exploded my interest in the field of kinesiology,” he says.

Pagan shared some of his experiences on Knight Life @UCFCHPS, a video series that provides an inside perspective on student life at the College of Health Professions and Sciences by highlighting internships, research, study abroad, specialized courses, student organizations and other high impact practices in place to help students succeed.

Matt Stock, an associate professor in the Division Physical Therapy and the Director of Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory, serves as Pagan’s advisor.  The Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory studies exercise and rehabilitation interventions that help older adults improve quality of life, with a specific focus on preventing sarcopenia, a type of muscle loss that occurs with aging or immobility.

Longitudinal aging studies show that adults lose about 3% of their muscle strength and power every year after the age of 70. These changes lead to gradual loss of mobility, independence, and quality of life. Stock says, however, that exercise and more specifically, strength training, can reverse these trends.

Pagan, who intends to pursue a career in clinical research, is using the Neuromuscular Plasticity Lab to examine the extent to which exercise and movement specificity determines the extent of improvements in strength and mobility. His current research project studies lower body resistance training in older adults. The participants go through six weeks of training and are split in two different training programs: one using free weights and the other doing exercises that mimic daily movement, such as getting out of a chair or walking across the room.

“Conducting research as a student under the mentorship of a faculty member enriches learning,” Stock says. “Jason’s project has also helped him develop team-building and interpersonal skills, while engaging with our older adult community. I am very proud of his professionalism, attention to detail and willingness to learn new things.”

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