Graduate Spotlight: Rebecca Larson
Expected Graduation: Summer 2011
Degree Objective: Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology
Other Degrees: M.S. in Exercise Physiology, B.S. in Exercise Physiology
As an undergraduate, Rebecca Larson, an exercise physiology doctoral candidate, began to conduct research on how to improve the lives of people with multiple sclerosis. Inspired by the challenges these individuals face, Larson decided to pursue her doctoral degree at the University of Georgia’s Department of Kinesiology.
“My experiences with these individuals inspired me to seek an advanced degree and continue research focused on the role of exercise and its effects on quality of life, activities of daily living and mobility of individuals with multiple sclerosis,” said Larson.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to properly transmit electrical signals. The disease worsens over time and can cause a multitude of physical and mental problems. However, muscle weakness and fatigue have the most adverse effects on a person’s quality of life, explains Larson.
“Excess fatigue contributes to a reduction in exercise capacity and daily activities of individuals with multiple sclerosis and is often expressed as the most debilitating symptom,” she said.
According to Larson, previous research has not adequately addressed whether people with multiple sclerosis experience an imbalance of muscle functionality and performance in their legs. Her research findings will improve resistance training techniques that help people with multiple sclerosis maintain muscle functionality.
“The hope is to use this research to develop strategies and exercise program that are multidimensional in regard to health and functional benefits,” she said.
As of right now, Larson has finished about three-quarters of her dissertation research. Her preliminary results show differences in muscle functionality between healthy individuals and people with multiple sclerosis. Additionally, multiple sclerosis may cause bilateral differences in the functionality of leg muscles.
After graduation, Larson plans to continue researching how exercise can abate the physical problems related to chronic muscular disorders.
“This information will help establish new knowledge related to fatigue and hopefully contribute to optimizing patient care, allowing physicians and healthcare providers to prescribe exercise programs,” she said.
Story by Ben Benson
Graduate Spotlight: Daniel Larson
Expected Graduation: Spring 2011
Degree Objective: Ph.D. in Sport Management and Policy
Other Degrees: M.S. in Exercise and Sport Science, B.S. in Business Administration
Daniel Larson, a doctoral candidate in sport management and policy, uses economic theory to examine team dynamics in sport contexts. By applying economic principles to sports, Larson is improving our understanding of how sports fit into a larger cultural picture.
“Sports are, after all, ubiquitous and intertwined within almost all social institutions, economic, political, media, educational and religious,” he said. “As such, it is important to understand the interactions and importance of sport organizations to the wider social world.”
According to Larson, sports provide a controllable setting for socio-behavioral data collection. The knowledge gained from studying team behavior in sports can be applied to business environments.
“The tools of the social scientist, in my case economic theory and econometric methods, can help us rigorously develop knowledge for broad public benefit, as well as for the benefit of social institutions,” he said.
Larson’s dissertation research focuses on professional cycling. Unlike other sports, cycling athletes practice in teams and compete individually. This team structure resembles business conditions found in corporations, financial management, law firms, and design companies, Larson explains.
Collaborating with USA Cycling and other professional cycling governing bodies, Larson collects data on membership services, labor contracts, and event promotion, among other variables. Using this quantitative data, Larson can build econometric models to estimate a variety of economic variables related to coaching decisions, team behavior or policy changes.
One specific application of his models is to understand how public policy decisions regarding sporting events affect community welfare.
“Sporting events can provide many economic, social, and health benefits to local communities,” said Larson. “However, they can also have non-negligible costs and negative impacts. The balance of these considerations is something that rigorous research in sport economics can offer local communities.”
Following graduation, Larson hopes to secure a position in a sport management program, building on his dissertation research in sport management education.
Story by Ben Benson