PFP Blog - JES



Required Blog Post #5 – Future of the University

Of all the things that could and should be changed about universities is the cost of attendance. Currently, the U.S. system costs so much that we are currently experiencing the student debt crisis. In fact, I am writing my scholarly essay on student debt and loans.

The average amount of debt in 1993 was around $10,000. Now, the class of 2015 has an average debt of $35,000. That is an increase of 350% in just 12 years. Everyone lost their minds when pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli upped the cost of the HIV med Daraprim 4,000% from $13.50 to $750.00, yet no one has had the same volatile reaction to the student debt crisis. Yes, people are upset and making a case, but not to the extent of being as pissed at Shkreli. Hell, even rival drug companies took shots at him by making alternative drugs that cost $1.00 per pill. Imagine if banks and schools did this to help students.

The student debt crisis is one of perpetuation;  in today’s world, you need some higher education just to get employed at a job where you will probably start out at around 25-30k per year, but you have over $35,000 in debt from school. If you don’t have some higher education, you are way more likely to be unemployed and make much less than your peers who have gone to school. This vicious cycle of needing college for your future, but after graduation no job and over $35,000 to pay back makes life very stressful in the US system.

Other countries have universities that for an entire semester, you pay $100.00. Yet for an US school, that number is a couple thousand. Where is the equality and justice? Is it not a crime for banks and schools to impose predatory costs and loans upon students? Anyway, of all the things that I would like to see change for the future of universities, I would like to see cost of attendance and student loans be significantly reduced to catch up with more level and forward thinking heads across the pond.


Required Blog Post #3: Scholarly Integrity

For this blog, we were to go to the ORI site and find something to blog about. I was looking through some of the case reports of research misconduct in 2015 and picked the case of Ryousuke Fujita from Columbia University. The reason I chose this one was because of the “Great Pretender” we were shown in class, and he was also Japanese and I figured it would be something similar for me to look at.

In this case, he has been found to have falsified figures in Cell and Nature publications. His main focus of research is in Alzheimer’s Disease, which makes this particularly disgusting. Anytime there is data falsification, I get pissed, but particularly medical research in an area that strikes close to homes, such as Alzheimer’s. He falsified 9 panel graphs, falseley inflated sample size in 53 panels, manipulated ELISA analysis in 9 panels, and much, much more…

We all know that this kind of thing happens, but it is still shocking and disgusting. While I assume it means he is excluded from publishing for 3 years, I am unsure what it means that he has “entered into a Voluntary Exclusion Agreement (Agreement) and has voluntarily agreed for a period of three (3) years.” He has also voluntarily excluded himself from advising any panels and some other things, but I am unsure if this is enough punishment. When lives depend on research, such as Alzheimer’s, the falsification of data is a horrendous act that deserves severe punishment.


Required Blog Post #4: Professional Code of Ethics – ACSM

The code of ethics that I chose to write about is the American College of Sports Medicine, or the ACSM. It is the largest organization for Exercise Physiologist. The principles of purpose tend to be just an outline about what we as exercise physiologists strive for. It includes 4 sanctions:  1.) Members should strive continuously to improve knowledge and skill and make available to their colleagues and the public the benefits of their professional expertise. 2.) Members should maintain high professional and scientific standards and should not voluntarily collaborate professionally with anyone who violates this principle. 3.) The College, and its members, should safeguard the public and itself against members who are deficient in ethical conduct. 4.) The ideals of the College imply that the responsibilities of each Fellow or member extend not only to the individual, but also to society with the purpose of improving both the health and well-being of the individual and the community.

To me, these just seem pretty basic and normal for any organization. However, there are some more specific aspects of ethic. Below are listed what the ACSM explicitly states on ethical behavior:  1.) Members should treat or train athletes with the objective of maintaining the integrity of competition and fair play. 2.) Members should treat or train every athlete with the utmost care and to the highest level of their professional competence. 3.) Members should acknowledge that they are aware of international doping control standards as determined by the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods published by the World Anti-Doping Program or by the relevant Anti-Doping Authority. 4.) Members should treat athletes only as their medical conditions warrant and will observe the rules of the appropriate anti-doping organizations regarding use of prohibited substances or methods. 5.) Members should not advise, aid, or abet any athlete to use prohibited substances or methods of doping. 6.) Members should use all means possible to deter doping by athletes. 7.) Members should maintain confidentiality of personal medical information and will protect the right of the clean athlete to compete. 8.) Members should agree that departure from these principles of ethical behavior in treating athletes may result in sanctions by ACSM and will accept those sanctions as determined.

Some of these are particularly interesting and bring about some interesting questions.However, doping is by far the biggest concern in the ACSM. Doping in sport is a huge problem and trainers, coaches, and doctors routinely are finding themselves in trouble for aiding in athlete doping. On top of this, drugs to increase performance are a problem in sport, and new drugs are being created that can’t be detected yet. It is up to us to maintain the integrity of sport and not cheat, particularly by PED use. And this is a continually evolving portion, just ask WADA about Russian Olympians.



Additional Blog Post #5 – Time Management in Grad School

If you are anything like me, grad school has you here, there, and everywhere. I don’t know where I am 95% of the time let alone what I am supposed to be doing. Prior to starting my PhD program, I felt that I was very good at managing my time and keeping track of what I had to do and when. Now, I am lucky to remember to eat.

Having the struggle of trying to manage all of my responsibilities, duties, work, and school, I have really developed my time management skill. This is probably the most effective I have been at managing my time in my whole life, and is probably one of the most important skills I have developed. I keep track with my lab notebook, my Google calendar, and completely overhauled my naming and saving of documents. To see an example, all you have to do is look at the title of this blog:  “Additional Blog Post #5…” Excessive? Probably, but it keeps things simple for me and keeps me on track.

For all of my classes, I have a document folder with different seeded folders for assignments and what not. I also have an Excel document for each individual class that is color-coded for my assignments that I mark off as I go along. This is also the same for my lab work, where each project has its own folder and set up the exact same way. Naming the documents also has become coldly efficient. The title is clearly listed first, then a small description of key words, and then I often put my initials either at the front or end of the title depending the status of the document (not when posting in my blog, just because).

For my calendar, all the different tasks are grouped and color coded. Since it is my Google calendar, it is on my phone and computer, and I set at least 3 alerts (1 day, 1 hour, and 10 minutes before) for each event to keep me reminded. When the alert goes off, I know what, where, when, and any other additional information that I need in prep for the task. I also keep a log in my lab notebook of tasks that I need to complete as well as the times of when I started the task and ended the task so that I can make better judgments on how long different tasks take me for better future time estimations.

This may not work for you, but this is the best way for my brain to keep track. My desk may be a wreck with papers, books, and stale coffee in cups piled up, but my electronic devices and hard copy of tasks keeps me working fairly efficiently. Not to say that I am perfect, but without all of this documentation and linking of data with reminders, I am much better off that I would have been. My biggest suggestion is to find a method that works for you, but for me the linked calendar with reminders, log of daily tasks, and individual folders with seeded folders truly help. key take away from this blog, stay organized and follow a system.


Additional Blog Post #4 – Pride and Respect for the University

As an undergrad, when you first leave home to be on your own at college, you develop a special connection to the school and the area. Even if you have never been to college, you find a school that you care for more than any of the others, particularly the sports teams. However, actually spending upwards of 4 years at an institution really develops a love of the university and a sense of pride.

I am a Mountaineer through and through. I was raised in Morgantown, WV and earned my B.S. and M.S. from WVU. However, to better my success in my chosen field, I had to leave the place I love to have a better opportunity in my future career. Obviously, I’ve ended up in Blacksburg at VT, a hated rival (not so much anymore, but aunts, uncles, and grandparents point out my traitorous move) of WVU. However, I still have yet to go to a VT football or basketball game, and probably never will until WVU plays them again, in which case I will be wearing the Gold and Blue in the VT student section.

The biggest difference that I have noticed between the two schools is the respect and pride for the university. In Morgantown, students are married to alcohol and party 7 out of 7 days per week. This comes with some obvious consequences for the town and university. We are constantly labeled the #1 party school in the nation, after any football game at least 10 couches will be set on fire, there will probably be a car flipped and possibly torched, police are called out in riot gear occasionally, and fights among each other happen so regularly that no one even bats an eye. In fact, I went home last weekend and was out with some friends when a fight broke out right next to me on the street, and I grabbed the attacker and pulled him off of the other kid on the ground.

The “Mountaineer Pride” that the students and alumni claim is nothing but a facade. The streets are littered with trash and alcohol bottles, there is vomit in the streets, after any sporting event, there is constant harassment of opposing team fans. Hell, the students got blamed for it, but during a nationally televised basketball game a few years ago an opposing team coach or player was hit with a coin thrown from the crowd; and that was not from a student, but just a fan. We care deeply about our university and our teams, but could care less how it reflects on the university. I think that biggest influence of this activity and behavior is the town its self; everyone gets caught up in the drunk fest that is Morgantown.

From what I have seen of Blacksburg, it is nothing like Morgantown. There is very, very little trash in the streets, no one ever complains about excessively rude fans, the students here even have the Big Event, a huge volunteer project by the students to help clean the university and do chores for the elderly, and much more. To me, this is respect and pride for your university. WVU is like a rebellious adolescent drinking and fighting and doing whatever the hell they want when they want where VT is like a young professional trying to impress the boss for a promotion.

Don’t get me wrong, I bleed Gold and Blue, but it would be immature and ignorant for me or any other WVU student or alumni to think that we are respectful to our university. If you think that any of the laundry list of issues that I briefly touched on is respectful and represents our university well is sorely mistaken. All the bad rap WVU gets, it has earned 10 fold. The university is truly trying to change the culture, they recently demolished Sunny Side, a huge area of what should have been condemned student homes that after you leave the dorms you will most likely ended up and probably werre threatened at some point of being arrested.

All in all, Blacksburg and VT have shown me you can be respectful and have pride in your university without demolishing it at the same time. WVU has some growing up to do, but I have hope.


Additional Blog Post #3 – Maintaining Your Sanity in Grad School

Grad school is not easy. It is not supposed to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would have Master’s and PhD’s. Having said that, sometimes even the most emotionally and mentally stable people crack under the pressure and give up the pursuit of their degree. Personally, I am pretty good at keeping things at an even keel, but sometimes things are so insane that I go to the good beer store and spend 60$ on 4 of the finest craft beers, go home to my 9 year old 100lb Chocolate lab, turn on my music and sit on my porch and share my beer with my dog (yes, he enjoys a few sips of beer, too).

Everyone needs a release; something that takes your mind off of all the things that barrage you every day. For me, its craft beer, my dog, music, and Judo. Even these things that you do to relieve some of the stress will eventually not do what they once did for your stress relief. My biggest suggestion would be to just go do something new – take a weekend trip, try a new activity, invite some of your friends to come down and visit to relive the old days. Anything that is new can have a dramatic effect on the monotony of things and relieve the stress to maintain your sanity.

Another tool that I have learned, and thanks to this class with the required journals and blogs, is to write things down to get out frustrations. Since I have been blogging and keeping weekly journals, I have been able to vent in a secure, confidential, and personal place that only I can see.

Another great tool that I have acquired is the ability to manage my time very effectively. Keeping a calendar and setting reminders in my google calendar has taken a huge load off of my back because now all I need to do is put it in the calendar and set reminders (I set usually 3 – 1 day, 1 hour, and 10min  before). The less remembering I have to do, the less stress I have.

Even though all of these tools have greatly helped me stay sane in my PhD program, by far the most helpful and effective is the first thing I mentioned. Doing something new and setting aside a few hours per day just for me have greatly helped me. So, go do something new and spontaneous!


Required Blog Post #2 – Open Access Journal in Ex. Phys.

For this blog post we were to find an open access journal in our discipline and discuss some aspects about it. My discipline can vary from exercise physiology to cellular and molecular sciences to genetics and biochemistry. It is quite a range that I can cover in this, but considering that my Bachelor and Master’s degrees are in Exercise Physiology and I am in the Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise program here at Tech, I have decided to find an open access journal in Exercise Physiology.

In the information age, a simple google search listed a ton of open access journals. I have decided to look at the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online. The journal is an online open access journal that is published by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists. As with most journals, the purpose of this journal is to provide professional peer reviewed journal devoted to original research in the field of exercise physiology. Additionally, the journal states the purpose of “disseminating exercise physiology research and, thus to serve specifically the professional needs of the exercise physiologist.” They also claim (no way of knowing for sure) that they are the “first electronic peer reviewed exercise physiology journal in the history of the profession.”

The journal’s website does not describe how it is open access, but there was a hyperlink to all monthly issues of the journal, which when clicked downloads a Word Doc. In the Word Doc, there is a list of articles in that month’s journal with a hyperlink to click, which when clicked take you to either a Word or PDF link of the desired publication. This really was quite simple, but seemed like too many steps just to access a paper. However, this is clearly an open access journal since it is 100% web based and has free access to journals that have been published though the journal.

A link to the website for the journal can be found here:


Additional Blog Post #2: Mediation Between Undergrads and Professors

Sometimes students find it very difficult to talk to their professors, particularly when an undergrad is working in a lab for a professor. In the case where the professor is also their professor of record while the student is in the lab, there is often expectations on both sides that can make it a scary situation for the student. On the other hand, sometimes the cases can be flipped where the student is not performing to the needs of the lab and the instructor is very timid to bring this up as the student is in their class.

In a previous lab that I was a part of, I was unfortunately stuck in the middle and played the mediator role for an undergrad-instructor situation where the student was clearly under-performing and was consistently not showing up to the lab during their scheduled times. Obviously this was a problem because the student had committed to being in the lab for experience, LoR’s, and even publications. This created a very tense work environment, and particularly gave me a headache every single day due to the constant barrages from the instructor about where the student was and what the status was for the project, which I clearly couldn’t answer.

I was in a very precarious position… I was unofficially the “supervisor” but had my own projects, school, and other daily tasks to where I could not babysit all day, every day. I also really liked the student, even though their work ethic and commitment were a serious issue. After months of this occurring every day, I went looking for help on how to mediate the two sides into an agreement. This was some of the best advice I have ever had for these type of issues.

I sat down with the student first, and was very frank about what the expectations were, how they committed to doing this for us in exchange for experience, LoR’s for schools, and publications for boosting their resume. I was also very direct as I was sick of constantly being badgered by the boss. I also sat down with the instructor and described what I told the student and how I went about it and that I couldn’t be a babysitter all the time. Surprisingly, both were very accepting of what I had to say and I put a 2-week deadline of change to occur on the student’s end, and if nothing changed, me and the instructor would decide what we would do.

Unfortunately, the student was too overloaded and was unable to meet their commitments (and by the way, they were also signed up for research hours, so this was also a class for them) and we decided to remove the student from the project and place them on something much less demanding and time consuming. Bad news, I now had yet another project for my laundry list, a satisfying but troublesome consequence of being reliable and a hard worker.

However, this was a win in my book. Both the student and the instructor were able to resolve the issue without either losing face. Mediation is an extremely useful tool when as a grad student you are trying to teach and manage students and working for an instructor.


Additional Blog Post #1: Conflict Resolution in Higher Education

Conflict is something that we all deal with on a daily basis. To me, the most frightening conflict in higher education are any issues between students and advisers, especially in grad school. As a student, you want and feel the need to perform every task as best as possible and as soon as possible that your adviser gives you. However, not all tasks can be so easily performed or managed, particularly when you have numerous other tasks that all are “top priority.” This can easily become an overwhelming amount of tasks and pressure to perform at the standards (even if they are truly unrealistic) to your adviser.

As a student, you often do not know how to handle being overwhelmed and are terrified to speak to anyone fearing retribution or the “too bad, grad school is not supposed to be easy” answer. It is important as the student to realize that the school and your adviser are supposed to be there for you as much as you are supposed to be there for them. Understanding the proper channels to talk about the conflict between student and adviser is important as to not blow the situation out of proportion.

As a student, being able to speak with other members of the adviser’s group (could be other lab personnel, fellow researchers, other grad students, etc…) is a great way to get a feel of if your grievances and if anyone else feels the same way or has noticed what you are going through. It is important that this remains confidential. Additionally, speaking with the department head or graduate program coordinator in confidence is the next step to explain what it is you are going through. They are there for a reason and that is to help you as a student grow and to help with scary situations where conflict is or could occur. The most important step in this process is to actually speak with your adviser about how you feel and what is going on;  they are also there to help you grow as a student and prepare you for whatever your plans are.

If things go south after going through these channels, then it is time to have a meeting with your adviser and an additional faculty member (department head, grad program coordinator, etc…) to resolve the issue. The school is there to help both sides resolve the issue(s) and if it is not resolvable, make a decision as to what to do from there. However, it is unlikely that it will come to this because simply talking things out rather than letting things boil over is the easiest way to clear up any perceived issues.


Blog Post #1 – Mission Statements (VT HNFE vs WVU Ex. Phys.)

So for those of you who do not know me, I am a 2nd year PhD student at VT in the Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise (HNFE) program. Originally, I was raised in Morgantown, WV and obtained my B.S. and M.S. from WVU in the Exercise Physiology program where I trained under Dr. Stephen Alway. With that brief background, you should understand why I have chosen the VT HNFE and WVU Exercise Physiology mission statements to discuss.

VT is a public land-grant research university located in Blacksburg, Virginia of the USA. WVU is also a public land-grant research university located in Morgantown, West Virginia of the USA.

VT HNFE’s mission statement is as follows:  “To discover, translate, and disseminate health-related advances in the nutrition, food, and exercise sciences.”

WVU Exercise Physiology’s mission statement is as follows:  “The mission of the Division of Exercise Physiology is to prepare qualified professionals at the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. levels to promote health and quality of life through the use of appropriate physical activity and lifestyle behaviors. In addition it is our mission to provide exercise physiology programs and expertise at the community, state, and national level, and to make meaningful scientific contributions to the discipline of exercise science through faculty research and by training graduate students in research skills.”

What stood out to me about the mission statements is there conviction to research and address a myriad of health-related issues from various different backgrounds. The manner in which both schools address these issues are similar as they are both within the health sciences spectrum. This is understandable because both schools are public land-grant research institutions and both programs utilize diet and exercise as interventions.

Both mission statements are fairly similar, primarily focusing on health-related issues. VT HNFE’s mission statement is brief and concise and covers nutritional, food, and exercise science research into relevant health-related issues. WVU’s mission statement also addresses researching health-related issues, but focuses on exercise as their intervention. Having been a part of both schools, further differences can be seen in the divisions of the programs. VT has behavioral, clinical, and cellular and molecular science wings while WVU have clinical and cellular and molecular wings.

What I have drawn from these two mission statements is that both universities and programs have a shared mission of addressing health-related issues using nutritional and exercise interventions. WVU has a more narrowed, specific approach while VT confronts health issues on the behavioral, clinical, and cellular and molecular levels with a significant influence of diet and nutrition.