college of education | fall 1998



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Exercise Physiology An Important Research Focus For Department

The Department of Kinesiology has long had a strong reputation in exercise physiology.

Within 10 years of the department establishing a graduate program in 1945, exercise physiology emerged as an important area of research that remains true to this day.

Professors such as Henry Montoye, Wayne Van Huss and Bill Huesner were instrumental in establishing the research focus, garnering funding, and establishing the Human Energy Research Lab.

"When I came here we were part of athletics," recalled Van Huss, who began his career at MSU in 1953. "We were the Department of Physical Education and Athletics. In fact, Biggie Munn became our chairman not long after I got here and was surprisingly supportive of our efforts.

"But we knew that we needed a more academic setting than athletics in order to be taken seriously. So that’s what prompted the department’s move to the College of Education . We were very much interested in the research but could we get funded? That was the issue."

The funding for their research did come. Some of the early work for Montoye and Van Huss involved a study of football helmets. The two were given space in the sub-basement of Jenison Fieldhouse where they set up a machine that gyrated a helmet to create impact and they gauged the affects on a dummy’s head.

Later, the researchers moved to a Quonset hut in an area that is now the Breslin Center. As they received more funding, the researchers were given more huts.

Eventually, Van Huss remembers the various research projects taking up three huts, and not long after moving to the lab’s present location at the basement of the IM Sports Circle where it became known as the Human Energy Lab.

Van Huss’ work focused on metabolic responses to exercise and later responses of muscles to exercise to work on muscle fibers. Huesner, who had been an Olympic swimmer, had an interest in swimmers. Later, Professor Janet Wessel would join the group and do pioneering research on women and exercise.

"We were kind of out there by ourselves for a long time," Van Huss recalled. "But we eventually got funding from places like NASA."

Today, exercise physiology research is in the hands of Professor Jim Pivarnik and Assistant Professor Jeanne Foley.


Assistant Professor Jeanne Foley conducts a test in the MRI machine.


Pivarnik’s research has focused on the body’s response to stress from physical activity. He has been particularly interested in exercise responses of children and of females during pregnancy. (See story in Spring 1997 of the New Educator.)

The program has been enriched, he said, by the cross disciplinary aspects of the work he and Foley do. Pivarnik has a quarter-time appointment in the College of Osteopathic Medicine , and Foley has an adjunct appointment in the Department of Physiology.

"The lab, for instance, gives our students access to other parts of campus," Pivarnik said. "Through the lab we have people come in from other colleges and work with us. Our lab interacts with other units, and that gives our students more options for future careers."

Foley’s career is a direct link to the department’s physiology research of years past. Foley is one of Van Huss’ former students, and like her mentor has an interest in metabolism. Her research involves the application of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to the study of muscle metabolism, muscle recruitment and muscle blood flow during exercise. (See story in Spring 1998 issue of the New Educator.)

A former collegiate athlete and head women’s basketball coach at Princeton University, Foley said the department has maintained over the years a strong reputation in the field.

"I recently started an NIH study on creatin metabolism … and one the first papers I found that discussed that was done by Dr. Van Huss and his graduate students many years ago," she said. "That’s pretty neat, and it shows the kind of work that has been done here. It has always seemed to me that this area has a really strong history in the department from a research standpoint, and teaching too."

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