Human physiology

Human physiology students complete a lab in Hughes.

Upper-division science courses, attention to detail and time commitment are cited by some as to why human physiology is a tough degree to earn at Gonzaga. 

The class of 2020 began its time at Gonzaga with around 70 students enrolled in the department. Now, 30-40 students remain.

Human physiology students often have a successful track ahead of them after graduation despite the heavy workload, with most pursuing a masters degree after their time at GU.

After focusing on learning about the mechanisms of the human body, most graduates go on to pursue careers in the medical field. Some go on to be physical therapists, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and some go to medical school to become doctors.

Professor Ryan McCulloh teaches biomechanics and experimental design along with other courses in the human physiology department. He said the students in the program have a substantial amount of potential.

“Human physiology is a rigorous science degree that requires a significant commitment on the part of our students,” McCulloh said. “However, our students are highly motivated and work hard to achieve their success … and our majors have been very successful at pursuing their post-graduation goals.”

Abby Glenn is a senior and president of the human physiology club on campus. As president, Glenn wants to help students have a resource on campus to help connect them with different opportunities and career options after graduation.

“We get to learn about the chemical, physical and neurological processes that help our bodies respond to the environment, develop and adapt accordingly,” Glenn said. 

A part of the human physiology department’s core curriculum involves a research project done in groups that pertains to things they have learned. Glenn, along with a group of four other students and the help of a professor, looked into how people determine the rest time between multiple bouts of exercise.

“We asked individuals to complete two sprints, with a short rest period in between, and they repeated this protocol twice,” Glenn said. “They rested for three minutes in between sprints, and in the other condition they rested as long as they needed to feel fully recovered and able to repeat their first sprint performance.”

With this research project, the group found the number of breaths taken per minute isn’t the best indicator of recovery, but rather the depth and intensity of each breath.

One of the peers who worked on the project with Glenn is Ethan Osbourn, also a senior. Osbourn is planning on attending Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles to get a doctorate of physical therapy.

“I knew coming into college that I wanted to be a physical therapist,”  Osbourn said. “The human physiology curriculum included all the classes I needed for PT school, as well as seemed very interesting to me.”

After finding a topic that interested the group of students, six months of research and experimentation was conducted to find a solution to the question that was being asked. The group had to think of a topic that hadn’t been researched previously in other research studies.

“A lot of our time was spent in the lab with subjects collecting data. We had 12 subjects who each had to come into the lab three different times for data collection,” Osbourn said. “After data collection, we then spent a good amount of time analyzing the data and running statistical tests to find an answer to our question.”

The research group, that also included Katelyn Doyle, Alex Smith and Justin Tran, were chosen  to present their research at The American College of Sports Medicine Northwest Annual Meeting in Bend, Oregon.

“It was a really neat experience presenting our research to experts in the field and having them ask us questions about our experimental design and findings,” Glenn said.

The students also had the opportunity to see other research that had been conducted by other students and professionals.

The Human Physiology program harnesses a group of students that are passionate about what they do, and are looking forward to helping change the future of medicine.

“I absolutely love learning about the human body, it is amazing and complex,” Glenn said. “I wanted to learn about the mechanisms behind injury and disease. It is important to understand how problems occur so that we will be better equipped to prevent or treat them.”

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