More AlumniKathryn Berlin
Andres E. Carrillo
Katie Hill Gallant
Tetyana P. Shippee
John Spruill III
April J. Stull
Roland J. Thorpe
Kyle Timmerman, PhD
What initially got you interested in studying gerontology?
I initially became interested in studying gerontology when I was taking an exercise physiology course during my senior year at Miami University with Dr. Ron Cox. For a class project, I came across several papers on exercise and immune function and the concept of immunosenescence. The potential for exercise to attenuate age-related declines in immune function was fascinating to me. While searching for additional papers, I came across studies conducted by Dr. Mike Flynn at Purdue. I became even more interested after talking with him, and voila, I was off to Purdue to pursue graduate training in exercise science and gerontology.
Who were your mentors (formal and informal) in CALC? What made them effective mentors?
My mentors were Dr. Mike Flynn and Dr. David Waters. Mike was an effective mentor because he was always available (except at noon, when he was running) and he emphasized and demonstrated the importance of critical thinking. Our regular journal article discussions helped me learn to develop evidence-based research questions and hypotheses, and to develop experimental designs that would allow us to test our hypotheses. It was just a bonus that he was a great guy with a sense of humor similar to mine. Dr. Waters’ enthusiasm is contagious. Like Dr. Flynn, he challenged us to apply critical thinking to our scholarship, and challenged us to present our research findings in a manner that could be understood and applied by a diverse audience.
What was your favorite experience in the CALC gerontology program? What did you like about it?
My favorite CALC courses were with Dr. Waters. I particularly enjoyed the course where we examined the dissemination of research findings in the popular media (magazines, newspapers, websites). It was alarming to see how often the primary findings from research studies were misrepresented or sensationalized. I have modeled several graduate research seminars off of this class, and the students always enjoy it.
How has your interest in gerontology influenced or shaped your research agenda?
My interest in gerontology has profoundly influenced my research agenda. After Purdue, I accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Sealy Center on Aging with Dr. Elena Volpi. There, I assisted with research examining mechanisms underlying the development of sarcopenia. My current research at Miami University is a synthesis of the training and experience that I received at Purdue and UTMB. My group is currently finishing an NIA-funded study examining the impact of exercise training and/or diet-induced weight loss of skeletal muscle inflammation in overweight, older adults.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
Hmmm, I always feel awkward with this type of question. I’m probably most proud receiving funding from the NIA for a grant that allows me to involve undergraduate and graduate exercise science students in clinical research that has served as a springboard for them to pursue careers in academia and allied health professions.
In your current position, how do you mentor graduate students? What are the most important attributes that students should develop?
We have excellent graduate students in Miami University’s Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition, and Health. As the graduate director in our department, I get to interact with almost all of them in some capacity. With my advisees, I make sure that they have the training that they need to succeed in the lab, and then I encourage them to serve as mentors for our undergraduate research assistants. It’s during their time as mentors that I see our graduate students really blossom.
What career preparation advice would you give your younger self?
Great question! I frequently think about this. I would have encouraged my younger self to ask more questions, to be more engaged, and to actively seek out mentorship. I’d also recommend to my younger self to set goals, to develop a vision of what you want to pursue professionally, and to utilize your mentors to develop a roadmap for achieving those goals.