Campus News

Exercise Science Professor Mentors Students Focused on Health and Medical Careers

Marilyn Campbell (third from the left) and several of her students
Marilyn Campbell (third from the left) and several of her students on a three-week study abroad trip to Italy.

LEXINGTON. Ky. (Dec. 19, 2019) — University professors like Marilyn Campbell know their students well, give them opportunities to be part of their research and provide mentorship on everything from personal issues to graduate school applications.

As a lecturer at the University of Kentucky in the College of Education, Campbell ensures students have a chance for hands-on learning in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion.

Campbell’s work involves mentoring students — in both classrooms and research labs — and covers topics that combine her passion for nutrition and exercise science. She frequently works with students to prepare them for graduate school.

One such student, Jessica Gadberry, is finishing up physical therapy school at UK's College of Health Sciences. When she heard there was an opportunity to recognize a mentor, Campbell immediately came to mind.

“As I look back on how I have grown as a medical professional, I have to give a large amount of credit to Dr. Campbell for being such a strong role model,” Gadberry said. “She has a heart that wants to help others succeed.”

Many students planning to go into health and medical careers come from an exercise science background. Campbell’s students in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, for instance, learn to use devices and develop skills taught in physical therapy school.

“Our program provides good preparation for health and medical graduate schools because we are very hands-on,” Campbell said. “To give you an idea of what that looks like, we do body composition testing where students use skin calipers to measure fat and they get inside underwater weighing tanks to measure body composition. And, they are often working on treadmills to do aerobic testing.”

As a researcher, Campbell is currently looking at how nutritional supplements, such as the popular spice turmeric, can influence exercise performance. Turmeric is a root found in many Asian and Indian dishes. Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, is thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.

Both master’s and undergraduate students are working with Campbell and her colleague Haley Bergstrom, who focuses on sports performance, to study whether or not curcumin can impact exercise performance and recovery.

“Research was an area that was foreign to me, so Dr. Campbell used it as a way to help open new doors to my educational foundation,” Gadberry said. “During this time, I was also going through a period where I was preparing for physical therapy school, so, with her experience, she was able to mentally prepare me with what to expect. She also set time aside to prepare me to enhance my confidence with interviews and public speaking.”

This past summer, Campbell had a chance to work particularly closely with a group of students who went with her on a three-week study abroad trip to Italy. She helped them explore how the Mediterranean diet compares to the typical American diet, and how the diet’s components impact athletes and other physically active individuals.

Pursuing research in her own undergraduate program was not something Campbell had a chance to do.

“I am fortunate to be able to offer this opportunity to my students through the support here at UK," Campbell said.

Campbell was one of two UK faculty members recognized for their dedication to mentoring with the Excellent Undergraduate Research Mentor Award during the 13th annual Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars last May.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.