Biology - Serres, Eichinger, and Solberg

Mark Eichinger, Brian Solberg and Tricia Serres

Effects of Core Body Temperature on Running Economy

Tricia Serres ’16, Major: Biology

Mark Eichinger, Associate Professor of Biology

Brian Solberg, Associate Professor of Health and Physical Education

About the Project

“The purpose of our study was to look at the effects of core body temperature on running economy, lactate levels, and heart rate while trained subjects ran a set protocol on a treadmill,” Serres says. “The trained distance runners were tested twice within the span of two weeks. In one test they were submerged in a hot water bath to raise their core body temperature at least 1º C prior to exercise; the other was with no warm up.”

Eichinger adds, “This metabolic cost of running was compared to the oxygen consumption required to run at the same speeds without prior core body temperature elevation.”

Project Challenges

Serres says she believes the most difficult part of the project was organizing and thinking through the protocol and setup of the study. “There are so many variables that need to be considered and accounted for when doing research,” she says. “I learned that I had to narrow my testing and protocol to specifically address what we were looking for, otherwise there are just too many variables involved.”

Solberg also acknowledges that researchers often need to make modifications to protocol with testing. “You also can’t just choose protocol off a shelf and expect it to work for a specific research project,” he adds.

Eichinger found it most challenging to determine how long to submerge subjects in the hot water to produce a one-degree elevation in body temperature.

Interesting Observations

Eichinger, Serres, and Solberg all agree that even though they have yet to analyze the results statistically, the graphs from the data provide enough information to make general conclusions. Serres says, “I think our most fascinating discovery is that there is no difference in running economy in the heated versus not heated tests, even though heart rate is consistently elevated in the heated test compared to the non-heated.”

Contribution to Learning Experience

Serres believes this project has helped her learn a lot about the research process and what’s required to conduct a credible study. “I gained experience in collaborating with professors and administrators, as well as working with the research participants,” she says. “I also became more proficient at asking many questions and considering all factors that may be involved in testing.”

Advice for Students Contemplating Research

Serres feels other students can benefit from doing research because it involves exploring and analyzing other studies and professional journals, which can provide guidance and provoke new thoughts and questions. “Another asset is getting to learn, work with, and know your professor(s) at a more personal level,” she says, “I've enjoyed the opportunity to meet with my research professors to discuss all aspects of our research.”

Solberg suggests that students considering research should find a topic that motivates them or piques their interest and pursue it. He says, “Be prepared to be self motivated, take initiative, and expand your understanding of the research process.”

Eichinger believes that students should seek out research opportunities if they enjoy problem solving, and seek to connect concepts at a greater level than is possible through a lecture and textbook format. He says, “Be bold, and ask to be part of a faculty member's research.”

Student involvement in research projects such as Tricia's provide the opportunity to integrate knowledge across the disciplines that have been studied in one large project.

—Brian Solberg

The real reason for conducting research at an undergraduate institution is to incorporate students in the scientific process. Research, which is the asking of novel questions and the completion of controlled studies to glean new information, is an excellent venue for advanced teaching.

—Mark Eichinger