Colleen Novak, Ph.D., Christina Watts and Jordan Smith - College of Public Health

Muscle thermogenesis has become a “hot” topic within the Department of Biological Sciences as Jordan Smith, undergraduate in the College of Public Health, works alongside graduate student Christina Watts and Professor Colleen Novak, Ph.D., to better understand the process of energy expenditure. 

Image of Jordan Smith

“Obesity is an issue that is frequently being addressed in the public health field,” Smith said. “While what I am doing is hyper-specific to the area of research, it can help identify the process of energy expenditure to promote weight loss and healthy living.”

Using mice as test subjects within the lab, the team runs temperature focused experiments to study the effects of targeted stimulation within the brain and how it impacts muscle temperature.

“Heat production means energy is being used,” Watts said. “By activating these receptors responsible for thermal reaction with a specifically designed drug, we can analyze the physical outcome and determine the rate at which the neurons fire. Increased firing results in an increased reaction.”

While testing is being conducted on mice, the information found is easily transferable to human biology, as the reaction would remain consistent across all species. 

“Finding ways to boost energy expenditure is an important element within weight loss,” Novak said. “Identifying the neurological processes involved is essential for research development.” 


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