Alex Wilk, Senior, Exercise Science

Alex Wilk, Senior, Exercise Science:

What do you research?
We research cardiovascular changes, but, at the moment, I am specifically researching blood flow occlusion. Occlusion is, for example, if we were to partially block off the blood flow of an artery in your arm, then the body’s hyperemic response would cause blood flow in other areas to almost double to compensate. 

How do you conduct your research?
Participants come in, and we will lay them out and go through all the criteria of the research. We will take their blood pressure, and we will also measure their arm circumference in order to figure out if there is any difference between their dominant and nondominant arms. From there, we use something called a Doppler, which is similar to a big ultrasound machine, to look at vasculature. We then occlude the brachial artery to test if blood pressure is consistent. Using the Doppler is my favorite part.

Why did you select this topic?
I selected this topic because I was working with Dr. McDaniel, who was conducting a lot of research in cardiovascular changes, and I knew that this was a fairly new topic with not a lot of studies so I could do something new. Plus, I believe this research could have actual clinical use; it can be used for patients with a great amount of atrophy to help them recover and come back to the state they were in before.  

How did you become involved in research at Kent State?
I was seeking out research to look into, and I found a lot of Dr. McDaniel’s work that I was interested in. I also became involved through word of mouth. I have always had a known love for research, and this was really one of the only ways I found in which I could express it.

What do you enjoy most about research?
I enjoy that you can make your own discoveries and that you have an opportunity to answer questions to material not usually learned in a classroom. Everyone has that burning “what if” question in the back of their head that they want to solve, and you can do that with research.

What was one of the biggest challenges you have encountered in the process of research? How did you overcome it?
The structure of the research was definitely my biggest challenge. Looking through past work and also reaching out to graduate students and professors helped me to overcome that. There are so many variables that you have to set into place at one time or else everything gets skewed.

What are the benefits of undergraduate research? What are the commitments involved in undergraduate research?
You get the opportunity to answer any question that you could possibly have. Plus, it is nice to work and establish relationships with grad students and professors—the people who have been in your shoes and have a little more experience with it.

Regarding commitments, you are going to have to pencil in a lot more time and cultivate better time management in order to make everything fit. With my research, it had to be within a certain timeframe; it had to be in the morning.