Whether it’s solving the world’s biggest problems or investigating the potential of novel discoveries, researchers at UCF are on the edge scientific breakthroughs that aim to make an impact. Through the Research in 60 Seconds series, student and faculty researchers condense their complex studies into bite-sized summaries so you can know how and why Knights plan to improve our world.

Name: Kylie Harmon
Major: Exercise physiology doctorate

Why are you interested in this research?
Not to alarm anyone, but we are all aging, every minute of every day. Why not embrace it? The narrative of being “too old” and “letting yourself go” is old news. Over the last year especially, the importance of maintaining health over the lifespan has become increasingly apparent. We shouldn’t only work to increase our lifespan but increase our health span. More healthy days means more days spent doing whatever it is that we love to do — spending time with friends and family, exploring new places, living independently. Maintaining our strength as we age helps us do that. There is so much research indicating that strength and muscle mass are positively correlated with healthy aging. You’ll feel better, you’ll look better, and you’ll fare better when ailments come knocking.

How did you get started in research at UCF?
I came to UCF because I wanted to be involved in a research-intensive program. Like the other exercise physiology graduate students, I was encouraged to begin a research trajectory right away. I had interviewed with my mentor before being offered a position in his lab, and he had given me a list of papers to read before my arrival. In this way, I was really able to hit the ground running and get involved in research during the first semester in my doctoral program. This is really a testament to mentorship and teamwork. I wouldn’t be where I am without my mentor and lab mates. In my experience, research needs a team approach. You need guidance and you need teammates. And when the going gets tough, it’s helpful to know those teammates are also your friends.

Are you a faculty member or student conducting research at UCF? We want to hear from you. Tell us about your research at bit.ly/ucf-research-60-form.

Who is your mentor? Who inspires you and how?
My mentor is Dr. Matt Stock, associate professor of physical therapy and director of the Neuromuscular Plasticity Laboratory and the Institute of Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation Sciences. He is a huge source of inspiration for me. He’s the hardest working person I know and has taught me countless lessons about what it means to be a successful researcher. He’s also just a good person and truly has his students’ best interests at heart, which is probably the most important quality in a mentor. We’re very fortunate to have him.

As far as other sources of inspiration, there are plenty of researchers that I admire, but I’ve been feeling extra inspired lately by my fellow graduate students. I’m consistently impressed by how hard they all work. It’s inspiring to see the ambition and determination that they all possess. Being surrounded by people with that kind of work ethic is motivating.

How does UCF empower you to do your research?
I could not be at a better place than UCF to do my research. Within the Department of Kinesiology, we have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment which allow us to complete innovative research projects year-round. We also have an incredible faculty who profoundly value mentorship. As graduate students, we have the unique opportunity to work closely with experts in the field while still being given ample room to grow. We also have an excellent environment of collaboration within our Institute of Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation Sciences. Opportunities to work with students and faculty members across disciplines are invaluable and provide important perspectives that we wouldn’t be privy to otherwise. It’s easy to get siloed into your research rabbit hole, but collaboration helps to broaden perspectives and challenge ideas, so we can add to existing research in more comprehensive ways.

Why is this research important?
I think preventative medicine is immensely important. What we can prevent, we don’t need to later treat. I firmly believe that exercise is medicine. It isn’t a cure all, but it’s a really accessible way to prevent a ton of chronic diseases and improve overall health. And you don’t need to go to extremes to reap the benefits.Start slowly. Do what you can. A set of resistance bands or dumbbells will go a long way for beginners. As with most things, it’s not about being perfect, but being consistent. So find something that you enjoy and can do on a regular basis. Something is always better than nothing. Strength training is healthcare.

How to Get Involved with Research at UCF

  • F-LEARN @ UCF: A living-learning community for STEM students entering UCF from high school that provides hands-on early research opportunity for academic success.
  • Getting Started Workshops: The Office of Research hosts workshops that inform students about how to get started in research and find a faculty member to work with and the first steps on getting started in research.
  • Honors Undergraduate Thesis: Over the course of two to four semesters, students work closely with a faculty committee to research, write, defend, and publish an original thesis that serves as an honors capstone product of their undergraduate career.
  • Introduction to Research and Creative Scholarship Opportunities (INTRO) Mentoring Program: A semester-long immersive, classroom experience offered in fall and spring semesters that provides students ways to get connected to research opportunities. This program is available in person or online.
  • Office of Undergraduate Research: OUR is dedicated to cultivating and supporting world-class research at UCF. Students can connect with the office for any questions they may have about research or to find opportunities.
  • Peer Mentoring:This program connects students with experienced undergraduate researchers who will provide guidance on how to get started and get support through research experiences.
  • Research Positions Database: This online resource allows students to discover research opportunities with UCF researchers across various disciplines. Please note faculty contact information is password protected, but students can gain access by attending a peer mentoring session, completing the Research Roadmaps webcourse, and through other engagement opportunities.
  • Research Roadmaps Webcourse: The is an online, non-credit, self-paced course that introduces students to research opportunities at UCF. It provides the same information as peer mentoring sessions or a workshop, but at your own pace. Completion of this course also provides you access to the Research Positions Database.
  • SONA: This is a research participation system that allows students who are looking to become participants in studies, usually in exchange for course credit, to find opportunities. The College of Health Professions and SciencesCollege of Business and Department of Psychology are among some of the units at UCF that list opportunities here.
  • Summer Research Academy: A three-day event in July that’s designed to support UCF undergraduate students across all majors who are interested in participating in research and creative scholarship. This is an ideal opportunity for students who want to begin research in the fall.
  • T-LEARN @ UCF:living-learning community for first-year, transfer students at UCF who have already earned an Associate in Arts degree. T-LEARN provides a select group of students interested in STEM hands-on learning experiences by helping them engage in research.

Are you a faculty member or student conducting research at UCF? We want to hear from you! Tell us about your research at bit.ly/ucf-research-60-form.