South Students Shine at Sports Medicine Conference
Posted on April 11, 2023 by Lance Crawford
For Miranda Traylor, it turns out lightning does strike twice.
The University of South Alabama exercise science graduate student recently earned first place in the master’s student research category at the Southeast Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in Greenville, South Carolina. It was her second year in a row to take home a first place award.
Senior Sylvie Gray placed second in the undergraduate research category and was a part of South’s Student Bowl team – think Jeopardy with exercise science questions – that finished third out of 32 teams. The South trio also included senior Caroline Johnson and Alexia Manganti, a junior.
The stiff competition at the conference included many large, R1 Carnegie-ranked institutions.
“Our performance at the conference really speaks to our health, kinesiology and sport faculty for the opportunities that we are giving the students who want to go above and beyond classroom lectures,” said Dr. Joshua Keller, USA assistant professor of exercise science.
Dr. Neil Schwarz, associate professor and chair in the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Sport added, it was a total team effort.
"Dr. Geoffrey Hudson played a major role in organizing the resources needed to facilitate the student travel experience while Dr. Ryan Colquhoun was a faculty mentor for three student presentations. Of course, Dr. Keller has been masterful in his ability to foster students into award-winning scientists," he said.
At last year’s conference, Traylor, of Chelsea, Alabama, grabbed first place in the undergraduate research category.
“Winning research awards at the undergraduate and master level gives me the confidence that my passion for the research that I do can be seen by others,” Traylor said.
“At the award ceremony last year, they announced the first-place winner – ‘Miranda Taylor!’ My debut and they mispronounced my last name. Obviously, this fueled the fire a little more to come back and win first in the master’s category.”
Gray, of Boaz, Alabama, was one of eight finalists for the undergraduate research award.
“When I heard my name called second, of course I was extremely proud of myself and how far I've come,” Gray said. “But no one likes being second. My goal was to win, so I’m using this to push myself to work harder.”
Both students are members of Keller’s laboratory group that focuses on addressing modifiable risk factors that are known to be related to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and neurodegeneration or dementia.
“Our lab has a big emphasis on resistance training modalities of exercise,” Keller said. “We really believe that the fountain of youth is muscle mass and quality.”
Gray came to South with plans of eventually attending medical school, but that changed her freshman year when she discovered a passion for physical therapy.
“I was volunteering with Dance Without Limits, a dance class for students and adults with special needs, where I got to work directly with students helping them stretch and get moving,” she said. “Seeing what a difference it made in their attitude and overall well-being after class, I knew that physical therapy was better suited for me.”
Traylor, whose undergraduate degree is from South, said her eventual goal is to use her background in exercise science to become a physician.
“My advice to incoming freshman interested in medicine is to not overlook exercise science,” she said. “Everyone has their own path to success, and thankfully South Alabama offers a multitude of resources to help you achieve it.”