March 27th, 2023
The Physiology of the G.O.A.T. (Part 1- endocrine)

Who is the G.O.A.T.?

Figure 1 shows the main life events that took place since the G.O.A.T. was born. Lionel Andres Messi Cuccittini (Leo) was born on the 24th of June 1987, in the city of Rosario, Santa Fé province, Argentina. In 1992, when he was 4 years old, his grandmother suggested that he should play for local club “Abanderado Grandoli”. Even at that young age, his agility and soccer skills were quickly noticed, and he signed into the historic professional soccer team in Rosario, called Newell’s Old Boys, in the youth ranks in 1995. Newell’s Old Boys is notorious for being one of the few professional clubs from outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina, that has dominated the national scenes of the sport. Many great Argentinean players and tacticians have emerged from this club.

In 1998, unfortunate news came to Leo with his diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency (GHD), he immediately started the treatment, but his family struggled to find the means to pay for the treatment. Regardless, he continued to play soccer, and his father, continued looking for a club for Messi, as his talent was very evident. A scout from Barcelona, Spain, received a tip about a boy in Argentina called Messi. He had been watching videos of this player and knew about the need of the young player for GHD treatment, but everybody thought he was too young and little (2). Nevertheless, because of Messi’s extraordinary skills, a trial for the 11-year-old was arranged in Barcelona. The scout, and everybody present, were surprised to see the talented, and unusually small 11- year-old playing a game, and tried to sign him immediately. However, there was a delay that felt like an eternity, and Messi’s father told Barcelona’s scout that they needed to return to Argentina, and they couldn’t keep waiting for a decision. And right there, the scout was in such a rush to sign Messi that he wouldn’t wait to have a written contract, and did not want to lose such talent, so they signed an agreement on a napkin (  In 2000, Messi joined “La Masia, FC Barcelona’s youth academy” and Messi and his father moved to Spain. Part of the contract included paying for Messi’s GHD treatment.

Messi made his debut with Barcelona in 2004, against city rivals Espanyol. Two years later, in 2006, Messi played at his first World Cup for Argentina. Two years after that, he won the Olympic gold medal with Argentina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. By 2009, Leo had proven his mettle, and was voted the FIFA’s Ballon d’Or winner, the best player in the world, and received this prestigious award six more times. In 2022, Messi achieved his lifelong dream, and won the world cup with Argentina, and unofficially became the G.O.A.T. In early March 2023, Messi was voted yet again as the FIFA best men’s player, in other words, now Messi is “officially” the G.O.A.T.

Size matters, but it is not the main problem!

Messi was 1.32m (4ft 4in) tall at the age of 11 and he had not grown in a couple of years [1]. So, yes height was an issue, but not the biggest issue. Messi suffered from growth hormone deficiency-GHD. According to the Endocrine Society, GHD is a rare condition affecting 1 in 4,000- 1in 10,000 cases [2], and unfortunately, Messi was one of these rare cases. When children have GHD the normal growth of bone and muscle is impaired. GHD can be congenital or acquired, but the consequences of it go well beyond the obvious slowing in growth and short stature. It can cause serious systemic problems, including glucose [3] and fat metabolism [4], cardiovascular complications [5], depression [6], and all of these also lead to fatigue and  exercise intolerance.

Figure 3 illustrates how the secretion of GH occurs, and its actions on various target organs. Under normal healthy conditions, there is a fluctuation in GH secretion during the day, with a marked increase in its secretion during sleep, most precisely about an hour after the onset of deep sleep. Inputs such as exercise, stress, hypoglycemia signal the hypothalamus to secrete growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH), this hormone travels to the anterior pituitary gland where ultimately, GH is secreted.  Somatropes are the cells in the anterior pituitary gland that secrete GH, which travels systemically to the liver, where insulin-like growth factor 1 is secreted (IGF-I). IGFs act on target cells that cause growth of bone and soft tissues. Since Messi had GHD, the levels of IGF-I were probably lower, slowing his growth during pre-pubertal years before the growth spurt. Other factors affect the levels of IGF-I, most specifically, inadequate nutrition negatively affects its levels in the blood. Fortunately, Messi received treatment before puberty, allowing him to grow to be 170 cm tall (5’7”). However, not only the lack of growth in bone and soft tissues could have halted his amazing athletic career, GHD also results in metabolic complications not related to growth that could have affected his tolerance to exercise.

Give me the sugar!

As illustrated in figure 3, GH acts directly on skeletal muscle, the liver, and adipose tissue. The overall action of GH is to maintain glucose homeostasis. In other words, GH increases the levels of circulating blood glucose, critical to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy at rest, and most importantly during exercise. The action of GH on the muscle is to inhibit the glucose uptake by the muscle, thus, increasing the levels of circulating glucose to be later used for ATP production. Additionally, to further spare glucose in the blood stream, GH mobilizes fat stores by breaking down triglycerides, increasing fatty acid levels in blood. In the liver, GH also promotes gluconeogenesis, or the formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates. All these actions can occur simultaneously and depend on the intensity and duration of exercise. With GHD, athletes can be more easily fatigued, and Messi probably would have been unable to perform to the level he did, and becoming the G.O.A.T.

We need glucose to create ATP, during exercise, especially at high intensities as humans depend on the ability to spare glucose, the only fuel for the central nervous system. Your brain is like a selfish boss, everybody (in this case every organ) must work to keep it happy and functioning. To keep your brain “happy” the rest of your organs need to make sure enough glucose is in the blood for the brain to have the energy for all of its intricate functions.

This glucose homeostasis happens by the orchestrated actions of several hormones including glucagon, cortisol, catecholamines and GH. One of the major adaptations of training is the decrease reliance on carbohydrates for energy and a shift to fat metabolism. At rest and low intensity exercise, we use mostly fats as “fuel” however, when we go above 50-60% of the maximum, we switch to carbohydrates for metabolism. This phenomenon is called the “crossover point”. Endurance exercise training shifts this crossover point to higher intensities, sparing glucose and decreasing the accumulation of lactic acid. When a person exercises and experience the “hit the wall” phenomenon (i.e., the sudden loss of energy during an endurance event like a race) it is due to low blood glucose levels. GHD probably could have played a role on Messi’s metabolism if not treated.

What else makes the G.O.A.T the best?

There is much to talk about Messi, from the endocrine system to his extraordinary neural activity that makes him very fast and coordinated. From his tolerance to fatigue, high maximal oxygen consumption and lactate threshold to the muscle fiber type to motor unit recruitment and synchronization, we are going to focus only on the metabolic adaptations of training of this elite athlete, and we promise a part 2 of this blog post to talk about the rest of the adaptations of training that makes the G.O.A.T the best!

Maximal Oxygen Consumption (VO2max)

Oxygen consumption refers to the amount of oxygen being taken up by the tissues per minute to oxidize substrates (like carbohydrates and fats). Maximal oxygen consumption (or VO2max) refers to the amount of oxygen used during an incremental exercise to exhaustion. The higher the VO2max the higher the endurance capacity of the person, and their “fuel” utilization. This oxygen is being taken up by skeletal muscle and used in the mitochondria to create ATP. One adaptation of endurance training is having higher VO2max values. While sedentary males range between 25- 45 ml/kg/min, and distance runners could be between 65- 85 ml/kg/min,  the values for professional soccer players can range between 59.2 to 63.2 ml/kg/min, and mid-fielders and attackers have higher values than defenders and goalies [7].

A limitation of this test is that it is conducted in standardized conditions in a laboratory, and fails to replicate the actual consumption, often supra-maximal, that occurs during a game. Nevertheless, this is the gold standard measurement for cardiovascular fitness, and we speculate that the G.O.A.T. may have high VO2max values. We also think that Messi has a high lactate threshold, or the point in which lactate production exceeds clearance during this incremental maximal exercise test to exhaustion. High lactate threshold and crossover point can be related, as the endurance-trained person has better ability to spare glucose (carb reserves) and thus creates less lactic acid. Also, higher oxidative metabolism results in higher ability to oxidize lactate during the athletic event and use it as fuel.  Athletes like Messi usually have all the biochemical adaptations that make their skeletal muscle fibers more resistant to fatigue. This is due to mitochondrial proliferation and capillary recruitment. Messi is also a very explosive and fast player, due to a combination of nature (his genetic makeup) and nurture (his training), probably with a high number of Type II fast-oxidative muscle fibers with high levels of Myosin-ATPase activity. These fibers have intermediate resistance to fatigue, high oxidative phosphorylation capacity, fast speed of contraction, many capillaries and mitochondria and high myoglobin content.

Why is Messi the G.O.A.T?

The chances of a young boy from the countryside of Argentina with GHD to be even considered for any major international soccer club are very slim. This is because in Argentina everybody plays soccer and there are numerous soccer players and too much competition. In fact, Messi was rejected from giant club “River Plate” in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before signing his agreement on a napkin with Barcelona.  The economic disparities also play a role on the odds of any young player to become a professional soccer player if any medical treatment is needed. However, there was something special about this boy, and it only took a trained eye to envision a wonderful professional career. Without the hormonal supplementation, Messi would have probably never had a shot. Fortunately for soccer fans all over the world, advances in biomedical research made it possible for Messi to reach his full potential and become this phenomenon adored by all.


  1. Hawkey, I. Lionel Messi on a mission. 2008 [cited 2023 March 5]; Available from:
  2. Endocrine_Society. Growth Hormone Deficiency. 2023 [cited 2023 March 6th]; Available from:
  3. Hew, F.L., et al., Growth hormone deficiency and cardiovascular risk. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab, 1998. 12(2): p. 199-216.
  4. Gertner, J.M., Growth hormone actions on fat distribution and metabolism. Horm Res, 1992. 38 Suppl 2: p. 41-3.
  5. Lombardi, G., et al., The cardiovascular system in growth hormone excess and growth hormone deficiency. J Endocrinol Invest, 2012. 35(11): p. 1021-9.
  6. Karachaliou, F.H., et al., Association of growth hormone deficiency (GHD) with anxiety and depression: experimental data and evidence from GHD children and adolescents. Hormones (Athens), 2021. 20(4): p. 679-689.
  7. Slimani, M., et al., Maximum Oxygen Uptake of Male Soccer Players According to their Competitive Level, Playing Position and Age Group: Implication from a Network Meta-Analysis. J Hum Kinet, 2019. 66: p. 233-245.
Benjamin Puppato is a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Floyd Central High School. He loves playing soccer, and also he is interested in statistics and facts about soccer, particularly of Argentinean players and teams.





Dr. Terson de Paleville is an associate professor of Physiology at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine. She teaches Exercise Physiology and Human Physiology courses. Dr. Terson de Paleville has investigated the effects of activity-based therapy on respiratory muscles, body composition and autonomic function after spinal cord injury. Additional research project involves research on best practices for teaching physiology.

March 22nd, 2023
“Is integrated curriculum disintegrating the holistic approach among smart learners?”

I feel smart learners are becoming surface learners in the integrated curriculum by juggling with only the learning outcomes included in the blueprint without processing the information. They calculate the bare minimum content required just to pass. They are not ready to come out of their comfort zone to progress by acquiring hard-core concepts at the level of application and synthesis. They appear in a module exam and stop relating it to other modules.

Integrated curriculum is being implemented at the cost of lack of ownership by subject specialists. System-based modules lay the foundation of disciplines on Anatomy but not on the themes associated with clinical features like chest pain. When diseases are studied within systems, the integration is itself disintegrated into anatomical boundaries.

Problem-based learning from which students can derive their own learning outcomes to solve the scenario remains the only hope to integrate the systems, as diseases seldom restrict themselves to one system. As assessment drives learning, PBL may be assessed by case-cluster-MCQs and integrated viva by relevant subject specialists. Being a student-centered methodology, adding to the burden of an integrated curriculum involving multiple subjects, PBL is usually neglected by the student body. There is a dire need to innovate PBL and make it interesting by using students as simulated patients and by allowing them into doctor-patient-role-play, whereas the remaining students may be engaged in healthy critique and feedback along with critical thinking, leadership and teamwork to achieve academic as well as social learning. PBL workshops with faculty and students may be beneficial.

The relatively new concept of “patients as educators of students” may be practiced by recruiting actors and real patients carefully through interviews and seeking their consent for history-taking and/or physical examination. Feedback and assessment by simulated patients may contribute to real-patient safety. Their video may be created as a future learning resource. Smart learners need smart teachers to handle them along with their modern curriculum.

Prof. Dr. Samina Malik

HOD Physiology, University College of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Lahore

PBL Country head for Pakistan, Asia-Pacific Association on PBL in Health Sciences (APA-PHS)

Secretary General, South Asian Association of Physiologists

Masters in Med Edu student at Dundee university, UK

Member APS, Teaching of Physiology section (Member No. 00307332)

February 21st, 2023
Leveraging Alumni to Engage Undergraduates

One of the things that I love about Buena Vista University (BVU), the small, liberal-arts school that I teach at, is the ability to form deep, long-lasting connections with students. As our most recent NSSE data suggests, BVU forms meaningful student-faculty and student-academic advisor connections. For example, the ‘Quality of Interactions Engagement’ indicator revealed that 63 % of our first years and 78 % of our seniors had ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ interactions with academic advisors and 73 % of our first years and 63 % of our seniors had ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ interactions with faculty. These connections are maintained as students move on to graduate and professional schools and into the working world. BVU’s School of Science has done an amazing job at maintaining these connections and continually engaging alumni.

The most common type of alumni engagement we have are internships and shadowing opportunities. As students explore the various careers available to them, we leverage our alumni as our first point of contact. For example, if a student is deciding whether they want to go into physical therapy or occupational therapy, we can have them shadow a BVU alum that works at the local sports rehabilitation and physical therapy clinic.

Stethoscope on wooden health .background concept.

BVU alumni have also created their own internship experiences for current students. Several local alumni physicians partnered with BVU to create a three-week internship experience known as the Undergraduate Rural Medial Education and Development (URMED) program. The goal of this partnership is to provide students with hands-on learning and encourage them to pursue careers in rural medicine upon completion of their professional training. Over the course of three weeks, students shadow various rural physicians, most of which are BVU alumni, in disciplines including family medicine, obstetrics, general surgery, orthopedic surgery and more. This internship has benefitted both the students and the hospitals who participate in the program. Students get an in-depth, firsthand experience in rural medicine, while the hospitals form connections with young, talented future physicians. In the 15 years that URMED has been in existence, 100% of the students who participated in the program (2 – 3 students per year) have been accepted to medical school or the professional program of their choice, such as physician assistant school. I know that statistic seems hard to believe but I promise you it is accurate. Many of those participants are actively practicing in rural medicine, with several of them practicing here in Storm Lake. URMED works, and it’s all thanks to the dedication from BVU alumni wanting to give back to BVU and their community.

These internship and shadowing experiences, either part of URMED or outside of it, creates relationships between the alumni and the students that allows the students to be able to get letters of recommendation from these individuals. Outside of these letters of recommendation, our alumni also help our students with the application process to graduate and professional schools via engaging students in various types of mock interviews. Several alumni came back to simulate one-on-one, back-to-back interviews with our students. We’ve had other alumni participate in a group panel to simulate group interviews that are common for graduate school. We’ve even had alumni host virtual mock interviews to simulate the online format that many graduate and professional schools have been utilizing. More recently we have had an alum host a case study-based interview. The alum was a trained by her medical school to carry out the case-study portion of the medical school interview and used this knowledge to walk our students through a case study. This alum provided the students with information on what medical schools are looking for as well as dos and don’ts of the case-study portion of the interview.

In addition to facilitating internships and assistance with the application process, our alumni provide endless advice to our students. About once a month, we bring an alum to campus to have dinner with the students. These casual gatherings over tacos allow students to ask intimate questions about the alum’s profession, what steps they took to get where they are, how well BVU prepared them for the next level, and so much more. Other times, our alumni will also serve on panels. These panels are aimed at a variety of audiences, including prospective students, freshman and sophomores trying to figure out their life path, as well as upperclassman looking to graduate. Whatever the audience, the alumni offer up advice and words of wisdom to help guide students on their journeys.

Last, but not least, my personal favorite ways to engage alumni in the classroom is in my upper-level human anatomy class. In this class, we have Clinical Evenings in the cadaver lab. After learning about a certain unit, an alum walks the students through a mock clinical procedure based on the lecture content. For example, we have a BVU alum who is an orthopedic surgeon. At the end of the lower limb unit, this alum came to lab and walked students through how to repair a femur fracture. With the alum’s instructions and guidance, the students placed a plate on the femur fracture, running all the drills, guides, and screws through the whole procedure. The alum will quiz the students on the anatomy and physiology of the area as they are working through the procedure to give application to what the students are learning about in lecture. Another example occurs during the pelvic unit, in which one of our alums reviews female pelvic anatomy before teaching students how to implant intrauterine devices into papayas. Both the students and alumni have a blast working together in the hands-on learning environment.

As a full-time teaching faculty, students are my passion. I love helping students expand their views and knowledge. I love pushing students to continually improve and to reach their goals, all while supporting them during the process. I wouldn’t be able to serve my students quite as well if it weren’t for our generous alumni. I want to thank everyone reading this who has given back to their alma mater in some way, shape, or form to help students. Your time and knowledge are indispensable to the students, and while it may not always seem like it, you’ve impacted student lives more than you know.

Dr. Sarah Schlichte is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Buena Vista University (BVU) in Storm Lake, Iowa. She began teaching at BVU, her alma mater, after finishing her PhD at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Integrative Physiology and Molecular Medicine in 2021. Her teaching emphasis is general biology, human physiology, human anatomy, and neuroscience for Life Science majors. She also enjoys teaching general biology to non-majors as well.
February 1st, 2023
This semester, work on building trust with your students

As you begin your semester, you should be thinking about how trust matters in your classroom, and how to build it. Trust in an academic setting may be defined as “a perception that the instructor understands the challenges facing students as they progress through the course, accepts students for who they are, and cares about the educational welfare of students” (1). While your own definition may differ slightly, it likely will contain a description of a classroom dynamic that most instructors will find worth pursuing.

Is “trust” an important factor in learning outcomes in STEM classrooms? In a word, yes. Research from Wang et al. suggests that high degrees of trust in classrooms with high levels of evidence-based teaching practices was predictive of student buy-in and commitment, which in turn was positively associated with a student’s final course grade and persistence in science (2).

If trust is a critical part of your inclusive learning environment, how do you know whether your classroom is a high-trust one? One way is by surveying your students early on in the semester – which in itself is an opportunity to build trust with your students. Fortunately, relatively simple surveys for assessing inclusive learning and trust are readily available (see Ref. 1; supplemental materials). If you are already taking the temperature of your classroom via early-semester anonymous student surveys, consider asking your students whether they feel understood, accepted, and cared for – in other words, whether you have their trust.

What can you do if you realize that your commitment to an inclusive learning environment is not being reflected by high levels of trust? One recommendation is to consider various aspects of your course structure and consider a) whether they benefit students, and b) whether students realize that this is the case.

There are many ways to consider course design, though you may find it helpful to consider three distinct components of your learning environment:

Content and Pedagogy: Are my expectations realistic? Do I provide clarity, transparency, and opportunity to practice and reflect on learning progress?

Assessment structure: Do I assess early and frequently? Do I use criterion-reference assessments? Is there appropriate flexibility in how the grade is being determined? Do I offer opportunity for practice and revision, if appropriate?

Class climate: What am I doing to make sure students understand I am in their corner? Do I obtain anonymous student feedback? Do I engage with students in discussing the feedback I received?

If this sounds like too tall a task, fear not: Even small changes in your course can lead to meaningful improvements. And fortunately, there is no need to re-invent the wheel: The new APS Center for Physiology Education offers a wealth of information and is frequently updated with new materials. As you reconsider your course with a renewed focus on trust, you are sure to find a wealth of peer-reviewed and -tested resources to guide you in your ongoing growth as a teacher.


  1. Cavanagh AJ, Chen X, Bathgate M, Frederick J, Hanauer DI, Graham MJ. Trust, Growth Mindset, and Student Commitment to Active Learning in a College Science Course. CBE—Life Sci Educ 17: ar10, 2018. doi: 10.1187/cbe.17-06-0107.
  2. Wang C, Cavanagh AJ, Bauer M, Reeves PM, Gill JC, Chen X, Hanauer DI, Graham MJ. A Framework of College Student Buy-in to Evidence-Based Teaching Practices in STEM: The Roles of Trust and Growth Mindset. CBE—Life Sci Educ 20: ar54, 2021. doi: 10.1187/cbe.20-08-0185.
Josef Brandauer is an Associate Professor of Health Sciences at Gettysburg College, where he also directs the Johnson Center for Creative Teaching and Learning. Brandauer’s research focuses on mitochondrial biology, and how inclusive pedagogy results in student persistence and success.
January 9th, 2023
Getting involved with the APS is easier than ever — apply now for a Society Committee

One of the most common questions that I would hear while serving as the Teaching Section representative to the APS Committee on Committees (CoC) was, “How do I get more involved with The Society?” If you have wondered about that, the good news is that the application portal for APS Committee applications is now open. You have until 6 February to prepare and submit your materials.

To help you prepare, the CoC has released a detailed rubric with information about how each application is evaluated. In this article, we’ll go through the 6 key criteria, as well as some tips and strategies for putting together a strong, competitive application.

Another common question when applying for committees is whether your past experiences qualify you to submit a competitive application. The new rubric is designed to take your career stage into account during the selection process. A grad student and a senior faculty member will each have very different applications and you should not compare yourself to anyone else. Focus on your strengths, experiences, and credentials and highlight them in your application. It may take more than one application cycle to get selected for a committee, and the CoC rubric takes your established, sustained interest in serving the APS into consideration as well. Keep applying and note how your application has changed from previous years.

Criterion 1: Interest in serving on this APS Committee — Service often starts with interest and passion in the subject of the work. Becoming engaged with The Society requires more than just a general desire to “be more involved” or to “give back to the community.” It also requires a drive to inspire change and growth for our community. Take some time to read about the committees and the work it does on the APS website. Be specific about your reasons for applying to a committee. You are allowed to submit your application for up to two committees, but each application must be well-tailored to that committee.

Criterion 2: Special qualifications — This is another area in which you should tailor your application to the specific Committee to which you are applying. The needs of each committee are very different. Remember that your career stage is an important part of the evaluation. You don’t need to have experience in every area to score well. Highlight the work that you’ve done and how it relates to the focus of the Committee.

Criterion 3: Contribution to APS DEI goals — One of the key pillars of the APS strategic plan is furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Society and its work. We want to make sure that physiology is a place where everyone is welcome and there are lots of ways to demonstrate your commitment to that goal. Refer to the APS Values, Policies, and Statements and the APS Diversity Statement using the links below. This is one of the most important areas on the rubric and the weighted value of this category reflects that. Make sure to take your time putting together your statement here.

Criterion 4: Broad academic interests and background — One of the strengths of the Society is how diverse it is, both in terms of the people that make up the organization as well as the academic and scientific areas of expertise that we research. Make sure that you promote your interests and areas of focus in clear language that is accessible to everyone, not just those in your specific field of research and study. This is a great chance to highlight your ability to communicate about science, technology, and education is clear, concise ways.

Criterion 5: Prior APS activities and other service — This is another area in your application that will depend on your career stage. You might be applying for your first service position as an early-stage grad student. Or you might be applying for the chair of a committee as a senior faculty member. Focus and highlight your experiences and achievements in your journey. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your CV to anyone else’s — be confident in the work you have done and accomplishments that you have achieved.


Criterion 6: Endorsement letter — Take the time to meet with your endorser and discuss your goals for both your career and the work that you hope to do while serving on an APS Committee. The CoC is looking for your letter to specifically talk to your interests, passions, and potential contributions to the work of the Committee to which you are applying. If you are applying to two committees, make sure that your endorser is aware of this and that each letter should be specific for each of your applications. If you don’t have someone that can write you an endorsement letter, see the contact information below for society members that can help.

Tips and strategies:

  • Yes, you do have what it takes to apply for a committee! It doesn’t matter what career stage you are in. The only way to get involved is to apply. Focus on your application and highlight your career journey.
  • Start now and give yourself plenty of time to review and revise your materials and meet with your endorser. The committee is looking for well-written, high-quality responses to each of the 6 criteria in the application.
  • Ask for your endorsement letter early. A well-written letter takes time to prepare, and the beginning of the semester is busy for everyone. Get your request in now.
  • Use the rubric and make sure that you’ve followed the guidelines for each of the criteria closely.
  • Reach out for assistance if you have questions or are unsure about anything. There’s a list of contacts below that are available for anything you need.

Important links:

  • Learn about the APS Committees:
  • Review the Committee Application Process:
  • Access the Committee Application Rubric:
  • Refer to the APS Values, Policies, and Statements and the APS Diversity Statement:

Important contacts for preparing your materials:

  • I am the past Teaching Section representative to the CoC (2019 – 2022) and led the working group that created the new application rubric. I’m happy to meet with any APS members to answer questions about the application process and briefly review your materials. Email me at to set a time to meet.
  • Cyndi Metz is the current Teaching Section representative to the CoC. You can reach her at for questions about service opportunities within the Teaching Section as well as your application to serve on an APS Committee.
  • Other general questions concerning the application process can be directed to Dexter Lee (, Chair, Committee on Committees (CoC), and Sandra Spadoni (, APS staff liaison to the CoC.

Applications are due by 6 February 2023. Make sure that all of your materials are submitted before the due date so you don’t miss out on your chance to serve on a Society committee. Good luck and let us know if you need anything as you prepare your materials.

Ryan Downey, PhD, MA is an assistant professor of physiology at AUC School of Medicine and an adjunct assistant professor of physiology at Georgetown University. He earned a BA in biochemistry at Texas Tech University, a MS in physiology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, a PhD in integrative biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and a MA in learning, design, and technology from Georgetown University. He was a teaching postdoctoral fellow in the Fellowships in Research and Science Training (FIRST) Program at Emory University. Ryan joined the faculty at Georgetown University in 2017 where he was co-director of the graduate physiology program, teaching faculty, and a member of the Georgetown University Medical Center Teaching Academy for the Health Sciences. He moved his primary appointment to AUC in 2021. He serves as associate editor for the American Physiological Society journal, Advances in Physiology Education, and is a contributing author, editor, and content expert for Understand Your Physiology, an interactive, online study resource for physiology learning. Ryan is also a PADI scuba instructor and enthusiastic advocate for ocean conservancy and marine life stewardship.
January 5th, 2023
Achieving Small Goals Can Lead to Bigger Changes Than You Might Expect

I started writing this blog with the intention to talk about the undergraduate physiology course I revamped this semester. Don’t worry, I still plan to talk about it because it is a fantastic course. However, since this blog is set to be posted around December 31st, I thought I might start off by reflecting on my past year. If you learn anything from my journey, I hope it’s that even achieving small goals can lead to bigger changes than you might expect.


To begin this year, my goal was to attend Experimental Biology (EB). It was one of my favorite conferences to attend as a graduate student and postdoc, but I hadn’t gone since becoming faculty (4yrs). In late 2021, I became acquainted with how helpful the Teaching Section for APS could be for my career as a physiology educator. I thought attending EB would be a good way to network and get new ideas for my courses. Being Non-Tenure track faculty, with 100% teaching effort, I don’t have grants to fund my travel. So, I depend on my department for support. I was a bit scared to ask, but looking back, I don’t know why. I’m not sure if anyone else fears asking their department for travel funds. I guess I didn’t want to be a burden during tight financial times, but my goal was to go to EB, so asking was one very small step. Just a quick email:

Hi Charlie,

I was wondering if I could go to EB this year to learn from the other physiology educators. Is there money in the department’s budget for travel for me?


With an even quicker reply:

Yes indeed.

And that was that! So stinking easy! Goal achieved! ✅

Now, I wouldn’t make a big deal about setting small goals leading to bigger changes, if that was the end of the great things 2022 had to offer. No, that was just the beginning. Going to EB set off what seemed to be a rocket-ship of networking that led to an incredible opportunity. The PrEP-E Fellowship. PrEP-E stands for Preparing Effective Physiology Educators. This incredible fellowship is an APS Professional Skills Training Course. Before going to EB, I didn’t even know it existed, let alone that I was the target audience for the course. As a Lecturer who has not yet been promoted, I am still considered a trainee for our section. I had no idea! So many of the wonderful members of the teaching section encouraged me to apply. I had just met them, and they made me feel like I could do anything! I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so welcomed by so many people in such a short amount of time. I am forever grateful (I’m not crying…I swear).  Anyway, as soon as I got back to Florida, I applied. Then I got the notification a month later that I was awarded the fellowship! I couldn’t believe it! I was so proud. It felt like it all happened so fast! This amazing fellowship connected me with peers who are also at the beginning stages of their careers and building incredible courses all over the country. I was also given a mentor, Dr. Lisa Anderson. She gave me career advice specific to teaching faculty. We discussed my Teaching Philosophy, DEI statements (an interesting thing to navigate in Fl, at the time, and another story all together), and my Tenure and Promotion Packet. We began planning an education research project together. The switch from bench science to education research was a difficult transition for me. I honestly didn’t know where to start. Having a mentor to guide me was comforting. Just knowing that you are supported, and you have someone who understands what you are trying to accomplish, can have a major impact on your work. I am so grateful for Lisa and her mentorship.

Additionally, as part of the PrEP-E course, I attended my first Institute on Teaching and Learning (ITL). It was a wonderfully overwhelming experience. I met more physiology educators with similar goals as mine. We all want to make the learning environment for our students robust, engaging, inclusive and equitable. ITL gave us tools to implement these goals. I used these tools when remodeling my advanced undergraduate level physiology course: Human Physiology in Translation. Dr. Kayon Murray-Johnson gave us tools to consider when focusing on race and equity in the classroom (1). Dr. Katelyn Cooper encouraged us to consider how active learning might affect students of the LGBTQ+ community, or those dealing with depression/anxiety, or who may have learning or physical disabilities (2). Both of these extraordinary women showed me that if I can be more open with my students and show compassion when they need it, they might feel more comfortable in my classroom, and thus be more open to learning. I like to think that I made steps in the right direction this semester. While creating the syllabus, I made sure to include a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statement for the first time. On the first day of class, I took the time to get to know my students and asked what was important to them as members of a team. I used their suggestions to create a Rubric they would use for peer grading. This set the tone for the year. The students wanted an equitable and inclusive classroom, and I assured them I would provide that space for them.


In addition to a more inclusive and equitable classroom, I was also inspired by my fellow educators to create a more engaging classroom. For years, my course has been a series of didactic lectures taught by a team of professors from our department in four self-contained modules: Endocrinology, Neural and Muscle Physiology, Cardiovascular and Renal Physiology, and Respiratory and Circadian Rhythms. At the end of each module students took a multiple-choice exam, with these 4 exams being the sole assessments for the year. During the 1st year of COVID (2020), I added discussions as a participation grade, which worked when we were fully online. However, when we went to a hybrid classroom in 2021, students mostly posted responses online, and only a few showed up in person. It seemed like a waste of time for the professors to come and sit in a mostly empty room, while I tried to spark some kind of discussion. It was boring and awkward for everyone involved. I knew I needed to change the set up. I wanted a flipped classroom, I just needed to figure out how to engage students better in person.

At ITL, an abstract titled, “Using the ‘flipped classroom’ to promote equity in undergraduate biology courses,” from Drs. Marisol Lopez and Donika Rakacolli gave me the push I needed. I agree with their assessment that providing content for students to study at their own pace outside of the classroom allows for a more equitable learning environment to reinforce the difficult concepts during class time (3). I knew I wanted to use class time for discussions, and Dr. Lopez gave me advice on how to provide more structure, and to ensure buy-in from the students. I did this by adding “Team Based Learning” quizzes (IRAT and TRAT) for each class (4). This ensured students would come to class prepared, and ready for the questions the professors posed. Additionally, the Rubric the students created included “Commitment to the group by coming to class prepared,” and “Contributing quality information to the group for the TRAT, discussions, and projects.” It worked. We had very robust discussions during class time. I learned more about what interested the students as the semester progressed and asked the professors to think about how their system might affect or be affected by exercise and/or pregnancy and come prepared. This was rewarding for everyone. Some of our professors who normally don’t teach or even think about the physiology of pregnancy, now had to answer very thoughtful questions about how their system might have to adapt. I was excited to come to class knowing that we would be having invigorating discussions about our topics in ways we never had before.

You may have noticed that I mentioned ‘projects’ in reference to the student prepared Rubric. This comes from another abstract that inspired me at ITL, “Clinical and Translational Physiology: Student perceptions of processed based learning to create an authentic learning experience.”(5)  Dr. Joseph Rathner walked me through the work he did in his course, and I couldn’t help but notice how similar our courses were. Much like my Human Physiology in Translation course, Dr. Rathner’s course is divided into modules but instead of relying on exams, quizzes, and participation grades, he assigned team projects in each module. I thought this was the solution I needed to address the lack of diverse assessments in my course. For each module, I gave the students a list of pathophysiology’s to choose from and told them they could present on their chosen topic in any way they wanted: social media, websites, infographics, the sky was the limit. They had to designate an “intended audience,” of their choosing. For example, elderly patients that might be affected, or experts in the field wanting updates on the treatment options. The only requirement was to hit each mark from the provided Rubric. Did they specify the audience, and was their presentation appropriate for said audience? Did they show an understanding of the related physiology and pathophysiology? Was their presentation dynamic and engaging? The final rule was that they couldn’t present in the same way twice. With 8 students in the class, we had 2 groups of 4, Team AVORA and Team Sting. In the first module, Sting gave a power-point lecture, and AVORA designed an infographic. In the second module, Sting gave an abstract presentation for “Research Day at UF” (they made it up), and AVORA gave a power-point presentation and a dramatization (more on that later) to “High School Students.” In the third module, both groups recorded videos. This was a perfect example of how these flexible assignments accommodated my students. Three of my 8 students were exchange students from Spain. During the scheduled presentation, they were going to be out of town. With the flexibility of the assignment, they received full marks of participation, despite not being physically present during the presentation. In the final module the students gave the most dynamic presentations. Because they could not do the same format twice, they needed to get more creative. Team AVORA created an Instagram account @shiftworkdisorders (please follow and smash that like). Team Sting created an entire skit with 2 students playing MDs, and the other 2 playing a young patient being diagnosed with Asthma and her mother. It was fantastic! I am so proud of how they progressed through the semester.

It is later…So, time for more on “Dramatization.” At ITL, I attended a workshop given by Drs. Helena Carvalho, Patricia Halpin, and Elke Scholz-Morris, “Teaching strategies/tools: learning how to use dramatization to teach difficult concepts in physiology.” (6) I loved this workshop! We learned how to think of creative ways to ‘dramatize’ common physiological concepts using the students as the ‘parts’ in the system. For example, in dramatizing the cardiac cycle, each student becomes a part of the heart (SA node, myocyte, etc.) and has to contract and relax to pump ‘blood’ (another student) out of the heart.


During the workshop, one group came up with a skit to demonstrate insulin signaling and glucose transport. Another group demonstrated steroid hormone signaling. Our group demonstrated sarcomeric contraction. I used each of these examples in my class. I also created a new way to think of action potentials. It wasn’t as big a dramatization, because with only 8 students, we didn’t have enough people to play each part.  So, I used candy. I created a “membrane” with dry erase markers, and the students stood on either side of the table and, as pairs, acted as either a voltage-gated Na+ ion channel, a voltage-gated K+ ion channel, or the Na/K ATPase. The Na+ and K+ ions were different colored candy. The students went through the phases of the action potential, by moving the different ‘ions’ through their channels. One student said, “I have been taught this so many times, but this is the first time I feel like I actually understand it.” Music to my ears!

With all of the changes I made to this course, I asked one of my students to give me feedback after each module. I wanted to ensure I actually created a robust, inclusive learning environment from the student’s perspective. With this blog coming at the end of the semester, she has graciously agreed to share her feedback with you. The following is a question and answer with my student, Julia Henault.


How does this course compare to other courses you have taken?

          This course was completely different from any course I have taken before. While I have taken flipped classrooms before, never have I experienced one as interactive and engaging as this class. Since different chapters of the course were taught by different faculty members, each class discussion came to be a unique experience. We were able to ask the respective professor more personal questions about their field of study and learn the material in a much deeper way than if we just attended a lecture and studied on our own. The fact that there were so few students also created such a collaborative atmosphere. Whether we were acting out a physiological concept or answering quiz questions, we really worked as a team to understand the material.

What was your favorite part of the course? Why?

          While there were so many aspects of the course I really enjoyed, I have to say the dramatization learning activities were the most engaging and memorable. One of my favorite dramatization days was when we were learning about blood flow throughout the heart. Dr. Bruce assigned each of us to heart chambers and connecting valves and we had to figure out ourselves how to correctly assemble in the order of blood flow. When we were ready, Dr. Bruce acted as the blood and moved through our created chambers, coordinated to our “contractions” and directions. These acting activities were my favorite because while they were fun and engaging, they also made me realize gaps in my knowledge I wasn’t aware of. By listening to the lecture on blood flow the day prior, I thought I understood the order of the steps. But acting it out made us think critically. What was stopping the blood from flowing backwards? Why do the ventricles have to contract more forcefully?

We covered a lot of material. What physiological concept do you remember the most? Why?

          I was joking with my parents the other week that my two biggest takeaways from this course are how exercise is one of the best things you could do for your body, and how pregnancy is the craziest. I say this jokingly because in actuality, we dove deep into the physiology of several different body systems, such as respiratory, nervous, cardiac, and muscular. While this information was interesting, I most remember the topics we learned during in-class discussion, where we could go beyond basic physiology and discuss applications, like pregnancy and exercise. These real-life applications are ones that I have never learned about in my other pre-medicine courses, yet I learned such important information that I wish everyone could learn.

What would you improve in the course?

          As I mentioned earlier, the course material was taught by the UF physiology department, which meant different professors taught different material based on their area of expertise. While I loved this format, as it helped me connect with different professors and learn the material in a deeper way, I sometimes felt that the information could have been more cohesive between different professors. In the future, I think this course would benefit by more communication between the professors so they can coordinate their lectures at the same level of depth and difficulty.

Thank you so much, Julia! I sincerely appreciate your feedback, and all of your work this semester.

What I have taken away from Julia’s feedback, as well as my other students, is that the small class size, the dramatizations, and the discussions with professors were the best parts of the course. I could see that my students were comfortable with me, and I felt comfortable with them. Aside from this course, I had a really stressful semester. Coming to this class three days a week was like taking a break from the world and just having fun. I could see the difference our time made in their lives as well. So, when I say, one small goal can lead to bigger changes, this course is my proof. Had I not gone to EB, I would not have applied for, let alone been awarded, the PrEP-E Fellowship or gone to ITL. Without that inspiration, I may not have made the dramatic changes to my course that had such a positive impact on my students. A small pebble can have a wide ripple effect. What will your small goal be this year? I hope you will achieve that goal and see the ripples you will create. Happy New Year!


  • Murray-Johnson, K. (2022). “Where do we go from here? Race and equity focused teaching in trying times.” Plenary Lecture and Concurrent Workshop 1.
  • Cooper, K. (2022). “The opportunities and challenges of active learning for student anxiety/depression, LGBTQ+ students and students with disabilities. Plenary Lecture 2.
  • Lopez, M. & Rakacolli, D. (2022). “Using the “flipped classroom” to promote equity in undergraduate biology courses.” Abstract 10.3
  • Sibley, J. & Spiridonoff, S. University of British Columbia faculty of Applied Science; Center for Instructional Support. Team Based Learning Collaborative (2022). “A handout on ‘Why and how TBL works’” org/more-resources
  • Rathner, J., Tay, J.A., Fong, A., Sevigny, C., (2022). “Clinical and translational physiology: Student perception of processed based learning to create an authentic learning experience.” Abstract 19.4
  • Carvalho, H., Halpin, P., Scholz-Morris, E. (2022). “Teaching strategies/tools: learning how to use dramatization to teach difficult concepts in physiology.” Concurrent Workshop 6.
Erin Bruce is a Lecturer at the University of Florida College of Medicine in the Department of Physiology and Aging. She teaches Physiology to Undergraduates, Post-Baccalaureates online, Graduate Students, Medical Students, and Physician Assistant students. Her research interest has moved to Educational Research and looks forward to learning more about the field.
November 17th, 2022
Supporting Student Development of Competencies for Health Professions

Like many undergraduate physiology instructors, most of the students I teach are targeting health professional graduate programs after they graduate.  These future physicians, physician assistants, physical therapists, and occupational therapists are interested in the content of my physiology course, as it is often a prerequisite for their applications.  However, in addition to the content of my course, I seek to develop and observe several core competencies that extend beyond subject matter knowledge.  Various health professional organizations have identified a range of competencies they seek in applicants, and most centralized application services ask recommenders to address students’ level of attainment of these competencies.


One resource that I have found valuable is the Anatomy of an Applicant guide from the Association of American Medical Colleges which includes the 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students.  These competencies are endorsed by the AAMC Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions (COA) and help communicate the standards expected of all applicants accepted into medical school.

The competencies are organized into three categories:

Preprofessional Competencies: service orientation, social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, oral communication, ethical responsibility to self and others, reliability and dependability, resilience and adaptability, and capacity for improvement.

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies: critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific inquiry, and written communication.

Science Competencies: living systems and human behavior.

While a physiology course can obviously address science and thinking and reasoning competencies, there are also other opportunities to develop preprofessional competencies in class.  By designing in-class activities in groups, I am able to observe students’ teamwork and oral communication skills.  Oral exams, a technique I employ in my classes also allows me to observe oral communication skills.  Cultural competency can be developed through emphasizing an inclusive classroom and incorporating diverse perspectives into the content included.

Not all of my students are targeting medical school, but there are similar competencies identified in other professions including physician assistant, physical therapy, and across multiple health professions.  In fact, these overlapping competencies can be used as ways to connect students that are pursuing different career paths and highlight the similarities across professions.

One of the challenges of non-science competencies is how to evaluate a students’ achievement.  We are all familiar with standardized exams that can assess the level of science knowledge, or thinking and reasoning capabilities.  Less well-known and discussed are the emerging ways in which other competencies are assessed.  Several programs now require applicants to take the CASPer exam, an open-response situational judgement test.  According to CASPer, the exam assesses: collaboration, communication, empathy, equity, ethics, motivation, problem solving, professionalism, resilience, and self-awareness.  Research has shown predictive validity of CASPer scores and national licensure outcomes which likely supports the increased use of this noncognitive assessment in the application process.  In addition to standardized exams that can be used in application processes, it may be of interest to physiology educators to be aware of assessment tools for specific competencies such as cultural competence and resilience.

Whether one is formally assessing the desired competencies or informally observing them in the classroom and/or laboratory, it is clear that there will continue to be an increased interest in students’ capabilities beyond simply their scientific knowledge.  As educators, it is important to try to support student development in these areas in our classrooms and design activities with this goal in mind.


Anne R Crecelius, Associate Professor, University of Dayton

She teaches Human Physiology and a Capstone Research course. She returned to her undergraduate alma mater to join the faculty after completing her M.S. and Ph.D. studying Cardiovascular Physiology at Colorado State University. Her research interest in in the integrative control of blood flow. She is a member of the American Physiological Society (APS) and an inaugural member of the advisory board of the newly established Center for Physiology Education.

November 3rd, 2022
Letter to my trainee-self: translating my research from the bench to…classroom?

I love to read quotes by Greek philosophers. They were wise individuals and did not have access to immediate “knowledge” as we do today thanks to available technologies. After all, the internet would not be created for thousands of years later. What this did afford them the opportunity to do is to engage in what we call critical thinking. It is all they did! Today, their quotes help to keep me grounded; my favorites are the quotes attributed to Aristotle. Aristotle was a scientist, a biologist, an intellectual, and a philosopher, just like us! Yes, it is hard to consider ourselves “philosophers.” However, we are — and among those of us with a Philosophy Doctorate (Ph.D.) represent  2% of the population in the United States (less than 1% worldwide) (OECD, 2021). Earning our doctoral degrees required years, sweat and tears working through graduate training. Most of us have spent countless hours conducting research, analyzing, and interpreting data; our contributions to the field of study are meaningful and novel.

We know a lot of things, so any recent graduate should be ready to land their dream job and hit the ground running, right? Unfortunately, for most trainees this is not the case. The bottom line is that our training did not prepare us for the job, at least not fully prepare for it. In most of the classical doctoral programs in the U.S. you will be trained to be a great research scientist. Chances are you will be teaching, managing lab personnel, and juggling with grant budgets, without any training in pedagogy, human resources, or accounting, respectively. So, how are we supposed to be successful? I wish somebody had told me these things when I was a trainee! I can’t change the past, and I have learned a lot since I was a trainee, so here I am listing some of my learned lessons, using Aristotle’s words of wisdom. This could have helped my younger self, and I am writing this with the hope that my experience helps other young scientists beginning their careers in academia.

The more you know, the less you know

Aristotle was right about this one! The more immersed in your research you are, the more you realize you are missing information. That is, the beauty of research, it never ends, we never know all the answers or mechanisms. No matter what research you are conducting, you are the absolute expert on your study. It is very specific to that one population, system, enzyme, or molecule. Chances are that your first job involves teaching, in some cases a lot of teaching, and it can be intimidating.

Unfortunately, like most of faculty in biomedical sciences, my doctoral studies in physiology didn’t include pedagogy or evidence-based practices in teaching. Yet, most of us are expected to teach high quality courses with large enrollment and be proficient at it. I knew I had a lot to learn, and I wanted to create my identity as an instructor, but I didn’t know how. I had this feeling that I knew a lot of “stuff” about my research and how it could be translated into clinical practice, but not much about teaching physiology!

I dedicated, and I still dedicate long hours and effort to become the best professor I could be, in the classroom, in the lab and in the community. Thankfully, there are resources for you to implement the best evidence-based practices in your classroom:

1-           Join the Teaching section of your professional association. In my case, The American Physiological Society Teaching Section has been my main source of information and training in teaching physiology. “The American Physiological Society Teaching Section promotes excellence in physiology education through educational research and scholarship in physiology.” Most people join other sections because it closely aligns with their research interests. However, you can make the teaching section your secondary or tertiary section and be able to access all of the benefits in training, workshops, mentoring, and generous awards for trainees, early and mid-career, and senior professionals!

2-           Consider attending conferences dedicated to teaching. In my case, attending the APS Institute on Teaching and Learning allowed me to become a better classroom instructor, which changed the trajectory of my career, as I was exposed for the first time to the possibility of conducting research in teaching physiology. Not only did I learn a lot, but also I was able to learn how to incorporate research in teaching into my workplan, increasing productivity and career satisfaction.

3-           Join the newly created Center for Physiology Education. The center was developed with input from more than 500 educators in the field, and it is structured around five interconnected themes: evidence-based teaching practices, inclusive teaching, teaching, and learning integrative physiology, physiology education research and curriculum development.  Together, these components provide a comprehensive approach to advancing physiology education and learning.

4-           Attend as many workshops on teaching as you can! At the University of Louisville, we are fortunate to have UofL Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning, many institutions have similar centers or support for teaching faculty, find yours and attend every workshop possible!

5-           Participate in professional development opportunities for mentoring, depending at what point of your career you are, you can participate as either as a mentee or a mentor, you will be gaining invaluable experience that can be easily transferred to your students in class or research students and trainees in your lab. In my case, I learned a lot about teaching and my mentoring style as a mentor of the Teaching Experiences for Bioscience Educators Fellows and Mentors.

“Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.”

This is another quote attributed to Aristotle that relates to my teaching philosophy. You can “do” by giving a lecture, or you can teach using critical thinking. In order to teach you have to fully understand the concept, of course! But also, you have to understand the environment, your classroom, department, college and university cultures. To teach, you need to know your students. Not at a personal level necessarily, but understanding the idiosyncrasy of your class is going to be the key for success. Expectations for a class with non-traditional students will be very different than with traditional 18-year-old first year students. You always must know your audience, and how to engage diverse students. You will also learn about your students and community if you are out and engaged. Be out in the community, help or organize science fairs or outreach programs to local schools. Be engaged in your community, this will make you a better teacher too!

To facilitate critical thinking, use data or applied problems. For instance, consider using real life cases to teach mechanisms! After teaching thousands of students, I realized that learning happens by doing, by experimenting, by solving problems. When I teach physiology, I want my students to remember the previously learned system, and the interrelationships among systems. There is nothing better than the work of more seasoned colleagues! The national center for case study teaching in science, now part of the national science teaching association provides thousands of case studies and assignments with the keys and rubrics, that have been previously peer-reviewed with a high level of scrutiny.

Even if teaching is not the core of your identity as a scientist, chances are that at some point you will be teaching trainees, the community, or potential investors, you need to learn how to engage students. Mentoring workshops are very helpful to find your mentoring styles and how to manage your research team. I am going to end this blog with one of my favorite quotes “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

1-           OECD. (2021). Educational attainment of 25-64 year-olds (2020).

Dr. Terson de Paleville teaches Advanced Exercise Physiology, Neuromuscular Exercise Physiology, and Human Physiology courses. Her research interests include motor control and exercise-induced neuroplasticity. In particular, Dr. Terson de Paleville has investigated the effects of activity-based therapy on respiratory muscles, trunk motor control and autonomic function in people with chronic spinal cord injury. Additionally, Dr. Terson de Paleville investigate the effectiveness of team-based active learning in physiology courses.

Daniela Terson de Paleville, PhD

Associate Professor

University of Louisville

October 25th, 2022
Incorporating Conference-Based Assignments into Coursework

Attending professional conferences is an excellent opportunity for students to network, learn, and gain a greater understanding of how science works. Undergraduate students often attend conferences because they are presenting their work; however, attendance at professional conferences even if not presenting can open a variety of opportunities for students (Gopalan et al., 2018). Potential benefits of participation include content knowledge or application gains, exposure to different ideas, better understanding of how different areas of a field integrate, networking building, career exploration, and practice with professional interactions.


Prior to attending the conference, instructors should consider preparing students for attendance. Instructors should explain the purpose of professional conferences, highlighting the importance of the exchange of ideas and building professional networks. First time undergraduate attendees, especially, may be unsure of what to expect and how to interact with others professionally. Just as faculty mentors would practice with student presenters, practicing with and mentoring non-presenting student attendees can optimize the student conference experience. Holding a pre-conference information session with students will help them be prepared and make the most of their experience. Informational session topics can include: how to ask questions, talking to poster presenters, what to expect from grad school admissions tables, how to earn continuing education credits, developing or revising a resume to have on hand, identifying presenters in attendance to connect with, and creating a conference schedule. Additionally, instructors can help students create and practice an “elevator pitch” to describe their work and professional goals (Das & Spring, 2022). Das and Spring (2022) recommend students set goals for the conference in advance so their time at the meeting is intentional. In addition to pre-conference instruction and conference-based assignments, a general follow up with students after the conference can provide insight into what students learned, what challenges they encountered, and what they found interesting. Student insight can be helpful in planning for future meetings.


Incorporating conference attendance into a course can significantly add to the student course experience. Using conferences to augment a course is a great opportunity to help students integrate course content with development of professional and communication skills. What follows is a list of potential assignments instructors might consider to encourage student participation in conferences. Many of the suggestions below would work well for in person or virtual conferences. The assignments can be implemented for any type of conference; however, encouraging students to attend smaller, regional conferences first is an excellent way to prepare them for larger, national and international conferences. Conference- based assignments could be evaluated for credit, extra credit, or as an additional demonstration of engagement or understanding.



  1. Make a spotlight box, similar to one you would find in your textbook, about one of the conference presentations. Include background context, important points from the speaker’s talk, and practical applications. Add relevant figures or graphs from other research papers or the speaker’s presentation to frame the spotlight and make it visually appealing to the reader. Be sure to cite your sources.
  2. Make a short YouTube video that summarizes the general topic presented by one speaker. After summarizing the broader content area, highlight information from the speaker’s presentation. Feel free to be creative- present it as a news story or host a debate with fellow classmates! (Heffernan, 2020)
  3. Design a proposal for a talk for next year’s meeting. Choose an area of exercise science you are interested in learning more about. Describe 3-5 learning objectives of the presentation and identify 3 experts in the field who would serve as your speakers. (Heffernan, 2020)
  4. Tell a young child about what you learned at the conference. Choose one of the keynote speakers’ presentations and make a short children’s story about the topic. Make the content fun and easy to understand. Include illustrations which help kids visualize the ideas you present.
  5. Watch/read 3 poster presentations. For each one, summarize the presentation. What are the strengths and limitations of each study? What would you do differently if you were the researcher? Why? What would your next study be and why? (Heffernan, 2020)
  6. Take visual notes on one of the presentations you watch. Your goal is to make your notes about the content visually appealing and make connections between ideas. Because you are connecting ideas, the notes do not need to be in top to bottom order, but organized according to themes. Include questions asked by the audience members and the speaker responses in your notes. (Google “visual note taking” for some cool ideas and pictures).
  7. Write a 2 page scientific summary of a presentation, locate 2-3 peer reviewed resources (preferably by the speaker) related to the talk and infuse them into the summary. (Heffernan, 2020)
  8. Make an infographic (Try programs like Canva, for example) about one of the presentations- include the main points, supporting evidence, conclusions, and practical applications. Be sure the infographic includes figures, is easy to read, and is visually appealing.
  9. Write a poem or song about one of the presentations. For example, write a series of haiku or use a rhyming scheme in a poem. Put your own song lyrics about the talk or content area to the music of another song or use refrains/verses to your own lyrics. For example: “you’re a vein” to “You’re so vain”.
  10. Create a movie trailer (iMovie works great and has pre-made templates) about one of the talks. Use open access videos and pictures from the internet in the movie or make your own with 2-3 classmates (groups of 4 or less). Include info about the presentation as if you were publicizing the talk. Be sure to include the main ideas or conclusions and relevant contextual information.
  11. Ask one or more of the speakers about their career path(s). Write up a 1-page summary of their responses to the following questions. How did they get to where they are? Did their path change and how? Did their interests change as they moved through their careers and if so, why? Was it different or the same as what they expected at your stage in your career? Why is it important to recognize our paths might take different directions than expected?
  12. Create a “BINGO” style card or scavenger hunt to encourage students to communicate with people or investigate different aspects of the conference. (Gopalan et al., 2018)
  13. Use twitter to react to the presentation. Tweet key points from the talk. Tag the speaker or use the conference hashtags in your tweet. (Heffernan, 2020)
  14. Write a short reflection, 1-2 pages, on what you learned about HOW science works. You may want to think about the following: What is the purpose of a conference like the one you attended? How do different presentation types advance research in the field or clinical practice? Why is dissemination of research important?
  15. After learning about different areas of research, what might you be interested in researching? What new ideas were sparked for you from the presentations you attended?

Professional conference attendance is an important opportunity for presenting and non-presenting students. Conference attendance can easily be integrated into various courses from introductory level courses which may encourage students to develop research later in their college careers to upper-level students who may be interested in building professional networks for graduate or professional school. Conference-based assignments are useful ways for instructors to integrate course content, professional development, and conference attendance into their courses.


Das, B., & Spring, K. (2022, September 22). 11 Tips for Instructors Bringing Students to ACSM Regional Chapter Meetings. ACSM_CMS.—homepage

Gopalan, C., Halpin, P. A., & Johnson, K. M. S. (2018). Benefits and logistics of nonpresenting undergraduate students attending a professional scientific meeting. Advances in Physiology Education, 42(1), 68–74.

Heffernan, K. (2020). MARC in the Classroom.

Dr. Mary Stenson earned her B.S. in Biology from Niagara University and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from Springfield College. She is an Associate Professor of Exercise and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Dr. Stenson teaches exercise physiology, metabolism, and nutrition. Her research focuses on recovery from exercise and improving the health of college students. Dr. Stenson mentors undergraduate research students each year and considers teaching and mentoring the most important and fulfilling parts of her work.
October 4th, 2022
Dramatization: The Marriage of Theater and the Teaching of Physiology

This blog tells a little bit of my personal history as an educator: from a typical boring lecturer to an extroverted educator who has tons of fun playing drama in the classroom with students.

But first let me wonder: wouldn’t it be great if we teach, and our students learned well and far beyond the exams?

What to do when students’ attendance is not required, like most medical schools, and regardless of the time we spend preparing the session only a few students attend it. Or when attendance is required, like in many undergraduate courses, students struggle and only learn enough to pass the exam. Many of us experience frustration.

It is not fun when we invest so much time in preparing to teach, but the students are overwhelmed with too much content, become so consumed with the exams, and end up relying on memorization that many times only works until the exams.

This was especially true in my early experience with teaching. I was a very traditional lecturer with a clear teacher-centered mind. One year I had to substitute for a colleague and taught the pre-requisite course (cell biology) to my class (physiology). I enjoyed teaching them and the students did well with 100% approval.

When I met the same class in the subsequent semester, I started by telling them that the physiology course would be much easier since I knew that they were taught (by me!) all they needed to know in the pre-requisite course. My naïve belief was that because they were taught, the students would have learned and would not have forgotten. I was confident they were all ready to dig deep into physiology. To my dismay and complete frustration, I realized the students did not remember what I taught them when I had them in my class just a few months before. I started doubting my abilities as a teacher and blamed myself for passing those students. I oscillated between feeling depressed and ashamed.

Who in heaven let me teach them!!!

I guess due to my scientific training, I looked for help in the literature and discovered the journal Advances in Physiology Education. Reading papers about research in education, I realized that something was wrong with the method of teaching most of us use. Lecturing and pushing a massive amount of information at the students makes it difficult for them to learn and remember. I wasn’t the only professor whose students didn’t remember what was taught. Richardson (1) showed that naïve students without prior physiology instruction scored the same as students who had learned physiology before.

All students benefit from some fun in their classroom. When we smile, nerves send signals to the brain, releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin into the bloodstream. Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter in the regulation of motivational processes. It drives us to achieve goals.

Thanks to Advances, the readings opened my mind to explore all forms of learning and teaching – visual, audiovisual, reading, and kinesthetic. Back in 2002, at Unigranrio Medical School in Brazil, the students would come to me struggling to understand action potential and cardiac cycle. The next thing I saw was, that I get them to lift their arms to demonstrate depolarization and step forward to contract the cardiac muscle cell. All of this would happen spontaneously in the corridors and university halls with me telling them to imagine “the depolarization goes from cell to cell, and the electrical signal precedes the mechanical event”. Then with the help of very dear students, DRAMATIZATION was born as a method of teaching that is fun for the students (and teachers) and allows students to better learn new and complicated concepts.

Learning must be fun (2), and we teachers should love teaching. To enjoy teaching we need to create an exciting and relaxed environment for our students. Dramatization is the perfect way to teach while having fun in the classroom. Each participant acts as a cell/structure, and the entire group mimics the organ/system. In this very interactive and engaging activity, every mistake is a learning opportunity (3).

I have been having an extremely positive experience with Dramatization while doing it for two decades. From my first student in 2002, who contacted me years later, to tell me he became a cardiologist due to having fun with cardiac cycle dramatization, from physiology educators who attended my workshop (4) in 2017 at IUPS in Buzios (Brazil), to ITL this year in Madison, WI just to cite a few. Every time I teach other faculty how to do Dramatization, it is a rewarding experience that fills me with the hope that I am contributing as an educator to a better physiology education for a broad learner community.

Art in general is part of our lives, and theater can and should be used for the training of future health professionals. When we think about theater and science education, an aspect that must be considered is the importance of interpersonal relationships between teachers and students. A good interpersonal relationship can contribute as another motivating factor for the fixation on knowledge. A relaxed atmosphere in which humor is present brings the parties involved in the learning process closer together, thus creating an even more favorable space for the process of acquiring knowledge at the same time as creating a moment of relaxation from the usual state of tension experienced by our students. The students might forget what you said, but they will remember what they did.

When students experience this innovative learning modality, it not only promotes retention of information, but it also stimulates a highly engaged class participation. Such an environment favors bonds among classmates and reinforces interrelational intelligence, an invaluable skill for the work of health professionals.

When I first published dramatization, I not even use this name (5).  Then I presented it for medical students at VTCSOM, and one of my students got inspired and developed his own dramatization of the Starling forces (6). Also, very rewarding is to see faculty who attended my workshop, get to develop, and publish their own original dramatizations (7).

I hope you are inspired to try something new in your classroom. If you need data to be convinced how well Dramatization works, the graphs below show the scores of a class of VTCSOM 1st year medical students before doing it (pre-test); for the students who watched it but elected not to actively participate in it (post don’t act); and the students who acted in it (post drama). In summary, simply watching peers doing dramatization already helps to learn, but when the student actively participate in it, they learned even more.



Next blog I will tell you all about an exciting new project: DramaZoom (8, 9). The lockdown during COVID stimulated us to develop dramatization via Zoom. In collaboration with two physiologists who participated in my workshops before, Patricia Halpin and Elke
Scholz-Morris, we created videos that use dramatization to teach online. Also, Daniel Contaifer Jr designed the background, and Rosa de Carvalho taught us how to do the mimics and facial expressions in DramaZoom.

So, if you want more information on how to bring drama to the classroom, please contact us and let us know how it goes. Finally, if you publish it please cite us, and let’s spread the fun!

Happy teaching


  1. Richardson DR. Comparison of naive and experienced students of elementary physiology on performance in an advanced course. Adv Physiol Educ. 2000 Jun;23(1):91-5. doi: 10.1152/advances.2000.23.1.S91. PMID: 10902532.
  2. DiCarlo SE. Too much content, not enough thinking, and too little fun! Adv Physiol Educ. 2009 Dec;33(4):257-64. doi: 10.1152/advan.00075.2009. PMID: 19948670.
  3. Carvalho, H., McCandless, M. J., 23rd Annual IAMSE meeting, “Dramatization Promotes Learning and Engages Students,” IAMSE, Roanoke (June 11, 2019).
  4. Carvalho, H., IUPS & ADInstruments Teaching Workshop, “The Use of Dramatization to Teach Physiology,” IUPS, Armação de Buzios – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (August 7, 2017). Additional Information: Start Date: August 2017.
  5. Carvalho H. A group dynamic activity for learning the cardiac cycle and action potential. Adv Physiol Educ. 2011 Sep;35(3):312-3. doi: 10.1152/advan.00128.2010. PMID: 21908842.
  6. Connor, B., Carvalho, H. (2019, August). Using dramatization to teach Starling Forces in the microcirculation for first year medical students. 2019;15:10842.
  7. Halpin PA, Gopalan C. Using dramatizations to teach cell signaling enhances learning and improves students’ confidence in the concept. Adv Physiol Educ. 2021 Mar 1;45(1):89-94. doi: 10.1152/advan.00177.2020. PMID: 33529141.
  8. Carvalho H, Halpin PA, Scholz-Morris E (2022). Dramatization via Zoom to Teach Complex Concepts in Physiology FASEBJ 36:S1.
  9. Carvalho H, Halpin P, Scholtz-Morris E and de Carvalho R (October 28, 2021). Can We Teach Using Dramatization via Zoom? Teach Excellence Academy for Collaborative Healthcare, Teach Education Day Poster Presentations via zoom. Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine.
Helena Carvalho is an educator with more than 20 years of experience. She is an associate professor at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Block Director for basic sciences, a PBL facilitator, and teaches several areas in human physiology for medical and Ph.D. students. The main focus of her educational research is to develop innovative teaching methodologies such as Dramatization, DramaZoom, and Manipulatives. She also enjoys outreach and has been sharing excitement about physiology with all levels of education including middle and high school.


Rosa de Carvalho is a theater/drama director, actress and teaches mimicking and acting to children and adults for 25 years.  She has specialization in psych pedagogy and has used her talents to empower low-income communities in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Her has an incredibly creative mind and uses theater to improve all levels of education and human relationship. Her contribution to education span from elementary school to college level.