photo courtesy of Unsplash.

While some members of the SIUE community were worrying about getting their final grades in, other professors and students were trying to finish work on research projects, such as those in the exercise science and physiology programs.

Junior chemistry major Andrea Frerker, of Maryville, Illinois, was part of an exercise science research project that was affected by COVID-19. The project’s name was “Parameters of the Male Athlete Triad.” The triad it refers to is bone density, reproductive hormones, and energy availability.

“Low energy availability, impaired or decreased reproductive hormones and decreased bone density is the triad we did testing on in male athletes ... in the lab,” Frerker said. “That triad is the basis that we compared to an already known and studied female athlete triad.”

The research portion of the project was completed before SIUE was closed, which Frerker said was very lucky, as some projects weren’t finished before then. The downside, according to Frerker, was that she was unable to present the information.

“We went to a conference in Washington, D.C. [in July 2019], and presented the information there. But, I couldn’t present the research myself,” Frerker said. “I was working on going to present at the URCA Symposium at SIUE [in April], which was disappointing to have to miss.”

Frerker’s research project was done with the help of Associate Professor Brianne Guilford in the applied health department, who said there was a wide range of male student athletes that were used for the study.

“We had recruited and tested about 46 male athletes, and we had at least one from every sport at SIUE,” Guilford said.

Guilford said she was most worried for students who were using exercise science projects as their theses, because those students would have incomplete research now.

“We had a student that was working on a study where she was looking at resistance training during the menstrual cycle and how it impacts hormones. There are still samples to analyze in the lab,” Guilford said. “This was her grad project, and she had to go back and change a lot of it in order to finish it. She had to rewrite her thesis, which is something a lot of students had to do.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has done more than affect current projects. Chaya Gopalan, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, said she has been careful about planning research projects for next semester because of possible cancellations.

“For a new project, you need to work with students, and since I’m not sure how we will be in the fall, I don’t know what the plan is,” Gopalan said. “Just to be prepared for the fall, I have already lined up my students and assigned them out for what they will do for a future project. They are reading about it, and they will be given training, and they will hopefully be helping me with it.”

As for the spring semester, Gopalan said she had a project that was left incomplete because of the pandemic, which could cause a ripple effect for future research projects.

“I was studying obesity, intermittent fasting and fatigue. I have behavioral data that I need to have analyzed. All the tissue I collected are in the freezers [at SIUE], and I haven’t been able to finish the project,” Gopalan said. “It’s all halfway through. We still have to process and analyze a lot of things, and we will have trouble applying for new grants to get new supplies without finished projects.”

The lack of completed research affects grant money but also, according to Guilford, some of the understanding of injuries and physical health of athletes. Guilford also said the most important thing for all students and staff to remember is this will pass eventually, and then research can begin again.

“It’s hard for everyone,” Guilford said. “The athletic world wanted results to help understanding, and we needed to finish publications. We’re all just trying to adapt quickly, like everyone else. It has become the new normal. At first, it seemed like too much, but [now] I’m so used to all these changes.”

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