Research Projects

Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) is held each spring to celebrate the exemplary scholarship and creativity of Willamette University students. Students work directly with faculty members or design and conduct their own research throughout the year.

Featured Projects

Here are a few projects that exemplify the wonderful research students from the Exercise and Health Science department have done over the years.

Abstract: Introduction: Caffeine is commonly consumed before exercise, but minimal research has studied the effects caffeine has on time to fatigue during aerobic exercise. Purpose: Highlight the effects of caffeine on time to fatigue and whether it is beneficial or detrimental to athletic performance. Methods: Blood lactate, blood glucose and heart rate were tested throughout a graded VO2peak test on a cycle ergometer. Results: Significance between the caffeine treatment and blood glucose levels, but no significance with caffeine and time to fatigue. Conclusion: Caffeine has no effect on time to fatigue when consumed approximately 30 minutes prior to exercise.

Jacob Parra (2016)

Abstract: The Willamette University Anatomy Laboratory presents a phenomenal opportunity for laboratory teaching assistants to explore the human body through vivid human cadaveric dissections, increasing student’s ability to identify anatomical structures, understand orientation and spatial relationships amongst these structures, and to understand the clinical correlates between structure and function. Through these dissections, laboratory assistants are exposed to variations in anatomy and pathologies which may be indicative to the cause of death of the body donors. Here we present the critical thinking, learning processes and evidence obtained over the year of student led dissections. We present several anatomical and pathological findings found in the Anatomy Laboratory through unique cadaveric dissections, that have allowed us to understand the revealed cause of death of the cadavers.

Katie Lee & Jonathan Heath (2019)

Abstract: The control of medial-lateral (ML) motion during standing balance and locomotion becomes increasingly difficult with aging. This study is part of a project to develop a clinically feasible test of rapid stepping performance that challenges the medial-lateral motion in older adults. Participants performed three tests of rapid stepping (RASTT, Modified-RASTT, and SIP) and two experimenters recorded the number of steps completed in 20 seconds in each test. The two experimenters’ ratings were highly correlated for all three tests, indicating high inter-rater reliability that compares favorably to common functional tests.

Shay Hannigan-Luther (2019)

Additional Research Projects

These are all the projects the Exercise and Health Science department has presented at SSRD in the last few years.


  • Is the ketogenic diet an effective alternative to antiepileptic drugs in treating children with epilepsy? - Darian Gibson (Thesis)
  • The effects of a ketogenic diet on endurance exercise performance - Shay Hannigan-Luther (Thesis)
  • Physical therapy as a first intervention for musculoskeletal pathologies - Nathan Gilman (Thesis)
  • Use of an interactive website to increase home exercise compliance in pediatric physical therapy - Evan Levy (Thesis)
  • Is Invisalign the Clear Future of Orthodontics? - KayLyn Stirton (Thesis)
  • Warm-up options for throwing athletes: A comparison of dynamic warm-up, static stretching, and resistance exercise - Emily Bishop (Thesis)
  • Review and Analysis of Sports-Related Concussion Protocol: Return to Play Guidelines and Unity Across All Protocols - Nathan Dunford (Thesis)
  • Willamette-Special Olympics Sports Camps for Individuals with Special Needs - Rachel Kong (Thesis)
  • Hook grip usage is increasing for the deadlift event among elite level powerlifters - Kara Phillips (Thesis)
  • Implementation and Improvement of Physical Education Programs in Public Elementary Schools - Dante Spencer (Thesis)
  • Early sport specialization is harmful - Yasmin Gul (Thesis)
  • Early sport specialization is harmful - Alex Israel (Thesis)
  • Evaluating test retest reliability of the Rapid Alternating Stair Touch Test (RASTT) - Alex Hougan & Mark Lau (Independent Research)
  • Inter-Rater Reliability in Three Rapid Stepping Tests Challenging Medial-Lateral Weight-Shifting Motion - Shay Hannigan-Luther (Thesis)
  • Exploration of Anatomical Variations and Related Pathophysiology through Human Cadaveric Dissections - Katie Lee & Jonathan Heath (Independent Research)


  • Peer Teaching Through Vivid Prosections - Andrew Swanner, Katie Lee, Miranda Starr, & Shaan Amin (Independent Research)
  • Anatomy Enrichment Through Vivid Dissections - Shannon Ross, Matt Linvil, & Brendon McGonigle (Independent Research)
  • Can we improve the reliability of a test of rapid stepping performance in older adults? - Estefania Ramos Torres (Independent Research)
  • Do tests of rapid stepping performance relate well with tests of general mobility, strength, and balance function? - Joshua Beymer (Independent Research)
  • Improving Pediatric Care at Salem Health Emergency Department: A Community Outreach Project - Andrew Swanner (Thesis)
  • Liberty House Research Project: A Poster Presentation and Recommendation For Child Maltreatment Care - Jordan Fickas (Thesis)
  • Preventing and Treating Back Pain in Youth: an Educational Blog Series for a Chiropractic Clinic - Perry Van Eckhardt (Thesis)
  • Developing An Improved Home Exercise Program To Raise Compliance In Physical Therapy Patients - Salvador Lopez (Thesis)
  • Cued Training of Dual Tasking in Parkinson's disease: Walking and Chewing Gum is HardTM - Hannah Signor (Thesis)
  • Participant Compliance and Rationale For An iPhone Functional Fitness Application - Joseph Thurman (Thesis)
  • Survey Assessment of Home Exercise Program Compliance Factors at Hope Orthopedics Physical Therapy Clinic - Whitney Anderson (Thesis)
  • Effective Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Experiencing Feeding Complications and Mealtime Behavior Difficulties - Adam Almany (Thesis)
  • College ADDvising: bringing accessibility into reach - Kyra Faulstich (Thesis)
  • A Compilation of the Most Common Prerequisites for Three Allied Health Programs - Rebecca Min (Thesis)
  • Building a Bearcat Sports Camp for Children with Disabilities - Troy Conway (Thesis)
  • Increasing Patient Compliance With Acute Care Physical Therapy Via Education: Good for the Patient Good for the Therapist - Darby Hannah (Thesis)
  • Creating a Home Exercise Video Database for Stroke Patients with Hemiparetic or Hemiplegic Shoulder - Holly Wheeler (Thesis)
  • Breaking Barriers: Combating the Effects of the Language Barrier on Patient Education, Satisfaction, and Compliance in the Central Salem PT Northwest Clinic - Mikael Ruffin (Thesis)
  • Implementing the Kids 4 CPR Curriculum In the Salem-Keizer School District - Diana Sellner (Thesis)


  • The Effects of Marijuana Smoking on Aerobic Fitness - Andringa McKenzie (Independent Research)
  • Physiological Effects of Caffeine on Performance During Aerobic-Based Exercise - Jacob Parra (Independent Research)
  • Angular Proprioception in the Absence of Sensory Feedback (Poster Presentation) - Taylor Ostrander (Poster)
Willamette University

Exercise and Health Science

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6894 voice
503-370-6773 fax

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