Welcome from the Chair

Welcome to the web site for Exercise Physiology at West Virginia University School of Medicine. Exercise Physiology is the study of the genetic, biological and biochemical processes associated with exercise and overload that affects the underlying function of cells and organ systems in the human body in both health and disease. Exercise physiology is a rapidly evolving field that is becoming increasingly important in the delivery of health care. Exercise physiologists work to prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease in healthy participants or to provide therapeutic or functional benefits to patients with known disease. Graduates find careers in a variety of medical settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and out-patient clinics, in community, corporate, commercial and university fitness and wellness centers, in nursing homes and senior citizens centers, as well as in research and academic settings

Research by scientists trained in Exercise Physiology have greatly expanded our understanding of the ways in which exercise affects cell, organ and whole body function. Advances in research in Exercise Physiology has provided a foundation for many types of medical treatment in areas that include but not limited to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, aging, obesity and disuse atrophy. Employment opportunities are expanding and increase with experience and level of education.

The Division of Exercise of Physiology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine has 16 full time faculty and other affiliated faculty who are engaged in interdisciplinary studies that span molecular, cellular, systems and behavioral sciences, with strong emphases in muscle biology, cardiovascular biology, diabetes and aging.  If you would like to study Exercise Physiology at a top 10 program nationally, then Exercise Physiology at West Virginia University School of Medicine is the place for you!   We believe that we will be among the top five programs in the country very soon, and you could be a part of this quest towards excellence!

We have a very strong four year undergraduate program which is quickly approaching 800 students in our major. A high percentage of the graduates of our undergraduate program choose to go on to professional schools for additional training including: medical school, schools of dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Our undergraduate program is the ideal and preferred pre-medical and pre-professional training program because it provides training in anatomy, physiology, all of the pre-requisites for medical school and also provides a sound clinical training with patients (e.g., patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc.) in our human performance laboratory, under the supervision of our medical director.

Our undergraduate program trains Exercise physiologists to evaluate people in the areas of cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, neuromuscular integration, and body composition. They are also trained to provide exercise programs based on the results of these evaluations that are designed to increase the functional capacity of the participants. Our Masters program specializes in working with persons with diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They will become leaders who will supervise Exercise Physiologists in hospitals, rehabilitation, aquatic therapy programs, fitness or academic settings. Our doctoral program trains scientists to develop careers in research and teaching in academia, industry, research foundations or governmental agencies.

The research activities of many of our faculty and graduate students include studies of mechanisms of a diverse number of human diseases and conditions such as aging-induced sarcopenia, mitochondria dysfunction, heart failure, diabetes, vascular disease, cardiopulmonary disease and obesity. The research success of the Division of Exercise Physiology is growing and we have recently recruited new faculty who will even further enhance our national and international recognition in research. Many of our faculty also participate in one of the Research Centers, which includes the Center for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Sciences (see: http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/ccrs/),  the WVU Cancer Institute (see:http://www.wvucancer.org/research) and the Centers for Neuroscience (see: http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/wvucn/).

To prepare graduate students for careers in teaching and research, the Graduate Program in Exercise Physiology provides doctoral training in mechanistic studies of important cellular and systems processes that are regulated by exercise or lack of exercise (disuse) or a clinically important disease. Students gain knowledge and expertise through formal course work, doctoral research in the laboratories of their research mentors, journal clubs and seminars, and in public presentations of their research data and teaching. Our program is interdisciplinary in its approach to scientific research, reflecting the interests of our faculty and the breadth of the discipline of Exercise Physiology. In keeping with this theme, doctoral training in Exercise Physiology at West Virginia University School of Medicine concentrates on biochemical, molecular biological, and systems approaches to studies of physiological processes in a human diseases.

Graduates of our Ph.D. program have obtained postdoctoral positions in prestigious universities and medical schools, including Harvard School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania, the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Florida, Children’s Medical Center and others. Several graduates have now completed their postdoctoral training and have obtained teaching and research careers in medical schools and research intensive universities. While every one of our graduates receives rigorous training in research, an ideal career for some will place greater emphasis on teaching than research. For these students we offer additional training and experience in teaching including training in syllabus and lecture construction. Whichever career path a student may choose, the faculty in Exercise Physiology we will provide them options in course work and experience that will develop and refine their interests and significantly enhance their career prospects.

We appreciate the time you have taken to visit our Website and hope that you will contact us with questions you may have about undergraduate training, or training in our masters or doctoral training programs or opportunities in research. There are outstanding opportunities for training in Exercise Physiology at West Virginia University School of Medicine, leading to challenging and rewarding careers in fitness, rehabilitation, research or teaching, or it may also provide you the best opportunity for acceptance into medical school, physical therapy, physicians assistance program or some other professional school. We look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM

Professor and Chair of Exercise Physiology
Executive Chair, Dept. of Human Performance & Applied Exercise Science
Senior Assistant Dean for Research and Graduate Studies