PULLMAN – A WSU senior’s research interest in exercise and health has drawn national attention to her and WSU.
Amy Jemelka, a movement studies major in the College of Education, is one of 60 undergraduates nationwide chosen to present research at the April 30 “Posters on the Hill” event at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the national Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), the event allows students to display posters on their investigations, as well as meet with members of Congress to discuss the impact of research on their undergraduate experience.
The Centralia native’s poster is titled, “Cardiovascular Fitness, Anxiety, Depression, and Insulin Resistance in a Young Population.” It details her research that examines whether cardiovascular fitness and psychological factors such as depression and anxiety can predict insulin resistance and Type II diabetes.
Her research partners and mentors at WSU Health and Wellness Services’ Center for Research include Timothy S. Freson, associate director of research; Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, quantitative analyst; and Bruce R. Wright, director. Also involved are Department of Psychology faculty members John M. Ruiz and Heidi A. Hamann.
“Applying to become a research assistant was a big decision, but one of the best decisions I have made while at WSU,” said Jemelka, who joined the HWS research team as a sophomore. “Though there was a steep learning curve, frustrating moments learning testing protocols, and required presentations, I have never regretted my decision. Now I have research and critical thinking skills.
“As a research assistant, I helped conduct hour long fitness assessments to gather the data used for my poster. I used portions of the data collected to explore the relationship between cardiovascular fitness, psychological factors and insulin resistance.
“Initially it was disappointing to see anxiety and depression not significantly predict insulin resistance risk factors, but it raises new, exciting questions about youth and how it affects the roles of anxiety and depression in the progression of insulin resistance and coronary heart disease. It’s like working a puzzle, and we just found a piece that doesn’t fit, however we can use this information to come closer to a solution.”
WSU’s Director of Undergraduate Research Dave Bahr applauds Jemelka’s honor. “This is the first time a WSU student has presented their research at this CUR-sponsored national event, and we’re very pleased that Amy, who is such an excellent representative of the high-quality work by our undergraduates, has been selected to take part in Posters on the Hill.
“Undergraduate research plays a significant role in the development of students, and examples such as Amy’s project being recognized nationally demonstrate the importance of long-term research and mentoring between faculty and students.”
Freson and WSU Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Mary F. Wack, plan to attend Jemelka’s poster session in Washington. Freson and Jemelka also traveled to Baltimore to present the poster at the American Psychosomatic Society annual meeting.
“I enjoyed presenting my data and brainstorming possible explanations of the surprising results we found,” Jemelka said. “It was a compliment to see so many PhD.’s and M.D.’s taking handouts from me, an undergraduate, at the poster session.”
Jemelka plans to become a family practice physician specializing in sports medicine. She is the daughter of Bobbi Jemelka and Dan Jemelka of Centralia, Wash.