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Ryan Pettit-Mee

PhD Student in Exercise PhysiologyRyan Pettit-MeeRyan Pettit-Mee is a PhD candidate in the Exercise Physiology program. Ryan earned an undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Sciences from the University of Limerick, Ireland, and two master’s degrees from Central Michigan University, one in Exercise Science and the other in Health Administration. Ryan is an accredited registered clinical exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine after completing a cardiac rehabilitation internship at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit MI. After earning his master’s in Exercise Science, he was employed as a research lab technician in the exercise science division at Central Michigan University, during which he helped research functional and molecular responses to exercise in humans and animals. Becoming interested in the reciprocal relationship between insulin resistance and vascular dysfunction and how exercise may treat these problems, Ryan applied to the Exercise Physiology doctoral program at Mizzou.

Research Interests: Understanding how responses to exercise can treat insulin resistance and other chronic diseases.

Awards: Adeline M. Hoffman Fellowship award

Why did you choose Mizzou?

During my master’s, I became very interested in the reciprocal relationship between insulin resistance and vascular dysfunction and how exercise may be a therapeutic means to treat these problems. I had read Dr. Padilla’s work in this area and saw him present at an ACSM national conference on this topic; hence I applied to the exercise physiology doctoral program. The campus visit cemented my decision to accept an offer from Mizzou. From the facilities and equipment available to conduct translational research and the highly collaborative culture between investigators, I felt this was the right fit for me to grow as a research scientist.

What is your thesis/dissertation about?

I’m investigating if passive heat therapy (via hot water immersion) improves insulin-stimulated blood flow in type 2 diabetes, a crucial mechanism for glucose control. Moreover, I’m exploring whether such improvements are the result of passive heating increasing heat shock protein 72 in the vasculature to help regulate cellular stress signaling, in turn rescuing the vasculatures responsiveness to insulin.

Why did you choose the field you chose?

Exercise is an incredible way to treat many diseases and conditions. I was intrigued to figure out how and why exercise works so well as a therapy.

Have your career goals changed?

I initially wanted to earn a doctorate to facilitate a career in clinical exercise physiology that afforded me the ability to provide direct patient care and allow me to investigate how exercise testing and training assist in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients with cardiovascular diseases. During my role as an exercise science research lab technician, I became progressively more interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms behind chronic disease and exercise therapeutics. From these experiences and my current training, I currently envision a career in academia as an independent research scientist, conducting good science that can meaningfully impact clinical practice and improve patient care.

Where do you plan to go upon graduation?

I’m looking into pursuing post-doctoral training upon graduation. I’m interested in why insulin resistance increases the susceptibility to so many conditions and diseases with poor prognosis. With a growing diabetic and aging population, I can see expanding my training to understand how systemic and vascular insulin resistance negatively impacts brain structure and functioning, increasing the likelihood of developing cognitive disorders. Importantly, I want to investigate potential therapies and therapeutic targets that could alleviate insulin resistance, and notably, how physiological responses to exercise may be recapitulated to help treat those who may find exercise difficult.

What did you like about Mizzou?

Several things. Access to high-quality facilities and collaborative culture between investigators facilitates the ability of trainees to learn and conduct impactful science. Our department hosts weekly seminars where investigators with a differing research focus, often from other institutions, present their work. As part of this unique program graduate students interact with these guests and gain meaningful insights and advice from these reputable scientists

Who was your mentor?

I am co-mentored by Dr. Jill Kanaley and Dr. Jaume Padilla.