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Arnold School of Public Health

December graduate earns second Arnold School degree to pursue career in exercise science

January 17, 2020 | Erin Bluvas,

Michael Smith’s career path has always been straight forward. The Columbia, South Carolina native has been passionate about sports and physical activity since he was a kid. His interest in science made studying exercise science a natural fit.

After graduating from high school, Smith earned a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the Arnold School, with support from a LIFE scholarship, New Millennium Building Systems Scholarship, and Thomas C. Meredith and Bill Rogers, Jr Scholarship. The strength of the department and its Master of Science in Exercise Science program made sticking around for graduate school an easy decision. UofSC’s close-to-home location was another bonus.

In the master’s program, which prepares students for careers in academia and health-related specialties (e.g., exercise physiologist, fitness coordinator, rehabilitation coordinator), Smith immersed himself in courses on physical activity and health, motor control and development, research methods and statistics, exercise physiology, clinical exercise testing, and others. He also gained research experience in areas such as muscular endurance, while learning how to translate scholarly literature for those without a scientific background. From his mentor, clinical assistant professor Raymond Thompson, Smith learned to find an answer to every question and always be thorough.

During his time at Carolina, Smith gained experience serving as the health and wellness coordinator for Verizon Wireless, working one-on-one with clients on lifestyle, fitness and nutritional goals. He also served as a teaching assistant in the Physiology and Muscular Activity Laboratory – rising to the position of head teaching assistant during the second year of his program – and served on the Arnold School’s Dean’s Student Advisory Council.

Off campus, he interned with South Carolina Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation with Lexington Medical Center. In this role, Smith educated patients on exercises and equipment use and recorded patient exercise data.

For his thesis project, Smith tested the effectiveness and reproducibility of the endurance index, which assesses muscular resistance to fatigue. Working with two groups of healthy participants (ages 18-30 years), he evaluated muscle fatigue after three bouts of electrical muscle stimulation to the quadriceps and hamstrings. Smith found the endurance index to be moderately reliable and sufficiently sensitive to detect local muscular fatigue.

"Working on my research project taught me to better understand research methods, protocols and to practice data collection in order to have the best sample measurement possible," Smith says. "I also learned to appreciate others' research more as I have experienced some of the hard work that is required. "

After his graduation this month, Smith’s plans include gaining professional experience while applying his degrees and may returning to graduate school in the future. He also plans to get back into races now that he has more time. Smith has already run four half-marathons and one marathon and intends to recruit his family to join him in future running events.

For those considering a similar path, Smith has some advice. “Think about what population you would like to work with,” he says. “Also, leverage your time in the program setting yourself up with experiences and education to do that.”

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