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Arnold School of Public Health

Exercise science graduate pursues career in sport science

April 18, 2023 | Erin Bluvas,

Originally from Colombia, Nestor Urrea came to the United States to earn his higher education degrees. To combine his personal and career interests, he decided to study exercise science at the University of South Florida.

“I have been involved in sports and physical activity since I was six years old,” Urrea says. “I have always been interested in the health benefits linked to exercise.”

When looking at master’s programs, the Arnold School’s Department of Exercise Science appealed to Urrea because it offered high-quality programs and the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in both research and the field. He was particularly interested in studying athletic populations through the USC Sport Science Lab, which is led by exercise science chair Shawn Arent.

“Dr. Arent has been a great example as a person and as a professional,” Urrea says. “He has always motivated me to be the best version of myself and is one of the reasons why I want to continue my education and obtain my Ph.D. in sport science since I want to be as influential and successful professional in the exercise science and sport performance field as he is.”

In addition to his research assistantship with the lab, Urrea served as the lead teaching assistant for an anatomy and physiology course – a role for which he has been nominated for the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the Graduate School. Outside the Arnold School, Urrea accomplished one of his other key goals when he decided to attend USC: working as a strength and conditioning intern with Olympic sports.

Urrea has worked with tennis, volleyball (indoor and beach) and softball teams. For the past year, he has focused on the women’s soccer team, which won the SEC Tournament Championship last fall. He graduates this May with his department’s Outstanding M.S. in Exercise Science Student award for his program.

With interests in sports performance and injury-prevention among high-level athletes, Urrea’s next steps include obtaining his doctoral degree. Long term, he would like to become the director of sport performance for a collegiate and/or professional team.

“I totally encourage anybody to apply to any of the programs offered by the Arnold School of Public Health,” he advises future students. “Take advantage of the many opportunities available to be involved in research and work with well-known faculty members.”

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