Samantha McDonald, a former PhD student under Russell Pate, has begun teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in exercise science at Illinois State University. At CPARG, she worked as a graduate assistant assisting in the development of manuscripts and physical activity interventions. Her research focus eventually evolved from children’s physical activity to physical activity during pregnancy where her dissertation assessed the association between maternal weight status, physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness and infant birthweight. In her research, she was able to highlight significant gaps and limitations to the current literature which led to other related lines of investigations and unique findings.
Currently, as an assistant professor in kinesiology and recreation her research investigates the effects of exercise during pregnancy on maternal, fetal and neonatal health outcome. Her recently published articles demonstrated 1) one-month-old neonates born to exercise-trained pregnant women possessed lower amounts of body fat and 2) exercise-trained mothers elicited lower levels of circulating insulin at 36 weeks and exhibited a reduced increase in insulin concentrations from 16 to 36 weeks of gestation. Her research suggests that exercising during pregnancy positively impacts neonatal body composition and maternal metabolism and may be protective of adverse health trajectories in mother and baby.