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Dr. Jared Hornsby, Brittany Johnson, & Patrick Meckley

February 2018

Faculty Research

Dr. Jared Hornsby

School: Health Science
Department: Health Profession

 

Research Focus

My research focus includes tactical (specifically military and law enforcement) human performance. Since arriving at Liberty in 2014, I along with a team and undergraduate and graduate students have created a human performance program with the university’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (AROTC). This program sought to educate, train, and assess Cadets, so they could go further, faster, and be stronger. Each fall, Cadets partook in a workshop to help improve their sleeping habits, physical training capabilities, general nutrition guidelines, etc. Weekly training was also provided for 30-40+ Cadets in the Department of Health Professions Functional Assessment Labs. There, Cadets received a strength training program and how to prevent injury while training. Physical training assessments such as the Ranger Athlete Warrior assessment, Ranger Physical Assessment Test, and the Army Combat Readiness Test were used to assess Cadets ability to perform in the gym and while training under external load in the field.

 

Over the last year, the Exercise Science program has partnered with Liberty’s Police Department. This partnership has and will continue to help us better understand the mediators of stress and how they impact heart rate, breathing rate, and marksmanship. Loaned equipment from Fatigue Science has allowed us to monitor officer’s sleep quality, quantity, and alertness during this project. During Spring 2018, a more in-depth version of this stress shoot will take place as part of a master’s thesis. Plans are being made for this study to be presented at university, regional, and national conferences and to be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

 

Research experience and how research mentorship played a role:

As mentioned above, mentorship and student involvement are at the heart of this research agenda. Generally speaking, exposing students to the research, defining a role for them to play, and then allowing them to take ownership for their aspect of the project is what has allowed this work to be successful. Each student arrives with a different ability level and has their own goals of what they want to accomplish. Therefore, meeting students “where they are” and identifying how they can make an impact is crucial to making the experience worthwhile for them. Ultimately, we hope these experiences will provide them the best opportunity to be successful in their career and life while positively impacting the culture.

 

What impact will this research have in your field?

First and foremost, this research will impact those who participate in it. Whether learning how to sleep, train, or eat better, or by having a better understanding of how stress impacts physical and cognitive performance. In addition, the men and women who’ve participated in these programs will go on to lead others and will hopefully pass this information along as they lead. Last (but not least), work conducted with Liberty’s Police Department will continue to equip their officers to protect this university and the community which benefits us all.

 

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of collaborating with students in a research experience?

For me, the most rewarding part of collaborating with students is getting to invest in them like so many others invested in me. It is rewarding to see students develop research and critical thinking skills that help them in the classroom as well as while conducting research. They often share these skills with their fellow peers while working as a team or on individual projects. These experiences are not ones that can be “programmed” but rather have to occur organically by casting a vision, laying out goals, and having a process for how to accomplish the vision.


Student Research

Brittany Johnson

School: Health Sciences
Major: Exercise Science – Human Performance

 

Research Project

Our research focuses on identifying stressors that tactical populations deal with while serving in the line of duty. We are looking to see how those stressors affect heart rate, breathing rate, and marksmanship accuracy. By identifying these relationships/connections, we can suggest adjustments to the group’s training program, so its members could remain focused, and maintain an effective level of performance in various situations. Fortunately, the Liberty University Police Department (LUPD) sees the value in this research and has agreed to work with us to complete this research. Our goal is to show that being able to adjust and maintain composure during stressful situations is of the utmost importance when working to keep communities safe.

 

We are also looking at alertness scores and their relationship with marksmanship accuracy. Fatigue Science has loaned equipment to the group that allows us to monitor a person’s alertness score throughout the day. We are working to show that there is a connection between higher alertness scores and increased levels of marksmanship accuracy. Knowing a person’s, or a group’s alertness score can give a superior officer enough information to decide who to send out for an assignment.

 

How did you get involved in research collaboration with a faculty mentor?

During my first semester in Liberty’s M.S. of Exercise Science program, Dr. Hornsby was the instructor of my statistics course. He mentioned an opportunity to assist with the research he was working on that involved the Army ROTC (AROTC) program. I wanted to get more hands-on experience with conducting research and training. Working with Dr. Hornsby, I have been able to accomplish both. I began assisting the group that worked with him during the Spring 2017 semester and went from there. I helped run various stations during testing, and I assisted with the strength training program that was developed for the AROTC cadets.

 

As for the research that I am currently conducting, Dr. Hornsby showed a high level of passion for the performance of those serving in tactical populations. When he mentioned the possible research opportunity with LUPD, I saw it as an opportunity to gain a great mentor, in addition to the research experience that I hadn’t been exposed to while obtaining my undergraduate degree.

 

What impact will this research have on your future academic and professional opportunities?

Academically, I am planning to pursue my doctoral degree, maybe after a year of gaining some real-world work experience in my field. This research experience has shown me the importance of answering the questions of

 

how or why. I now have an excitement about figuring out how one thing affects another, or why one thing affects another. It is my hope that taking the time to get some real-world experience will give me the chance to identify areas in need of improvement within my field. By coupling that information with the knowledge I am gaining by working with Dr. Hornsby, I hope to be able to provide solutions that will further benefit tactical populations everywhere.

 

Professionally, when I first came to Liberty, I had my mindset on becoming a collegiate strength and conditioning coach. Since now, I have been exposed to the world of training tactical populations, my goals are to obtain my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and a position serving as a trainer in the military wellness centers located throughout the country. I would then like to go on to become a college professor in an exercise science program to share my knowledge and passion with future generations. I want them to understand the importance of our field as a whole. If I can do even half of what Dr. Hornsby has done for me and other students, I’ll be happy.

 

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?

The most exciting aspect of my research experience is learning how the research process is carried out. While there are tons of pieces that come together to make a research project, and dealing with them all can be overwhelming at times, being able to work under Dr. Hornsby’s guidance and carry out the process step by step has been amazing so far. This will most definitely be my biggest accomplishment once everything is complete.

 

The most rewarding aspect of my research experience is realizing that there is a huge need for a strength coach/trainer in the tactical population. Now that I have had exposure to working with tactical populations, I have developed an understanding and appreciation of how strength training can benefit such populations. The individuals who dedicate their lives to protect other people every day deserve assistance in being as prepared as possible. If I am able to begin working with these populations professionally, I will be able to help prepare them, and THAT will drive me to be the very best.

 

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?

My advice to a student considering getting involved in research is going for it! Even if you don’t think research something that you would enjoy, just try it. That’s exactly what happened to me when I came to Liberty. This is the time for you to find out what you are really interested in. This is the prime time for you to try new things that you may have never tried before. Just be fearless and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Pay attention to the information that your professors share with you because when conducting research, you will use that information. Finally, trust in God’s timing and His plan for you. Do not get discouraged if something does not work out the way you wanted. Something even better can be coming your way.


Student Research

Patrick Meckley

School: Health Sciences
Major: Exercise Science – Human Performance

 

Research Project

From a very broad standpoint, the research projects we have been working on all look to assess the human performance of Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (AROTC) cadets in a different battery of physical fitness tests than the standard Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The first project that we started had the cadets complete a modified version of the 75th Ranger Regiment’s “Ranger Athlete Warrior” (RAW) Assessment. They did so before and after completing a five-week workout program designed to train both cardiovascular and muscle strength and endurance. The initial research question was to compare the cadets’ scores on the pre and post-tests, but we also compared standardized results of the cadet data to the scores of active duty soldiers who are required to take the RAW assessment annually. The results of this study were presented at Liberty’s Research week, regional, and national conferences, and are planned to be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal this year.

 

How did you get involved in research collaboration with a faculty mentor?

During my second year at Liberty, I was a non-contracted cadet in the AROTC, and my year group was a highly competitive class. Dr. Hornsby approached me in his Introduction to weightlifting class looking to talk about the physical training program the AROTC followed. He went on to explain his background in the field of firefighter and military research, as well as his desire to continue that work here at Liberty and that really grabbed my attention. From that point forward Dr. Hornsby began to build a relationship with the AROTC program by assisting in programming a workout plan for a competition team within AROTC known as Ranger Challenge. I knew that helping Dr. Hornsby would be a chance to get involved in something more challenging andrigorous than the normal course load and I jumped into it with both feet.

 

Initially, my motive is to assist in the work he was doing for the AROTC to earn extra points in the ranking system used by the Army to evaluate cadets at the end of their third year. This evaluation determines cadets’ career path as an officer, and my intended path was to commission into the active-duty component of the Army as opposed to the Reserves or National Guard. However, as I’ve continued to work with him I have grown to understand the true nature of what we are contributing to current and future research in terms of survivability for our service members. The work we have done so far is extremely relevant to injury prevention and the optimization of overall human performance for our military.

 

What impact will this research have on your future academic and professional opportunities?

The study on the RAW Assessment was the first of various data collection efforts to work towards building a human performance program for the Army cadets, similar to what most Special Operations Forces units in the military have access to. The combined efforts of our research team allowed us as students to be exposed not only to different research methods but also to the world of strength and conditioning programming in military populations. These opportunities played a large role in my decision to continue my education with the pursuit of a Master’s degree in this field of study.

 

After being part of this team for the past three years, my short-term professional goals have shifted from the joining the active Army, but instead working towards a hybrid career of strength and conditioning programming for military populations as well as a part-time Officer in the Army National Guard.

 

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?

I found that the best part of my undergraduate research experience was really discovering what my career goals and passions are. I always knew in the grand scheme of my life God has had a plan for me to be in the military in some capacity. The experience I have had working under Dr. Hornsby has been instrumental in opening my eyes to what really goes into training an individual, or a team to perform at their physical limits. With the needs of military populations in mind, and the fact that I am one of those individuals, the most rewarding part of my research experience was being able to study both military and exercise science and immediately apply that knowledge in a practical setting.

 

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?

I would encourage all students in a field of study who are research-oriented to get involved as soon as possible, even if they think don’t have an interest in research. In my case, I had no idea the amount of applied research that was involved in the field of exercise science until I talked with Dr. Hornsby, and at the time I was not interested in anything more than the military after college. Getting into research in a topic that I found highly interesting early on in my undergraduate studies has allowed me to APPLY what I learn in class every day, rather than just going through the motions of studying in hopes of making a certain GPA. After getting extra

exposure to material via involvement in research, I listen to lectures and think, “Does this apply to military populations? If so, how and why?” This concept drastically improved my academic and professional experience, and I believe it will do the same for other students as well.

 

“Find a faculty member that is working on something that interests you and jumps in with both feet.”

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