HHP Student Research Spotlight: Julianna Ethridge

What is your major/minor?
I’m majoring in Exercise Physiology – Exercise as Medicine – and minoring in Psychology.

What is your graduation year?

What is your research project? What are you trying to accomplish with this project?
The project is called “Neuromotor Control Differences in the Upper Extremity Between Those With and Without Rheumatoid Arthritis.” The project is focused on the differences in cognitive load and movement patterns between those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and those without while completing basic tasks. Knowing how individuals with RA change their movement patterns to compensate for their RA symptoms is crucial for developing treatments and creating assistive technology. Moreover, this project will give us insight into how RA changes the amount of cognitive effort required to complete basic tasks.

Who are you working with in order to complete this research project?
This project is the brainchild of former student Whitney Pierce, and Dr. Nicholas Murray of the Visual Motor Lab. Pre-Occupational Therapy student Madison Holloman and pre-Physical Therapy student Georgia Parnell work with me on this project. I also utilize the expertise and equipment of Dr. Christopher Mizelle and his Sensory Motor Integration Lab for the project.

How did you become involved in the research process?
I reached out to Dr. Murray in the fall of 2020 because I was interested in research after completing two major protects at Wake Technical Community College. Dr. Murray introduced me to Whitney Pierce, who began this project and is now pursuing a degree in Occupational Therapy (OT) at Duke University. Based on my interests in both OT and rheumatoid arthritis, I began assisting Whitney until she graduated, and I continued the project.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in your field and want to become involved?
As with everything in life, start early. I reached out to Dr. Murray about a year before I took the KINE 4991 class designed to get you involved in research. Research is so much more than you will experience in one semester of KINE 4991. To get the most out of the experience, pick a topic that interests you. ECU has several different labs run by Exercise Physiology professors that specialize in different subjects. Reach out to the professors via email and ask if they have a few minutes to meet with you and answer any questions that you may have about getting involved in their projects or starting your own. 

    How do you think this research process has affected/will affect your career path(s)?
    Prior to completing this research project, I planned to earn a clinical doctorate in Occupational Therapy, spend twenty years specializing in pediatrics, return to school to earn a P.h.D., and become a professor of Occupational Therapy at a university. While the plan remains mostly the same, this research project combined with other experiences has served to push me towards specializing in geriatrics, specifically aging-in-place for senior adults.

    Julianna would like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to the following individuals for their assistance on this project:
    Joshua Lawton, Gustavo Heidner, Brittany Trotter, Cole Sealey, Julia Daniel, Dr. Jesse Rhoades, Spencer Kerstein, Isaiah Whitten, Jaxon Maness and Miyah Plummer.