Research Spotlight: Emily Whitaker

by kmainsah on July 19, 2018

Emily Whitaker is a recent graduate of Roanoke College. She worked with Mr. Buriak in Health and Human Performance for her research project. Her research examined the effect of sleep time on strength gains in collegiate baseball players. Specifically, it looked at how sleep affects pitching accuracy in collegiate baseball pitchers. This study was a pilot study that may have the opportunity to expand in the future. This study is the first to
follow a team throughout a semester. While sleep is commonly known to influence the body’s composition in weight loss, there is no similar study looking at the anabolic processes in athletes. Following several baseball team members across a semester, group participants were allowed less than 5.5 hours or over 8 hours sleep per night. The results indicate that there is a trend that longer amounts of sleep (6+ hours/night) improved strength gains and over improvement in lean body mass accumulation. Sleep time also showed some interesting trends related to pitching accuracy.

What made Emily pursue this topic was that she felt there was no research examining sleep in collegiate athletes and how it affected athletic performance. Also, Emily was a collegiate athlete at Roanoke, on the women’s soccer team, so one could see how important this was for her to pursue. She knew that sleep was important as an athlete but wasn’t aware of the influence it could have on strength gains and performance. Emily felt “that research was a great opportunity for [her] to explore different areas of study in [her] field”. It also allowed her to connect with a lot of professors that she wouldn’t have been able to without the research program. Thanks to the research program, more importantly, the guidance of Mr. Buriak, Emily was able to complete this project on her own; thus, learning how to do research on her own.

Emily had the opportunity to go to the American College of Sports Medicine Conference this year. It was a great experience for her as an undergraduate student as it exposed her to a large demographic of research. Emily was able to meet “physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and doctorates from all over the country”. Emily’s favorite part of her research project was showing the results to our very own Roanoke College coaches and athletes. They got a firsthand account of how important sleep really is. She says “it was very neat to see coaches and athletes buying in to the [study]”.

Emily would encourage incoming and current students to get involved with research soon and often. She says that it is an awesome way to get involved with all Roanoke has to offer. Research is avenue where one can constantly learn new things about one’s area of interest.


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