April 26, 2022

Unexpected Opportunities in Research

Many different specialities and options within the Faculty of Kinesiology
Dr. Nicole Cho, PhD
Dr. Nicole Cho, PhD Dana Lowry

It may come as a surprise to learn UCalgary's Kinesiology program allows student-researchers to design studies with consideration of epigenetics, conduct animal studies including C-section births, and look into the biochemistry of the gut microbiota. 

Dr. Nicole Cho, PhD, a graduate of UCalgary’s Kinesiology program, has had the opportunity to do all these things in nutrition research within Dr. Raylene Reimer's laboratory.  

"When you think research in Knes, you think physio or exercise interventions, but there is a huge span of what you can do," says Cho.

Recontextualizing the stigma around obesity

Kinesiology students quickly learn aside from drinking and smoking, carrying excess weight can be extremely detrimental for your health. It is a risk factor for nearly every disease, primarily due to the inflammatory cascade extra adipose tissue causes. 

However, Cho claims her area of research may challenge the stigma of obesity; having obesity is complex, and is not a sign of “laziness”. 

Dr. Niki Cho, PhD, conducts epigenetic nutrition research in Dr. Raylene Reimer’s laboratory

Dr. Niki Cho, PhD, conducts epigenetic nutrition research in Dr. Raylene Reimer’s laboratory

Dana Lowry

Cho’s work investigates the epigenetic influences of maternal and paternal diets on the body composition of their offspring. 

“It’s interesting to see that what your mom eats can affect your health outcomes… We know that obesity is so multifactorial, but there’s still so much stigma around it. You literally can’t do anything about what your mom eats during pregnancy,” says Cho.

Rather than shame individuals with obesity, Cho asks how we optimize health outcomes?

Flexibility in career prospects 

Cho credits her decision to pursue Kinesiology at UCalgary to a medical resident who worked with her father, who asserted Kinesiology could allow her to explore a variety of job opportunities. 

"There are so many different specialities within KNES… as an undergrad I didn't know about so many of these topics, and I don't think I would have had I been in another faculty,” says Cho.

You won't find what you are passionate about right away 

Originally planning to pursue medicine like her father, Cho advises students to keep an open mind before committing to a niche. Kinesiology redirected Cho to discover her love of research, but says it took some time to find her calling. 

"As an undergrad I did a little bit of research in biomechanics, sports injury, concussion, and eventually I realized nutrition was the most interesting to me,” she says.

Kinesiology also allowed Cho to pursue her passion for teaching. Her high school tutoring experiences fed into her desire to TA (teaching assistant) and lecture for KNES courses. Now an instructor for KNES 437 and 605 (nutrition courses), Cho also spent six years as an anatomy TA and then head TA/lab coordinator for KNES 259 and 260. 

After struggling in her own anatomy lab as a student and receiving harsh criticism from a TA for an undergraduate presentation, Cho says, "I wanted to make sure students who may be struggling get the help they need.”

Your undergrad doesn’t limit your post grad options

Cho acknowledges that choosing an undergrad can be a daunting task, as Kinesiology has a long list of specializations. However, as a general Kinesiology stream graduate, Cho serves excellent advice for students struggling with making the “right” decision.

"You shouldn't feel like your undergrad limits you in what you can do post-graduation,”says Cho. “I could basically do nutrition and neuroscience–still under the umbrella of knes, which I thought was really cool.”

The Faculty of Kinesiology is the No. 1 sport science school in North America and No. 10 globally (ShanghaiRanking).