James Madison University

Alumni Highlight - Katie Gorman


BS Kinesiology, James Madison University, Class of 2013
MS Exercise Physiology, Florida State University, Class of 2015

PHOTO: Katie Gorman

I began my time at JMU clumsily. My academic goals were mildly focused at best. With some minor interest in art throughout high school, I initially pegged myself for a media, arts and design major without much thought. My freshman year resulted in the successful completion of the notoriously ‘ominous’ SMAD 101 course and my ultimate entry into the program. But overall, I was feeling more displaced than excited. I was also a cross country athlete, my passion for running so dominating that it clouded my ability to define an academic interest on par with my athletic dreams. Instead of fighting to coexist, I realized both ambitions could be one in the same through Kinesiology.

KIN 302 + KIN 302L
After a mid-summer crisis, I transitioned from SMAD to the exercise science major entering my sophomore year. With every coursework hour (anatomy, physiology, KIN 100, 201, 202++), I was more and more certain of my switch, and of my dual interest in science and sport. While validated, I remained unsure of my career endpoint. For my peers it was mostly pre-PA, or pre-PT, or even pre-AT, though none of these options really seemed to resonate with me. When I enrolled in KIN 302, it was the pleasure of learning under Dr. Chris Womack that finally resulted in my ‘ah-ha’ moment. It felt distinctly rewarding to master the material and for the first time, I would learn to relate it to scientific literature. I was in love with the process (even the lab reports), and it pretty much hit me: how about plain old exercise physiology? No ‘pre-s’ about it.

Practicum Experience
I sought a practicum in the JMU Human Performance Lab to seal my fate. Through assisting in the data collection for a master’s thesis project, I was exposed to my very first bit of research. It’s meticulous nature felt both addictive and vastly important. It also didn’t hurt that in the process I met a true friend, Dan Baur, also an alumni of the JMU exercise physiology program.

Masters in Ex Phys
I truly felt that research was for me, and so I continued forward in academia with a research project of my own, in the form of a master’s thesis completed at Florida State University. My project investigated the acute metabolic and performance effects of nighttime chocolate milk consumption on a next morning bout of endurance exercise. Graduated in May of this year, I am still certain of my choices made, and hopeful to leave a tiny mark on the big world of science via a first publication (fingers crossed).

What Now?
I continue to develop my research interests working as a Laboratory Technician at the FSU College of Medicine. This opportunity has allowed me to learn some very cool techniques and be exposed to an entirely different research model using mice. This current research is centered on the responses of arterial microvasculature (in the heart, brain, skeletal muscle) to exercise training. I think the future may hold a PhD, and if I am incredibly lucky, the chance to be a part of academia.

I am still uncertain as to how the story ends, but I can say that the people who make up our Kinesiology department have played an obvious role in my self-discovery. For this reason, I will always consider JMU an important part of my own personal history, and of course, a place to call home.