You are here

BUILD Mentor Spotlight for June 2019: Dr. Joshua A. Cotter

Published June 10, 2019

Dr. Joshua A. Cotter

Dr. Joshua A. Cotter, NSCA-CPT, CSCS

Assistant Professor

Department: Exercise Physiology
College: Health and Human Services
Research Areas: Understanding the Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Mass, Exercise Countermeasures for Spaceflight, Optimizing Exercise and Sport Performance
Mentor Directory Profile

My Career Path

My career path has definitely been a windy one! I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration – Management Information Systems but decided to switch paths for my Master’s degree where I focused on Sport Psychology and Exercise Behavior. During my initial studies in graduate school, I realized I had a passion for physiology so I completed my doctoral (Ph.D.) in Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics. Following graduation, I was lucky enough to get hired as an NIH postdoctoral fellow at UCI in Orange County where I further learned techniques relating to cellular and molecular biology as well as working on NASA sponsored projects. I am now happily sharing my knowledge through both teaching and research regarding various topics of physiology and biology of exercise.

Why My Research Is Exciting

Research is always exciting to me because it is fresh, new, and challenging. We are, after all, using research to find answers previously unknown, so how can it not be exciting?

Right now though I am examining novel training methods (blood flow restriction and neuromuscular electrical stimulation) to see if we can optimize exercise training techniques that could be used by astronauts in space. As we are now performing muscle biopsies at CSULB (a medical procedure), I hope to better understand what is happening with these training techniques at the protein and gene level.

Although many people may think that space research helps only the select few who make it into space, the truth of the matter is that what we learn with space research applies to many different environments and scenarios here on Earth. For instance, many physiological changes that occur in space, also happen here on Earth with aging. We can consider what happens in space as “accelerated aging” and is an excellent model to see how we can prevent some of the negative changes that occur here with aging on Earth. We have gained many technological advances from studying space.

What You Should Know About My Research

As Co-Director of the Physiology of Exercise and Sport (PEXS) here at CSULB, only those involved with our lab truly know the depth and breadth of what we are capable of. At other universities, much of our equipment would be spread across multiple labs but we have them all in one lab space. We can measure physiologically what is occurring at the whole body level as well as down to what’s happening at the cellular and molecular level. Students are very lucky to have these types of techniques and equipment at their fingertips. We are continually looking forward to having more students come into our lab with unique ideas regarding research projects.

How BUILD Trainees Have Contributed to My Research

BUILD trainees have been pivotal with research in the PEXS lab. We have had nearly 10 BUILD students across several faculty members in our lab all coming together to conduct some pretty cool research projects.

We are very proud in our lab to be conducting research on humans where we are collecting physiological measurements as well as biological measurements such as blood, saliva, and muscle samples. Our students get an understanding of the body from the whole body level down to individual cells.

Additionally, we have our BUILD students involved in research from the very beginning with research design and IRB submission, to recruitment and data collection, and finally presenting our research at conferences and through publishing in journals. It is important in our lab for students to understand the whole research process, not just a small portion of it.

As an example, we have a team of 7 students working on a human training study aimed at improving exercise countermeasures in spaceflight. Our students take part in all pretesting/post-testing as well as the rigorous training that happens for 6 straight weeks. The students learn how to work in a collaborative environment and develop skills necessary to optimally coordinate a research project.

How BUILD Has Contributed to My Research and Career

Thinking back to my undergraduate, and even graduate, years, there was nothing like the BUILD program around to help promote experiences with research. The program has been an amazing way for students to get excellent experiences in research but has also allowed me to have additional ways of mentoring students. Research is such a wonderful learning tool to help students with their future success and BUILD has allowed more students to have those experiences.