Eden Cormie, Koree Stillwell, Andreas Stamatis, Nickie Hayes and Gabriela Herrera pose at ACSM’s Greater New York Conference. Stillwell’s presentation got first place in a competition of clinical case studies.
By Aleksandra Sidorova
Four SUNY Plattsburgh students presented research at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Greater New York Conference April 22.
Three seniors — Eden Cormie, Nicole Hayes and Gabriela Herrera — and sophomore Koree Stillwell traveled to New York City together with their adviser Andreas Stamatis and Assistant Professor of Exercise and Nutrition Cody Dulaney. Stamatis selected the students based on their “exceptional” academic performance. He especially focused on seniors to instill within them the skills needed to “sell” their ideas and work in a team. He also said he wanted to expose them to new experiences, including collaborating with other universities in the United States or abroad and engaging in friendly competition.
“This is advice I give to all my advisees in general — get exposed to things. That’s the only solution if you don’t know what you want to do, and maybe something clicks,” Stamatis said. “However, if you stay at home and do nothing, nothing will click.”
To prepare for the conference, Stamatis met with the students once a week for trial runs. The standards for conference presentations are different from those of class presentations: no aids like index cards are allowed and the target audience is not peers but professionals in the field, who will certainly ask questions, expecting “airtight” answers prepared in advance.
“You have to persuade these people in three minutes that this is the most significant, most innovative thing that they’ve ever judged,” Stamatis said.
Cormie and Hayes said Stamatis is a harsh critic, but means well and has successfully prepared them for the conference.
“He can be very critical, and he will interrupt you during your presentation. He’s tough, but it was helpful, especially during that first, initial presentation,” Hayes said. “He just wanted to make sure that we were putting our best foot out there.”
Outside of her meetings with Stamatis, Hayes practiced her presentation “every single day.”
Hayes said she usually struggles with her hands and legs shaking during presentations, but with practice and breathing exercises she learned from her counselor on campus, she managed to overcome this challenge when the time came to present at the conference.
“I was really proud of myself for that,” Hayes said.
Cormie said agreeing to present research at the conference was a “leap of faith.”
“Andreas believed in me, and that was a really big thing for me,” Cormie said. “If you asked me two years ago if I would have done this, maybe even a year ago, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not. Like, I’m not going to New York City with a bunch of people I don’t know to present research — that’s terrifying.’”
The research Cormie presented investigated how mood can affect the ability of concussed patients to perform cognitive tasks, such as reading, remembering and problem-solving. The better the patient’s mood, the better they are able to perform, the study found. Cormie chose the topic because she had seen her friends and family, including her brother, experience concussions as a result of sports injuries.
Although Cormie is unsure of the career path she will take after graduating, the conference exposed her to the psychological aspect of sports medicine. Cormie called the experience “once-in-a-lifetime.”
Hayes presented research about sleep efficiency — the ratio of how much time in bed is spent sleeping — in relation to diet. Through a self-reported questionnaire, the study found that the longer the time between the last meal of the day and going to bed, the less efficient sleep is. As a fitness and wellness leadership major with a concentration in nutrition, this topic stood out to her most.
The research Herrera presented examined how screen time affects males’ mental work, such as analyzing information and retaining it. The study found that the more screen time the participants had, the less mental work they did. These findings are especially applicable in the rise of online learning prompted by COVID-19, Herrera said.
Herrera has known “from the beginning” that she wanted to become an occupational therapist, and the research published with her name as conference proceedings was a boost to her resume. Herrera will start Stony Brook University’s occupational therapy master’s program June 21.
Stillwell said going to the conference is not an experience many sophomores get to have. Her presentation was the only clinical case study at the conference, too. It examined the case of a 16-year-old female amateur basketball player who experienced an anterior cruciate ligament tear — a knee injury. The case study found that the subject sought to get her knee examined too early and got misdiagnosed as a result. She also returned to the sport too early and suffered an even worse injury. These findings can guide those who care for athletes’ injuries toward better diagnosis and treatment.
To Stillwell, the topic was “right up my alley” as a young female basketball player herself.
“This could even happen to me,” Stillwell said. “It’s so easy to get injured playing sports, even when there is no contact.”
Not only did the students gain experience presenting, but they also enjoyed the usual benefits of conferences, such as networking and learning from experts in the field. This year’s conference focused on mental health, which the students found relatable or helpful to apply in their presentations and future work.
“We got to hear some guest speakers beforehand, and a lot of them, they were speaking about anxiety. I know me and the other girls that were in the same boat as me were also anxious leading up to the time we were going to present,” Herrera said. “We found ourselves really needing to hear these speeches before presenting.”
The students said the trip made for a “great bonding experience” between peers and professors alike. While Hayes said she would have been uncomfortable traveling with only her professors, Herrera said such experiences allow students to get to know their professors outside of classroom settings, which can be beneficial for learning and getting opportunities.
“They might have other opportunities to present to you if you have a closer relationship to them, maybe,” Herrera said. “I just think it makes it easier to learn when you’re close with someone and it’s more comfortable for you to go to them for adviser questions.”
The trip was funded with a $1,500 grant from College Auxiliary Services. Students said they didn’t need to pay a penny for the trip. Stamatis has been going to ACSM’s conferences with students for at least the past five years, establishing SUNY Plattsburgh’s presence and growing the college’s brand.
“They really know us now, and they’re like, ‘Oh, the Plattsburgh people,’” Stamatis said. “Yeah, we’re here. Get ready.”