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Skidmore College

Wes Lefferts wins undergrad award for science research

January 14, 2011
Wes Lefferts

Wesley Lefferts '11

Wesley Lefferts '11 received an award during the fall for research he conducted last summer under the direction of Denise Smith and Pat Fehling, professors of exercise science. 

Lefferts, who hails from Portland, Ore., received the Matthew Kerner Undergraduate Student Investigator Award presented by the Mid-Atlantic Region Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine (MARC-ACSM). Announcement of the award was made at the chapter's November annual meeting in Harrisburg, Penn.

With fellow researchers Logan Arena, '11, Eric Hultquist '11, and Jacob Deblois '10, Lefferts, Annie Wu '12, and Tim Russell '12 spent the summer analyzing the effect of base-layer clothing on physiological and perceptual responses to exercise in firefighting gear.

The students examined different base layers worn by firefighters under their gear to see if the clothing decreased the strain on the firefighters' cardiovascular system and enhanced their bodies' thermal capabilities. Testing was done on 10 volunteers who wore differing base layers under about 50 lbs. of gear that firefighters typically wear. The volunteers were asked to complete a two-hour protocol of activities that mimicked the level of exertion that firefighters typically face.

The students compared cotton undergarments with technical fiber (similar to what current members of the military wear) and determined that the base layers had no effect on cardiovascular or thermal strain.

The analysis was part of a larger study by Smith and Fehling to investigate the effectiveness of new materials and textiles in reducing the thermal and cardiovascular strain experienced by firefighters. The research is supported by a grant of $569,000 from the federal Department of Homeland Security. Arena, Hultquist, and Lefferts did an independent study with Smith this fall and continued analyzing the data they collected in the summer and preparing that data for submission to the MARC-ACSM meeting.

The Matthew Kerner Undergraduate Student Investigator Award annually recognizes undergraduate student research with an award of $250 and a plaque. Winners are selected on the quality of their work and a presentation at the annual meeting.

For Lefferts, the MARC-ACSM Award was a first, and the culmination of a terrific experience. "I had a great summer working with amazing people, both professors and friends. Being exposed to the research process was both stressful and fun. It was unlike any other experience I've had in college," he said.

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