Scientists at LIP

Dr. Emily LaVoy

Assistant Professor
Health and Human Performance
Office Number: 104b GAR
Phone: 713-743-0829

I investigate the effects of physical activity and exercise on our immune systems. My goal is to use this knowledge to modulate our immune systems to promote health. Using both basic and translational approaches, my research investigates how exercise improves diseases and conditions associated with immune dysregulation, such as cancer, addiction, and age-related declines in immunity. My research also asks if infection history influences the relationship between exercise and immune health. By furthering our understanding of the immune system, this research will improve the quality of life of patients suffering from cancer and inflammation-related diseases.

Dr. Melissa Markofski

Assistant Professor
Health and Human Performance
Office Number: 104U GAR
Phone: 713-743-6658
Email: mmarkofs@Central.UH.EDU

Dr. Markofski's overarching research question is How do exercise and nutrition encourage healthy aging? We know that people who are physically active have a lower risk of chronic diseases and decreased mortality, but what are the mechanisms for this benefit? Dr. Markofski is primarily interested in the contribution of the immune system and skeletal muscle to healthy aging, but acknowledges that these systems are influenced by other physiological processes.
Many of the diseases typically associated with aging may not be related to aging per se, but rather an age-associated decrease in physical activity and increase in sedentary time. These changes in physical activity cause numerous changes to physiology, including to the immune system, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle—and cause an increase in the risk for developing chronic diseases. Dr. Markofski approaches her research questions by studying the acute and chronic effects of exercise and nutrition on skeletal muscle and immune function. She is an exercise physiologist with a research agenda in exercise immunology. Her current projects encompass healthy research participants, cancer patients and survivors, and health disparities.

Dr. Yoonjung Park

Associate Professor
Health and Human Performance
Office Number: 104F GAR
Phone: 713-743-9350

Research efforts focus on Exercise/Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health:
1. To investigate the protective role of physical activity and exercise training in vascular (endothelial) dysfunction in the various pathophysiologic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, aging (Alzheimer), microgravity, etc. in animal and human models.
2. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms in which vascular function is altered by the sequelae of the diseases and physical activity/exercise training at the molecular, cellular, and intact tissue levels using isolated intact microvessels.

Dr. Richard Simpson

Research Associate Professor
Health and Human Performance

Dr Simpson studies the effects of exercise and stress on the immune system. Major cross-cutting themes of his work are aging (immunosenescence), cancer and spaceflight. Specifically, Dr Simpson and his team study how single exercise bouts can be used to augment the recovery and expansion of specific immune cells that can be used therapeutically to treat patients with hematologic malignancies; and how exercise can be used to negate the onset of immunosenescence during natural aging. He is also interested in how exercise training can contribute to improved patient survival and quality of life through immune and inflammatory pathways at all phases of the cancer care continuum. His current work includes three NASA funded projects that aim to (i) examine the effects of long duration spaceflight on astronaut immune function and illness rates; (ii) characterize behavioral and psychiatric risks associated with extreme isolation and confinement (Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Candice Alfano); and (iii) determine the effects of simulated microgravity and acute radiation exposure on viral infectivity and host immune evasion.

LIP Affiliated Scientists

Dr. Daniel O'Connor

Health and Human Performance
Office Number: 145 MEL
Phone: 713-743-2377

Dr. O’Connor’s interdisciplinary research agenda includes evaluating the effectiveness of health-related interventions, explaining individual variation in health outcomes, and investigating the effects of physical activity on health and risk factors. He has collaborated in research across many diverse fields and topics, including obesity, health and wellness, public health, kinesiology, exercise science, rehabilitation, movement disorders, physiology, and surgery.