Dr. Christopher Perry
Faculty: Health- York University
What do you wish you had known when you were in graduate school?
My PhD focused on the regulation of muscle metabolism as a
determinant of fitness in humans. I eventually realized that my skills in cell
metabolism could be applied to any disease in any tissue. I think students in
any field related to cellular physiology should realize they have skills that
can allow them to move into a broad range of fields. Students need to realize
the potential utility of their skills beyond the field they work in - there is
broad opportunity to define yourself as a researcher down the road...both in
your field, or in a new direction.
Also, students should be told early in their training that
it is entirely possible to have a therapy-driven outcome to their research in
addition to important basic scientific investigation.
What information/ advice did you learn in graduate school that has been most influential?
Graduate school is not a 9-5 job. If you want to be
competitive down the road, you need to make it your life (with some balance, of
course). With this in mind, you must choose a graduate program and thesis topic
that you are passionate about. This ensures that it becomes your hobby.
Where do you think exercise physiology graduates are most needed?
1. We already know exercise prevents and treats diabetes,
obesity and cardiovascular conditions. What we need now are exercise physiology
students focusing on behaviour change: HOW do you make people choose to
exercise and adopt a healthy lifestyle. This has little to do with cellular
physiology and much to do with a broad range of motivational and policy topics.
2. From a basic science view, I suggest to examples to think
about (but there are others). Exercise physiology students have the opportunity
to study a) mechanisms of how sedentarism accelerates other aging-related
diseases such as neurological disorders and cancer, and b) apply your expertise
to diseases that result in exercise limitations, as occurs in cancer patients,
respiratory disorders (COPD), a variety of neuromuscular conditions, etc. These
conditions prevent people from exercising. Thus, we need therapies that improve
muscle function to the point where afflicted individuals can then engage in
In short: if you are interested in exercise-treatable
diseases, focus on how to make people choose to exercise (become a
behaviourist), OR consider a direction that focused on integrating basic
science with developing therapies to treat conditions that prevent people from
exercising (or moving!).
Whatever you choose, I suggest focusing your research
towards a goal of actually helping society. Become an integrative and
translational researcher: couple mechanisms to therapy. You may actually be
part of a real solution for real problems one day.
Where do you see your overall area of research headed in the next 5 years?
Therapy-driven outcomes focused on preventing muscle
weakness in a variety of neuromuscular disorders that otherwise prevent people
from exercising (let alone moving!).
Outside your own interests, what area of exercise science/ physiology do you find most exciting right now?
The utility of exercise as a therapy to prevent and treat
neurological diseases and cancer is exciting and beyond the traditional view of
exercise as medicine for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders (although they
are all related). The future will identify even more diseases and conditions
that are influenced by lifestyle.
Why is being a CSEP Academic Member important to you?
is one of Canada's best mechanisms for academics to teach the public that
exercise is, in fact, medicine. Each CSEP member needs to think about public
outreach and knowledge translation - from student to faculty and everyone in
between in the academic membership. Academic members should inquire on CSEP's
recent initiative of 'Exercise is Medicine Canada'. This program is in
development and will be an exciting avenue for members to promote exercise
awareness - and hopefully practice - throughout Canada.
CSEP Academic Member Guide