Kayla Fedison takes First Place at NCHC Conference

Kayla Fedison stands in front of her first place poster at NCHC conference in Chicago.
Kayla Fedison stands in front of her first place poster at NCHC conference in Chicago.
Courtesy of Marcomm

The Windy City held host to the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) conference, where Kayla Fedison’s presentation blew the judges away, as she won first place.

Fedison’s project topic was titled The Effect of Motor Mental Imagery on the output of a multi-muscular sequential movement.

“I wanted to explore why I felt my leg contract a little when imagining running,” Fedison, a junior, said.  “I wanted to see if real and imagined movements shared similar motor pathways.”

She said her project was specifically looking at the relationship between imagined and real movement to the quadricep and hamstring muscle groups.

Fedison applied in the spring to present at the November 2023 conference and was accepted.

The NCHC is a national organization represents honors colleges all around the country.  Each year, more than 900 honors programs’ faculty, students, and administrators present to the council.

Fedison is the third person from the Ferrum Boone Honors College to have the opportunity to present research at the NCHC.

 After her acceptance, Fedison had to face some challenges.

“The project challenged me and taught me a lot about research, but the time crunch was very stressful with my heavy semester and soccer schedule,” Fedison said.

But with her busy schedule on and off the field, Fedison needed a team.

Lori Casey–Assistant Professor of Health and Human Performance in Exercise Science, and Dane Fausnacht–Assistant Professor of Biology helped Fedison.

“As a professor of physiology with experience in Kayla’s research area, I offered to help when she told me about her project,” Fausnacht said. “I helped her interpret her data and run her statistics.”

Casey helped Fedison in the early stages of the project.

“Kayla first approached me last spring (spring of 2023) about a project she wanted to do that looked at information that we covered in my motor learning course to apply to a conference that would be occurring the next fall,” Casey said. “After this, Kayla and I had a few conversations as she worked through her design, and I helped with reading her information for editing purposes as she applied to the program.”

The project took several hundred hours of work, covering a half a year to complete before the NCHC conference.

“This project covered some very detailed and complicated physiological events that are a bit new and unestablished in the scientific literature,” Fausnacht said. “This subject matter would be difficult for even a master’s or PhD student, but Kayla took it on in stride.  It should be said that winning first place was phenomenal and a tremendous accomplishment, but honestly expected of Kayla as she has always demonstrated to be a remarkable individual, in and out of the classroom.”

Arriving in Chicago meant it was showtime.

The conference was from November 8-12, with Kayla’s project winning first place in the health science category.

“I was surprised and felt encouraged in my research ability,” Fedison said, looking back on her emotion after winning.  “It (the project topic) covered information that is not common in under grad research.  I learned research processes, human research protocols, how to run statistics on data, and found out the large amount of work that goes into research.”

Although Fedison felt surprised, Casey saw things differently.

“Kayla worked very hard on this project, putting a lot of time and effort towards it while she was also in season for soccer and carrying a significant load of coursework,” Casey said. “I’m not sure first place was her goal, but Kayla always gives 100% or more on anything she puts her mind to.  I am not surprised Kayla would have impressed the judges for a first-place finish.”

Fedison found out there was no difference between the quad to hamstring ratio in actual and imagined movements.

“Kayla’s work gave a novel look into the practice of visualizing movements, showing it’s not all in our heads when we imagine doing a task. There is an actual physiological response that occurs in our body and our motor units,” Fausnacht said.

Fedison will play her final soccer season next fall graduating in the spring of 2025 with her double major of exercise physiology and pre physical therapy.

“She is inspirational in the way that she appears to navigate through workloads,” Casey said.

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