MiNER Lab Brings Home Top Awards from TASCM Conference
Published February 28, 2023 By Darlene Muguiro UTEP College of Health Sciences
The Metabolic, Nutrition and Exercise Research (MiNER) Laboratory in the Department of Kinesiology is celebrating several victories. Victoria Rocha and Jehu Apaflo, MiNER Lab team members, received top awards at the Texas Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine (TACSM) conference held on February 23rd and 24th in Waco, Texas.
Under the leadership of Dr. Sudip Bajpeyi, MiNER Laboratory director and associate professor of Kinesiology, the students gave first-author presentations, with Apaflo ranking first in the student manuscript award and Rocha ranking as a finalist in the undergraduate student poster presentation category. Rocha also received the undergraduate major of the year award and Apaflo received TACSM’s SRDA grant, a competitive award to support student research.
Apaflo said that he was surprised to receive awards in both categories, following a few unsuccessful submissions. The manuscript and grant are integral to his dissertation work in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences PhD Program.
“I do feel that the multiple reviews and editing, alongside the rejections, have really paid off by improving the robustness of my manuscript, and I am ready to re-submit it for publication,” he said. “These prestigious awards will have a significant impact on my dissertation, research experience, and future professional pursuits.”
Rocha, a first-time attendee at TACSM, said that she felt honored to be recognized for her hard work as a member of the MiNER Laboratory, and inspired to present alongside graduate and doctoral students. She also hopes that her successes inspire other undergraduate students to pursue research opportunities.
“Representing UTEP and COURI at the conference was a proud moment for me,” she said. “The MiNER Lab has taught me valuable lessons, but above all, it has reinforced the importance of hard work. I owe a debt of gratitude to my lab mates and mentor, Dr. Sudip Bajpeyi, for making all of this possible.”
Ali Mossayebi, a UTEP MS Kinesiology alum and former MiNER lab member, presented his thesis work at TACSM and was a finalist in the PhD poster presentation category. Mossayebi is currently a PhD student at UT Austin.
Apaflo and Gabriel Narvaez, MiNER Lab member and MS Kinesiology student, helped to prepare the Kinesiology Department’s undergraduate student team – Alexander Quinones, Aixa Rojas, Melanie Gandara, and Michelle Castaneda - for the TASCM Student Bowl, where they competed against other Texas schools. The annual competition is an important part of the TACSCM meeting, and is similar in format to the game show Jeopardy, with contestants answering questions related to exercise science and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Bajpeyi incorporates preparation for the TACSM into his annual schedule of activities for the MiNER lab. Each year, the students return with several awards as finalists and top rankings in their respective categories.
“I’m very proud of my students,” he said. “They have worked hard for the last several months, spending numerous weekends meeting for student bowl practice sessions, and working relentlessly to prepare their abstracts, posters, manuscripts and grant applications. Attending conferences has always been a great source of inspiration for me, and I hope it is the same for them.”