Skip to Content

### Discovering Her Passion: A Graduate Student’s Journey into Women’s Health at Kennesaw State

KENNESAW, Georgia |
February 22, 2024

Lacey HarperA single message altered the course of Kennesaw State University graduate student Lacey Harper’s life trajectory.

After completing her bachelor’s degree with summa cum laude honors at KSU, Harper transitioned into a managerial role at a sporting goods store. It was during this time that she received an unexpected message via LinkedIn from her former professor, Garrett Hester.

Reflecting on the pivotal moment, Harper remarked, “It almost feels like something out of a movie. While I was immersed in the business aspects of life, a message from KSU, of all places, changed everything. Professor Hester inquired about my interest in an available graduate research assistant position. That one message truly transformed everything for me.”

Currently engaged in pursuing a , Harper has excelled within the Hester research group. Apart from the overarching goal of enhancing the well-being of older women, she unearthed a newfound passion for delving into data analysis across various projects and engaging in hands-on research activities focusing on the impact of exercise. Noteworthy is her presentation of a project at the Wellstar College Research and Engagement Day in spring 2023, where she garnered recognition among fellow student presenters.

While Harper’s award-winning project delved into the correlation between muscle fatigue and fall risk among middle-aged women, her current master’s thesis centers on utilizing elastic bands for strength training to enhance the health of older women. Although strength training is known to boost muscle strength, it remains underutilized, especially among older women. The accessibility and comfort associated with elastic bands present a promising avenue, yet further evidence is warranted to validate their efficacy in enhancing muscle health. Harper aims to quantify the improvements in physical function and unravel the underlying physiological mechanisms through her research.

Describing their initiative, she explained, “We have developed a user-friendly elastic band training program tailored for women aged 65-79 to perform at home, ensuring ease of access. Our study will assess the impact of a concise program on their muscle health, quality, and physical function. Various tests will be conducted to evaluate strength, overall mortality rates, daily functionality, and quality of life.”

With a focus on aging and neuromuscular function, Professor Hester has recently emphasized women’s health in his research endeavors. He recalled Harper’s expression of interest in graduate studies during her senior year in 2020, which eventually led to her appointment as a graduate research assistant when an opportunity arose. Harper’s exceptional contributions in the lab have validated Hester’s initial intuition.

Acknowledging Harper’s dedication, Hester praised, “She has truly been an outstanding graduate student, as evidenced by her achievements. Her unwavering commitment to advancing older women’s health through research and analytics is commendable. Moreover, her enthusiasm for mentoring undergraduates underscores her holistic approach to academia, especially within an undergraduate-centric institution like KSU.”

In addition to her master’s thesis, Harper has been actively involved in various research projects and professional development activities. Her accomplishments include the publication of two research articles, notably in the esteemed Journal of Physiology, and the attainment of certification as an exercise physiologist. Recently, she was selected to present her research findings on aging and muscle function at the Annual College of Sports Medicine meeting during an “Emerging Findings on Aging” session.

Upon completion of her studies in May, Harper intends to pursue a doctoral degree in the field of exercise science, focusing on the intricacies of older women’s health. She expressed gratitude towards Dr. Hester, the faculty at Kennesaw State University, and the support from Wellstar College for enabling her to embark on this academic journey. Reflecting on her transformative experience, Harper shared, “It may sound cliché, but this opportunity has truly been life-changing for me. Just two years ago, I could not have envisioned dedicating myself to the impactful research we are conducting now, and I am immensely grateful to contribute to the realm of muscle health and aging.”

– By Dave Shelles

Photos by Matt Yung

Renowned for its innovative approach to education, Kennesaw State University provides a wide array of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs to over 45,000 students. As a member of the University System of Georgia, KSU comprises 11 academic colleges. The university’s dynamic campus environment, diverse student body, global connections, and entrepreneurial ethos attract learners from across the nation and around the globe. Designated as a Carnegie doctoral research institution (R2), Kennesaw State stands among the distinguished 7% of U.S. colleges and universities with R1 or R2 status. For additional details, visit .