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ESSA Congratulates Winner of 2017 ESSA Medal

The prestigious ESSA Medal is awarded annually by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) to the most outstanding PhD thesis, approved for graduation in the field of exercise and sports science.

“The awarding of the ESSA Medal allows us to recognise those students who are contributing to the exercise and sports science industry through their research and dedication,” explains ESSA Chief Executive Officer, Anita Hobson-Powell.

Last year, the 2017 ESSA Medal received three high-quality nominations from dedicated project supervisors from various universities around Australia.

Today, ESSA is pleased to congratulate Dr Caroline Robertson, from Charles Sturt University, for winning the 2017 ESSA Medal for her PhD thesis, ‘The brain and exercise: neurophysiological correlates of tolerance, regulation and termination.

“It is an incredible honour to be the recipient of the ESSA Medal for 2017 and certainly the highlight of my career so far. It is a testament to the quality of doctoral work produced at Charles Sturt University within exercise science, particularly within the area of exercise regulation and fatigue. Extending our knowledge in this area allows us to further understand athletic performance and how we can assist athletes in maximising their potential. Working under world renowned scientists, Professor’s Frank Marino and Rob Robergs, has allowed me to develop strong research skills and a passion for developing knowledge in this field,” says Dr Caroline Robertson.

“Throughout the scientific literature are statements that allude to the human strength of mind in the context of exercise tolerance and how the will can overcome physiological sensations allowing for improved exercise performance. However, we really know very little about neurophysiological changes that occur during these situations, and most importantly, what such changes within the brain might mean to the performing athlete.”

“For my PhD, I completed studies using techniques such as electroencephalography, near infrared spectroscopy and electromyography, and I was able to outline key changes within the brain during exercise and concurrent emotional responses. These studies are the first to show that brain responses change in conjunction with previously described metabolic thresholds and that, when matched for intensity, the brain responds differently to different exercise tests (the time trial, time to exhaustion and VO2 max test). In addition to this, the impact of motivation on exercise tolerance revealed clear changes within the brain associated with the ability to extend exercise performance.”

“This information is valuable in increasing the knowledge base about global and regional changes to the brain during exercise and the repercussion of such changes on exercise capacity.”

Robertson’s thesis received applause from the assessing panel, with feedback such as:

‘The candidate pursued a challenging area of research and investigated some aspects of a topic that are not well understood.’

‘An outstanding aspect was the originality in the use of techniques in this context. I considered this to be a study that attempted to ‘push the boundaries’ and for this the candidate and their supervisor should be commended.’  

‘High quality manuscripts produced.’

‘Excellent examiner reports with consistent outcomes – quality research, quality writing.’

Dr Caroline Robertson will be provided with her award and prize money at the 2018 Research to Practice Conference, being held in Brisbane in March.

The 2018 ESSA Medal will then re-open late-2018, and project supervisors will be invited to nominate their PhD students as candidates from September 2018.