Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Celebrates Its First Doctorates in Exercise Physiology

Glenys Young

May 10, 2022

The doctoral program, which launched in 2018, is graduating its first class.

When Angela Lumpkin took the reins as chair of the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management (KSM) in 2014, she had big plans for turning it around. One of her goals in collaboration with her colleagues was to launch a doctoral program. As she reasoned, not only would such a program help retain quality faculty members, whose own productivity could be bolstered by graduate students; it would also serve as a launching pad for the next generation of academics and researchers.

In the fall of 2018, after working for more than two years to achieve all the necessary approvals both on campus and through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management officially opened its doctoral program in exercise physiology.

And now, the department is recognizing its first class of Ph.D. graduates.

Ahalee Cathey Farrow and Arun Maharaj will graduate Friday (May 13). Stephen Fischer is expected to graduate in August after defending his dissertation. 

“The faculty – especially Arturo Figueroa, who mentored Arun and Stephen, and Ty Palmer, who mentored Ahalee – are delighted that our first group of doctoral students will be graduating this year,” Lumpkin said. “All three of these students have done excellent work and been great role models for the students who are following them in this program. They have completed their programs in a timely manner and distinguished themselves as promising young professionals in exercise physiology.” 

This graduation, Lumpkin said, is an occasion of both great pride in the students' accomplishments and gratitude to them for their roles in such a successful first class. 

Ahalee Cathey Farrow
Ahalee Cathey Farrow

Ahalee Cathey Farrow

Farrow previously graduated from Texas Tech in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport sciences and in 2018 with a master's degree in kinesiology. She has worked under Palmer with a research emphasis on physical performance. Specifically, she has focused on muscle function, explosive power, stiffness and balance performance capacity testing as well as stretching and fatigue-related interventions and their effects on performance in young and older adults. Her dissertation is titled “Time Course of Passive Stiffness, Torque and Range of Motion Responses Following an Acute Bout of Static Stretching in Young and Older Women.” 

During her four years as a doctoral student, Farrow authored or co-authored 26 peer-reviewed articles and abstracts and was a first author on 14 of them. She was an American College of Sports Medicine poster finalist for the state of Texas in 2019 and 2021. As a graduate part-time instructor, she taught exercise testing and prescription labs and introduction to kinesiology and medical terminology courses. She also helped to found the KSM Doctoral Organization and served as its president.

“I am very honored to be in the first class to receive a doctorate in kinesiology,” Farrow said. “When I think back on the last four years, the memories that always stand out are those that involved Arun, Stephen and I hanging out in the office. Whether we were staying late to study for an exam or all just working on our own stuff, it was always fun. After four years of working and studying together, we have a special friendship that I will cherish forever.

“Many professors and mentors have helped me get to where I am today. However, I would especially like to thank my adviser, Dr. Ty Palmer, for all he has done to help me get here. Without all of his help, support and teachings, I would not be the researcher and instructor I am today.”

As a student in the doctoral program, Farrow was chosen to be a Teaching Effectiveness And Career enHancement (TEACH) Fellow and Groundwork Program participant. Additionally, she was selected to serve as the graduate student member for the Arts & Sciences Committee for Academic Programs and the KSM Health Screening Clinic committee and was the College of Arts & Sciences' student representative for the Graduate School Review Focus Group. Farrow has accepted a position as an assistant professor at Albion College in Michigan, which will start in August

Arun Maharaj
Arun Maharaj

Arun Maharaj

Maharaj was born and raised in Trinidad and moved to South Florida when he was 10 years old. As a first-generation college student, he received his bachelor's and master's degrees at Florida Atlantic University in exercise science and health promotion. Currently, he has 18 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including two for which he is the first author. 

Since joining the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management, Maharaj has assisted in establishing the Vascular Health Laboratory under Figueroa's supervision. He also has served as a founding member and vice-president of the KSM Doctoral Organization, which focuses on providing a platform for doctoral students in the department to articulate their suggestions as well as foster a relatable, sociable community among the students. Maharaj also received the Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship award at Texas Tech, which allowed him to focus on his research and writing for the last year of his doctoral program. 

“I feel very honored and blessed to be among the first graduating class from the KSM doctoral program,” Maharaj said. “This degree definitely had its challenges, but it has prepared me to be an independent thinker and pave my own path moving forward.

“Being there since the program was established, I am proud of how far it has come. I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic group of doctoral students in the KSM department. It warms my heart to see the doctoral program generating such inquisitive, brilliant minds. We have all developed long-lasting friendships and fostered wonderful, fun memories throughout my time spent in this program. I will miss my colleagues dearly.”

Upon graduation, Maharaj will continue to diversify his research as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. In that role, he will assess vascular and muscle function and aid in the development of therapeutic strategies for childhood cancer survivors.

Stephen Fischer
Stephen Fischer

Stephen Fischer

Fischer was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent most of his life in northeast Ohio. He graduated with both his bachelor's and master's degree in exercise physiology from Kent State University, where he was also a cross country and track and field athlete. Fischer joined the Department of Kinesiology & Sport Management at the inception of the doctoral program under Figueroa's mentorship and, like Maharaj, helped establish the Vascular Health Laboratory.

During his tenure at Texas Tech, Fischer has been a part of 10 total peer-reviewed publications, two as the first author and the other eight as a co-author. His doctoral dissertation is entitled “Reduced Endothelial and Exercise Vasodilator Function in the Legs of Obese Versus Lean and Overweight Postmenopausal Women.”

In the future, Fischer plans to teach and do academic research, ideally at an R1 or R2 research institution. He would like his future research to focus on interventions to improve the vascular function of individuals with metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.