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Health Science alum Vincent Pecorelli lands research fellowship with the U.S. Army

August 04, 2021
vincent pecorelli in research lab

Research aims to prevent injuries to soldiers during basic combat training

Since graduating from UHart in 2019 with a B.S. in Health Sciences, Vincent Pecorelli has pursued his passion for research through a fellowship at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), an Army medical research lab, in Natick, Mass. Vincent is participating in an injury prevention research study of Army trainees, and travels to Army basic combat training installations around the country for field research and data collection.

Like many students, Vincent’s career path didn’t follow a straight line. Initially, he thought he would use his Health Science degree to apply to physical therapy or physician assistant graduate programs. However, his interest in research led him to an endocrinology internship at UConn Health Center the summer after his freshman year. He enjoyed the experience so much that he returned to UConn for additional summer internships after his sophomore and junior years.

“All of my research experience made me rethink my career opportunities,” he said. “I realized inpatient care was not the only way to make a positive impact on various public health outcomes, and I started gravitating toward a research career.”

During his senior year, Vincent worked with his exercise physiology professor, Colleen Munoz, on a research study examining how hydration levels and nutrition affected senior citizens’ mood states. When he told Munoz he was interested in a research career, she recommended he apply for the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship program, which places recent graduates in Department of Defense research projects. He applied and was accepted to the program at USARIEM.

USARIEM studies how extreme physical, mental, and environmental stressors can affect soldiers’ health and performance during training and on the battlefield. The lab delivers solutions for readiness by conducting extensive data collections with thousands of soldiers all over the world.

All of my research experience made me rethink my career opportunities. I realized inpatient care was not the only way to make a positive impact on various public health outcomes, and I started gravitating toward a research career.”

Vincent Pecorelli, BS in Health Sciences '19
vincent pecorelli conducting field research
Vincent (right) conducts field research evaluating a subject's score on the vertec, a measurement of lower body power.

Vincent says the ORISE fellowship has significantly contributed to his professional development. Dr. Stephen Foulis, his mentor at USARIEM, has encouraged Vincent to propose abstracts, take continuing education courses, and network with others in the scientific community. He has also been able to attend national conferences. 

“Prior to this opportunity, I had never attended a scientific conference or visited a military base. Now I am developing an abstract to present at a military conference, and I plan to participate in drafting other research proposals when the opportunity is available,” he said.

Vincent said his Health Science degree provided a good foundation that gave him exposure to research methodologies and practice writing scholarly abstracts in his various lab courses. Along with his experience as a research assistant and a personal trainer, he felt well-prepared for the ORISE fellowship.

UHart’s faculty played a big part in helping Vincent reach his goals. “Dr. Munoz acted informally as a mentor to me and largely piqued my interest in research. I received a lot of support from her when discussing applying to grad programs – I hope I didn’t drive her crazy with all our meetings!” he said.  

Vincent also credits his advisor Douglas Dix and Bharat Bhushan, M.D., with his success. “They taught interesting and engaging courses that also helped me identify my interest in human physiology and public health,” he said. 

Vincent’s advice for other students is to keep their options open and be willing to try new things. “Had I not pursued a research internship or worked with Dr. Munoz during college, then I may not have been as passionate about pursuing a research career.”