Liz Pekas was recently awarded a NASA Fellowship.
Liz earned her BM in music performance and BS in kinesiology as an honors and thesis scholar from the University of South Dakota in 2017. She began her graduate studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) that fall and later joined UNO’s Vascular Research Lab as a graduate research and teaching assistant under Dr. Song-Young Park. She was awarded UNO’s Graduate Research and Creative Activity Grant to fund her master’s thesis project, which was to obtain pilot data that examined the impacts of dietary nitrate as a therapeutic intervention for improving endothelial function and integrated oxygen transport and utilization in patients with peripheral arterial disease.
During her master’s career, Liz produced five peer-reviewed publications, including one publication in the Journal of Applied Physiology, with 2 other manuscripts currently in-press. She gave several invited oral and poster presentations, earning the Best Poster Presentation Award from the Korean Exercise Rehabilitation Society in 2018 and recently presented at the 66th American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting in Orlando this past May. Liz also received several other honors and awards as she worked towards her MS, including UNO’s Outstanding Graduate Student in Exercise Science, Graduate Studies Travel Grant, Competitive Graduate Fellowship, and the Nebraska Summer Graduate Scholarship. She later graduated with her MS in Exercise Physiology from UNO in August.
Liz is currently a Doctoral Research Assistant in the Vascular Research Lab and is working towards her PhD in Exercise Physiology. She has been working on many advanced ex-vivo research techniques to investigate the pathophysiology of vascular disease, including high-resolution respirometry (skeletal, vascular, and cardiac muscle mitochondrial function) and videomicroscopy (microvascular function) in both human and animal tissues. She was awarded the competitive NASA Nebraska Space Grant Fellowship to continue investigating therapeutic interventions for vascular diseases, specifically for those affected by peripheral arterial disease.
In addition to her research, Liz has also been continuing to train and program for athletes on a PRN basis. She is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C) and a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). She has also been able to carry on her passion for music by working with the Omaha Burke High School Marching Band and working as the head counselor for the University of South Dakota’s Summer Music Camp this past year.