Derek Kimmerly, assistant professor

A day in the life

Derek Kimmerly, assistant professor


One of the advantages of this program is that students get exposure to a wide variety of disciplines in the health sciences, which is great—otherwise, you’d never have the opportunity to figure out what areas you're most interested in.

An introduction to research

The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, according to the song, but most people know the human body is a bit more complicated than that. And from the viewpoint of Derek Kimmerly, assistant professor and cardiovascular physiologist, our capacity for movement and wellness relies upon several complex and interrelated systems.

Early in the first-year, team-taught course, Kinesiology profs describe their research areas. Dr. Kimmerly introduces “the exercise physiology side,” while other profs talk about things like “biomechanics—how the body works and how injury occurs.”

Another goal of the course, says Dr. Kimmerly, is to develop student interest in doing research: each of the co-teaching profs encourages students to get involved in a research project.

Last year, four students responded to Dr. Kimmerly’s call for volunteers. “We’re hoping it will lead to more students pursuing an honours degree,” he explains. “It gets them into the labs and familiar with equipment before their honours year. And,” he adds, “it’s a good opportunity for honours students to mentor their peers.”

Students who develop a keen interest in human anatomy and physiology can benefit from Dr. Kimmerly’s expertise in three other courses. Looking at the cardiovascular, respiratory, and skeletomuscular systems, students explore “how those systems are stressed during exercise, and how they adapt when exercising for longer periods of time.”

One such course is a fourth-year seminar, where the subject of aging often arises. “Students see things in the news and want to know how exercise can prevent the deleterious effects of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Our goal is to give them the knowledge they need.”

He also emphasizes the critical-thinking skills the program encourages students to develop—skills he believes they can take with them no matter what career path they pursue.

Exercising your brain

Right beside Dr. Kimmerly’s office is his research lab, where he conducts studies that aim to “understand brain networks, primarily those involved in controlling blood pressure,” as he explains, “and what parts of the brain are involved in getting blood away from the inactive areas of the body to the skeletal muscles where it’s needed.”

He also performs tests at the IWK Children’s hospital, using equipment such as brain scanners. Through his research, he hopes to identify how to improve the brain’s function, whether through medication or a non-invasive method, which can in turn improve the function of nerves and blood vessels.

Dr. Kimmerly sees Dal as an ideal place to conduct research. “Dal is a world-class, large institution—it has all the departments and technologies you’d expect, but without the ‘big university’ feel,” he says.

“And it’s easier to access clinical populations here, and to make opportunities to collaborate,” he says, both on campus and at hospitals. “The people here are fantastic—everyone just wants to help out and get involved.”