Becky Shafer, Human Clinical Research Specialist Nutrition & Exercise Physiology
Academic research is often a collaborative enterprise that would not be possible without the support of skilled research staff members. Becky Shafer, a research specialist in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology, has become an essential member of the department who assists faculty members in coordinating their complex research projects. Her commitment to public health at work and in the community has made her a well-deserved recipient of the 2019 HES Distinguished Staff Service Award.Raised in the Midwest, Becky left her hometown of Windsor, IL to attend college in Washington, D.C., where she studied Health Promotion at American University with a focus on epidemiology. “I was always into sports and being active,” she said, “and seeing the trends of increasing obesity in America made me interested in studying health promotion.”After moving to North Carolina for a Masters in Exercise Physiology from Appalachian State University, Becky felt the pull to return to the Midwest to be closer to her family. Mizzou was especially attractive to her because its program in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology aligned so closely with her interests, and she initially found a job as a research coordinator for Dr. Heather Leidy’s lab in 2011, focusing on nutritional physiology and eating behavior.
Since then, Becky’s job has evolved to include more department-wide responsibilities, and she now coordinates the research conducted at the MU Physical Activity and Wellness testing center (MU-PAW). At MU-PAW, Becky provides consultation to faculty members and graduate students before and during their projects regarding logistical issues such as space and equipment options, regulatory requirements, and research protocols. She also helps recruit and schedule human subjects for research projects, and she monitors studies for progress and compliance. Figuring out how to accommodate certain research projects can often provide an interesting challenge. For example, Dr. Jaume Padilla is looking into the possible benefits of passive heat therapy (i.e. sitting in a hot tub) on improving blood sugar control in participants with type 2 diabetes. “This one is allowing for some creative logistical planning.” Becky said.
Outside her job, Becky is a model citizen for using her professional skills to give back to her community. As a long-time cheerleader (all the way through grad school), Becky continues to use those talents as a coach for competitive cheerleading at the All-Star Performance Institute in Columbia. She also uses her training in health promotion as the Health Ministry Chair at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. where she coordinates health screenings, and has brought in the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy initiative – a community-based exercise program from MU Extension. As if she weren’t busy enough, Becky coordinates behavior and training for rescues dogs through Columbia’s Second Chance shelter and is the proud owner of two rescue dogs herself – a Vizsla and a German shepherd.
It is no surprise that Becky was recognized this year for her outstanding contributions as the 2019 recipient of the HES Distinguished Staff Service Award. As one of her nominators said, “Health and well-being of people and companion animals are passions of Becky, and she strives to do what she can, at work and outside of work, to improve lives.”