Justus Ortega

Students in professor Justus Ortega's classes are getting real-life experience measuring the fitness of athletes in HSU's Human Performance Lab. "It's not a traditional lab," Ortega says. "It's kind of like the icing on the cake. People get a small taste of how cool Biomechanics is in class, but when it really hits their palate–when their eyes light up–is when they're in the lab."

Beyond that, Justus finds ways to include his students in research projects, like the one he's currently collaborating on with scientists from the University of Washington. Justus and his colleagues want to know why the elderly use their bodies differently than their younger counterparts.

His hope is to see the research put into practical applications like exercise programs that help keep the elderly mobile for longer. This work has caught the attention of NASA, who will need to study how the body uses kinetic energy if we hope to send astronauts to the Mars where the gravity feels about half as strong as on Earth.

Not a bad project to collaborate on, especially if you're an undergraduate in one of Justus's courses. "I have right now, a team of graduate students and undergraduate students conducting a project to look at how much energy the elderly adults use to support their body weight'" he says. "Although it's my research program, they're really driving those projects."

Justus got the initial spark for his passion of kinesiology and understanding how the body works right here at Humboldt State where he earned his bachelors in Kinesiology.

In fact, Justus and his wife are both graduates of HSU. "I hope to inspire my students the way my professors turned me on to kinesiology," says Justus.

Even when he's collaborating on projects across the state or across the county, Justus finds ways to involve his undergrads in research »

Whether they're looking at how aging affects mobility, or how a body moves in a microgravity environment, graduate and undergraduate students have a hands-on role in Justus's research. "Although it's my research program, they're really driving those projects."

He's looking into how the elderly use their bodies, which could help NASA send astronauts to Mars »

In order to see how body weight affects energy use, Justus and his students use a reduced gravity simulator to "un-weight" the body. And it's exactly this kind of data that has NASA's interest. "We're looking at going back to the Moon or to Mars, so NASA's very interested in what happens in a microgravity environment."

Justus's students get hands-on experience in the Human Performance Laboratory »

"Do you like working with people? Because you're going to work with people if you're in Kinesiology." Justus' students study the physics and biology of the "human machine" by working with volunteers, from college athletes to the elderly. "We get a lot of students who just really want to understand their bodies and who they are."

Justus Ortega
Professor of Kinesiology