Vascular Lab

Abigail Stickford, Ph.D.

Dr. Stickford is an assistant professor of exercise science in the Department of Health and Exercise Science within the Beaver College of Health Sciences. She received her doctorate from Indiana University and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center). Dr. Stickford’s Neural Cardiovascular Control Laboratory focuses on the autonomic control of circulation and vascular function,under conditions of health, stress (e.g., pregnancy, exercise), and disease. She has specific expertise in techniques of microneurography and vascular ultrasonography. She has previously been awarded funding from the American Heart Association and has published 10 scholarly articles and 20 conference abstracts.

Dr. Stickford’s current research centers on investigating sympathetic neural activity and reactivity in physically­active individuals, obese populations, and pregnant women, with a goal of understanding how exercise and/or weight loss may be used to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications like gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. Additionally, she plans to examine autonomic control and vascular function in other populations with increased risk for developing chronic hypertension or cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as highly anxious young adults and postmenopausal women, before and after exercise interventions. The findings obtained will allow deeper understanding of cardiovascular regulation in these populations and may lead to effective prevention and treatment of future CVD.


Scott R. Collier, Ph.D., FACSM

Dr. Collier received his PhD from Syracuse University and completed Post­Doctoral training at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Dr. Collier is an Associate Professor within the Donald C. Beaver College of Health Sciences at Appalachian State. Dr. Collier directs the Vascular Biology and Autonomic Studies Laboratory (VBASL), located at Charleston Forge. The primary research of this lab investigates vascular

remodeling and blood flow control associated with aerobic and resistance exercise training, along with acute and chronic alterations in the autonomic nervous system due to environmental (e.g. orthostatic challenges) challenges and pathological (e.g. hypertension) conditions. Also, the laboratory is equipped to study the effects of sleep following interventions such as exercise or heat therapy change nocturnal hemodynamics and sleep architecture. The VBASL has held funding from the State of North Carolina and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collier serves as an external grant reviewer for the American Heart Association. Dr. Collier’s research has been cited in the American Heart Association, Position Stand for Alternative Therapies to Lower Blood Pressure.Currently there are about 20 Graduate and Undergraduate students participating in several VBASL research projects. Several students havereceived grant funding both internally and externally (American Physiological Society Summer Research Fellowship) to complete research in the laboratory.


Rebecca M. Kappus, PhD

Dr. Kappus is an assistant professor of exercise science within the Beaver College of Health Sciences. She received her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Kappus directs the Cardioprotection and Vascular Health laboratory, which focuses on cardiovascular health and disease prevention in high risk populations. She has specific expertise in macro­ and microvascular function, cardiac function, autonomic function, and biochemical assays.

Dr. Kappus’ current research centers on oxidative stress, aging, and cardiovascular dysfunction. Specifically, she is investigating the role of sex differences in increased and decreased oxidative stress and the contribution of elevated oxidative stress as a mechanism of the increased cardiovascular risk (hypertension, vascular dysfunction) seen in post­menopausal females. Additionally, she will be investigating the role of exercise training as a mechanism to decrease oxidative stress in post­menopausal females, leading to a reduction in cardiovascular risk factors.


Jonathon Stickford, Ph.D

Dr. Stickford is an assistant professor of exercise science in the Department of Health and Exercise Science within the Beaver College of Health Sciences. He received his doctorate from Indiana University and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a research affiliate of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX. He is the director of the Exercise and Respiratory Physiology Laboratory which studies the effects of respiratory–related factors on exercise performance in health and in disease across the lifespan. He has specific expertise in measuring ventilatory mechanics and the perception of breathing at rest and during exercise.

Dr. Stickford’s primary objective is to understand the factors that influence the ventilatory process and how potential respiratory limitations affect exercise performance and outcomes in health and disease. He is currently investigating respiratory limitations and perception of dyspnea in highly anxious young adults, as well as in individuals who engage in electronic cigarette usage. Additionally, Dr. Stickford plans to continue or extend new investigations into the respiratory limitations and their potential consequences in 1) highly trained athletes, 2) young and old obese adults, 3) patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and 4) pregnant women. Dr. Stickford hopes his investigations will provide novel findings that could alter interventional approaches for treating disease and reducing the risk of comorbidities in adults.


Marco Meucci, Ph.D

Dr. Meucci is a clinical assistant professor of exercise science in the Department of Health and Exercise Science within the Beaver College of Health Sciences. Dr. Meucci received his doctorate from the University of Rome “Foro Italico”, in Italy, after attending an international PhD program and conducting research in collaboration with the Vascular Biology and Autonomic Studies Laboratory at appalachian State University.

His Pediatric Exercise Physiology Laboratory studies the cardiorespiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic adaptations to different types of physical activity in normoweight compared to obese children and adolescents. He has specific expertise in measuring gas exchange and pulmonary ventilation during exercise to evaluate aerobic fitness in different populations.

Dr. Meucci’s is currently investigating the effect of supervised, play­based physical activity on peak oxygen consumption and first ventilatory threshold in preadolescent children and he is examining the relationship between aerobic fitness and exercise tolerance in young kids. He is interested in identifying effective and enjoyable exercise interventions that can improve metabolic and cardiovascular health and promote exercise participation in children to prevent future metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.


Caroline J. Smith, Ph.D

Dr. Smith is an assistant professor and the Director of the Thermal and Microvascular Physiology Research Laboratory in the Department of Health and Exercise Science within the Beaver College of Health Sciences. She received her doctorate in thermal physiology from Loughborough University, UK, and completed a post­doctoral fellowship at The Pennsylvania State University specializing in microvascularphysiology. Dr.Smith currently directs the thermal and microvascular physiology laboratory which focuses on human thermoregulation and the control of the cutaneous microcirculation in health and disease conditions including type 2 diabetes and primary aging. Dr. Smith possesses expertise in intradermal microdialysis, laser Doppler flowmetry, resistance hygrometry, exercise and passive whole body heating protocols.

Dr. Smith’s research examines in vivo and in vitro signaling mechanisms underlying thermoregulatory and microvascular dysfunction in diabetic and cardiovascular disease populations, and the impact of exercise and thermal interventions on vascular responses. Current research studies include examining changes in eccrine sweating and vascular function with heat therapy in hyperglycemic and diabetic patients, and elucidating the mechanisms by which metformin improves vascular function in type II diabetes mellitus.