Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences Ozan Atalağ receives tenure at UH Hilo

In addition to teaching, Associate Professor Atalağ serves as the chair of the kinesiology and exercise sciences department while conducting his research into physiological markers in athletes.

Ozan Atalağ pictured.
Ozan Atalağ. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

By Elena Espinoza.

This story is part of a series on recently tenured faculty.

An associate professor of kinesiology and exercise sciences at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has received tenure.

Ozan Atalağ arrived at UH Hilo in 2016. In addition to teaching, research, and serving on several faculty and program committees, he also serves as chair of the kinesiology and exercise sciences department. The program educates students in the fields of kinesiology, athletic performance, sports medicine, athletic training, and physical and occupational therapy with the main goal of preparing students for their careers.

Atalağ is passionate about the growth and development of his department and plans on using the security of tenure to push the program forward.

“I am going to continue teaching vital courses for our program and provide hands-on research and teaching experiences for our students,” he says. “I will also provide service through the completion of development departmental tasks, as well as serving in the university-wide committees.”

Atalağ’s teaching career began with a teaching assistant job during graduate school, however he shares that he often taught others about kinesiological concepts in his athletic and professional life. While earning his doctorate, he worked with professional athletes from sports such as windsurfing, soccer, and tennis, acting as a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer for them.

After receiving his doctorate in 2012, Atalağ began working as an assistant professor at Girne American University in the northern part of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. During his four years there, he developed the coaching education program for the university’s physical education department. Going from one tropical island to another, he joined UH Hilo after his time at Girne.

He shares that his experiences before he began teaching are essential to his work. “All of the classes that I teach now have direct relevance to my past experiences as a coach or an athlete.”

Kinesiology and exercise sciences at UH Hilo

Atalağ emphasizes the multifaceted nature of the UH Hilo kinesiology and exercise sciences pathway.

“The vast number of career options that one can pursue with an exercise science degree makes our degree very popular,” he says. The department is the second largest at UH Hilo and is growing rapidly. The program and facilities allow students to explore the vast world of exercise science and fine tune their work and research skills.


Group of students with exercise equipment stand with Prof. Atalag for photo.
Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences Ozan Atalağ (center) stands with students holding strength and conditioning equipment. (Dept. of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences/UH Hilo)

Atalağ shares that the research conducted in the department’s labs are almost fully led by students working with faculty. He works alongside his students to conduct and complete research on exercise, health, and performance. This allows students to earn crucial real-world experience along with fulfilling their curriculum responsibilities in their undergraduate years.

Research

Atalağ’s main area of research is the “different modalities and forms of exercise and their effects on human health and performance.”

Before COVID-19, he, along with several of his students, collected data from UH Hilo’s very own women’s volleyball team and analyzed how the effects of long flights and the volleyball season as a whole impacted different physiological markers in the athletes.

“Vulcans are in a unique position as it is highly possible that they travel farther than any other collegiate team in the country,” says Atalağ.


Two women volleyball players.
UH Hilo Vulcan volleyball players Amber Tai (front) and Bria Beale. Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences Ozan Atalağ researched the effects travel has on members of the UH Hilo women’s volleyball team. (Athletics Department/UH Hilo)

During this past summer, he and the lab staff had the opportunity to publish their work on the acute effects of three different exercise modalities. In their article, “Is complex training superior to drop jumps or back squats for eliciting a post activation potentiation enhancement response?”, (Journal of Physical Education and Sport, July 2021) they studied the acute effects of squats, jump based exercises, and the combination of both.

The findings show that combining a heavy lift (such as squats) with a jumping based exercise, known as “complex training,” can acutely improve power during a person’s training session.

Last year, despite the initial complications brought upon the department due to COVID-19, the researchers continued to conduct and publish their findings. In addition to the above cited work, Atalağ and the students also published this article last summer on exercise science: “Post-activation potentiation effects of Back Squat and Barbell Hip Thrust exercise on vertical jump and sprinting performance,” (Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, June 2020).

A growing program

The department recently moved their resistance training lab to the old university gym, giving them a much bigger space to work in. With this space, Atalağ and the department can conduct more hands-on classes, movement analyses, and field based athletic research.

“This was a critical and important step towards the right direction for the future of the [kinesiology and exercise sciences] department,” Atalağ shares. “I feel the responsibility to lead the growth of the department so we can give back to our community.”

Many former students of Atalağ’s have become active practitioners on Hawai‘i Island in the state. Former students have become local trainers, coaches, as well as military and firefighter personnel.

“Most career options associated with kinesiology, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and exercise therapists are in high demand on the Hawaiian islands,” he says.

“It is extra rewarding to see the fruits of our dedicated work, especially when it’s about giving back to our community like that.”


By Elena Espinoza, an English major also earning a certificate in teaching English as a second language at UH Hilo.

Top photo of Ozan Atalağ by Kirsten Aoyagi, a communication major at UH Hilo.


Other stories in this series on newly tenured faculty

Pharmacy alumnus Jarred Prudencio receives tenure at UH Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Camlyn Masuda receives tenure at UH Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Nursing alumna Patricia Hensley receives tenure at UH Hilo