Edward Westen

Associate Professor of Exercise Science; Department Chair of Health & Human Performance

More about Edward Westen

B.A., University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (1997)
Ph.D. Indiana University School of Medicine (2002)
Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of California-San Diego School of Medicine (2003)

Dr. Westen is the program coordinator for exercise science and department chair of Health and Human Performance. The Department of Health and Human Performances houses the physical education, health and fitness, and exercise science majors. Dr. Westen teaches EXS 217/218 Anatomy and Physiology I and II, EXS 225 Human Nutrition, EXS 349 The Science of Obesity, and ID 345 Food.

Prior to chairing the Department of Health and Human Performance, Dr. Westen was a long-serving member of the Department of Biology. He taught the 300-level Anatomy and Physiology sequence, senior research courses, non-majors courses (including two May Term trips to Tanzania), oversaw student research, and served as one of the college’s primary pre-health advisors.

Dr. Westen has overseen undergraduate research projects on a variety of exercise-related topics, including ventilatory adaptation to resistance breathing while training, changes in fuel partitioning secondary to changes in fuel input, and resting metabolic rate in subjects undergoing voluntary calorie restriction.

Though Dr. Westen is interested in hearing any student’s research proposal, his particular areas of interest are twofold. First: What are the physiological differences between lean and obese subjects? For example: What, if any, microbiome differences exist between lean and obese people? Why do lean subjects not gain weight when they overeat, when their obese peers do? What are the differences in leptin signaling between the two sets of subjects? Do lean subjects have more brown fat or a greater tendency toward beige fat accumulation than obese subjects? Are there differences in the metabolic response of lean and obese subjects to either calorie restriction or overabundance?

Secondly, Dr. Westen is interested in plant chemicals that have medicinal or culinary properties. Many fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices produce chemicals that are, in some way, beneficial to humans. Students working with Dr. Westen have extracted and quantified sulphoraphane from radishes, curcumin from turmeric, and capsaicin from chili peppers. In doing so, students have addressed questions such as: What are the 10 hottest peppers in the world and in what order? How does curcumin content in a turmeric rhizome change throughout the lifecycle of the plant? Does the color of a radish determine its sulphoraphane content?

A key remaining question in this area of Dr. Westen’s research interest is whether the subjective experience of spiciness in peppers is ENTIRELY attributable to capsaicin content within the pepper or whether some other factor (turpene content, for example) plays a role.

Dr. Westen is also a huge sports fan! While he is an advocate for all student-athletes, he serves especially as a faculty resource for team members of the women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, and football programs.