SangHoon (Andrew) Yoon

SangHoon (Andrew) Yoon

Doctor of Philosophy candidate

Why do we fatigue during exercise? That is the interesting topic SangHoon (Andrew) Yoon is exploring for his PhD in sport and exercise science.

“During high-intensity exercise, our muscles fatigue. But why do we fatigue? One main contributor is the lowering of muscle glycogen and the accumulation of potassium ions outside of the cell. Lowered muscle glycogen has recently been shown to exacerbate the potassium-induced force loss. However, this has only been examined in animal models. I’ll be looking at this in exercising human.

“The other focus of my research is to examine why males and females fatigue differently. Females typically outlasts males during exercise performed at the same relative intensity. Why is this? Could the glycogen-potassium interaction answer this? Sex comparison research, yet alone, female participation in physiology research is very low compared to males. This means that most of our exercise and nutrition programmes are created based on male research. My overarching aim is to help develop more personalised and proactive programmes tailored to the individual’s sex.”

Andrew’s PhD research is being supervised by Associate Professor Simeon Cairns and Dr Ed Maunder from AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation.

The right environment
The environment at the AUT Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) is incredible, says Andrew who is an international student from Canada, supported by an AUT Doctoral Scholarship and a postgraduate scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

“I’m in an office with many of the other SPRINZ students and staff. As we’re in different fields, it creates many opportunities for collaborations and great brainstorming sessions. In fact, my project now involves AUT researchers from sport physiology, nutrition and physiotherapy, physicians and an international collaborator from Spain.

“I also love the opportunities that are available. I’m currently a research technician, teaching assistant, and a student representative for SPRINZ and the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences. Additionally, I’m supervising two students who are doing their workplace experience at SPRINZ, enabling me to mentor the next generation of researchers and professionals. I’ve acquired many new skills and knowledge through these roles.”

He loves the welcoming environment at SPRINZ.

“Although we work hard, we also often hang out outside of the labs – building great friendships. This is facilitated by the programmes created by the incredible staff, including the writing retreat, the SPRINZ Olympics event and the student culture group.”

Advice for other students
Expecting to complete his PhD in 2025, Andrew has some great advice for other students thinking about doctoral study.

“I recommend that you choose a research topic you’re passionate about and explore as many fields as possible. Even if you decide later into the degree that you chose the wrong field, you’ll have many opportunities to get your hands on other projects.

“When choosing a supervisor, contact multiple potential supervisors to see if your research interest meets theirs and their current aims. Lastly, take as many opportunities as you can and go out of your comfort zone to learn as much as you can – it will always help you in the end.”

He would highly recommend AUT’s sport and exercise science programme to other students.

“I’d certainly recommend this programme – the opportunities for collaborations, new roles, and friendships at AUT and SPRINZ are something special. I would have never imagined having this sort of environment during my PhD. Postgraduate students often feel a distant connection with other colleagues and staffs, but I don’t see that here and feel part of a congruent team.”