Ipswich/Switerland: Climbing high in the interests of science

Debbie Pipe, UCS, Switzerland trip

Debbie Pipe, UCS, Switzerland trip - Credit: Archant

UCS students investigate the effects of altitude

Sports Science students from UCS in the Waterfront have been to the Alps to investigate the effects of altitude.

BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science and Nutrition and Human Health students scaled the Jungfrau mountain peak in Switzerland (3,500m above sea level), to undertake a number of tests investigating the effects of oxygen deprivation on human physiology and psychology. These performance and health tests underpin theoretical aspects already examined on their course. The students also visited the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc, and a Gruyère cheese manufacturer, both in the heart of the Gruyère region.

Gavin Devereux, course Leader for the BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science programme, explained: “This trip is a wonderful opportunity for students to experience what they read in research articles. The tests we conduct and responses we see are relevant for elite sports performance and the science of healthy ageing.

Athletes have long tried to use high altitude training to boost oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. The responses a young, healthy individual will experience at such high altitude are similar to what we will experience in later life. Essentially, you have less oxygen available for some vital biochemical reactions in your body. Physical and mental processes are far more difficult at that altitude.”

Robert Ellis, Course Leader for the BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Human Health, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for students to personally experience the effects of high altitude exposure on physiological function. Some of the effects we recorded are similar to those present in severely diseased individuals at sea level.

The fact students got to see some historic and world-class food manufacturing processes was a real bonus too. Going to a chocolate factory may sound like pure fun, but most people have heard now about scientific investigations into the potential health benefits of chocolate (polyphenol concentrations).”

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These experiments were undertaken by fourteen final year undergraduates in the Department of Science and Technology.

Debbie Pipe, a Nutrition and Human Health student, said: “It was great to have the trip to look forward to and it provided a very welcome break from the dissertation. We packed so much into a few days and I enjoyed all the visits, but possibly the highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity to go tandem paragliding along with a couple of my fellow students. It is something I will always remember.”