Karyn Malinowski, Ph.D.
Director, Rutgers Equine Science Center
Karyn Malinowski directs the Rutgers Equine Science Center which has a national reputation for high quality research. Her equine research and extension programs concentrate on improving the well-being and quality of life of the equine athlete while ensuring the vitality and viability of the equine industry, both statewide and nationally. She has received numerous awards for her work including the Governor’s Trophy for Horseperson of the Year in 2009, a lifetime achievement award from the Rutgers Graduate School in 2007, as well as the American Horse Council’s most prestigious national citation, the Van Ness Award, in 2001. She was named “Outstanding Equine Educator” by the Equine Nutrition and Physiology Society, also in 2001.
Dr. Malinowski grew up and still lives in Somerset County. She has been a “horse person” since she took her first pony ride as a toddler, and she has been involved in various horse disciplines and organizations throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from Rutgers. Prior to becoming director she was an extension horse specialist in New Jersey and Associate Director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
There are a lot of kids out there who are interested in horses. And there is a lot of information out there about horses for young people. However, it is about breeds, colors, horse care and so on. It is not about science. To address this lack of science-based knowledge for kids, we at the Rutgers Equine Science Center decided to develop an online classroom featuring an equine mascot for this age group. We held several focus groups to help guide us and what we found was that kids prefer not to be taught by a person. So we decided to develop a teacher in the form of a horse. And it so happened that we had a wonderful candidate for this new faculty post in Lord Nelson whose online likeness serves as the instructor. Lord Nelson spent 20 years on patrol at Rutgers University carrying police officers. He is still alive and well, having retired in 2000. Now Lord Nelson has a new job as professor emeritus teaching equine science to kids.
Lord Nelson is well-known by Rutgers football fans because in 1994 when he carried our Scarlet Knight mascot on the field, he became excited and moved onto the field during a play. Rutgers was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct and Lord Nelson became the only animal in NCAA history to be penalized. Lord Nelson not only instructs the kids, he also has a blog amd an “ask the experts” section. Kids from around the world e-mail him questions and within a day or so he has an answer for them. It all falls under the title of “Exercising HorsePower.”
Exercising HorsePower has distinct levels of game play that represent the stages of a standard equine exercise physiology research study: horse preparation, treadmill and laboratory. The students learn by playing a computer game in each level. Players elect one of three horses to complete the game. Each horse has unique abilities depending on age and prior condition. These will influence its performance on the treadmill and results in the laboratory.
After preparing the horse with the equipment needed to perform a grades exercise test, players run their horse on the treadmill at various speeds while collecting blood samples that will be processed in the laboratory. Once in the lab, players select which activity they want to measure: total protein or packed cell volume. Total protein is used to help determine hydration status, among other things. Packed cell volume is used to indicate an increase in red blood cells needed to meet higher oxygen demands during exercise.
In order to complete each activity, players utilize certain lab instruments and equipment including a centrifuge, refractometer, capillary tubes pipettes and a hematocrit card reader. What sets the game apart from other online horse games is that although it is illustrated and animated, Exercising HorsePower provides an accurate representation of the core scientific research that is conducted in the equine exercise physiology laboratory at the Rutgers Equine Science Center. A bonus for us is that we are advancing youth STEM education using horses which are the best models for human medicine. It teaches kids, attracts more people to this area of science and our web site and makes my job as a fundraiser easier.
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