May 10, 2023 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
Sarah Burkart has explored the field of exercise science for the past decade. Across four degrees and a postdoctoral fellowship, she has examined challenges faced by multiple populations and age groups – ultimately focusing on the fight against childhood obesity. Now she’s settling into her new role as an assistant professor in the Arnold School’s Department of Exercise Science.
While studying exercise science as an undergraduate at Sacred Heart University, Burkart minored in psychology and geriatric health/wellness. But she was also introduced to the population she would later build her career around.
“I first became interested in working with children and families following an undergraduate internship at a school for children with developmental disabilities,” she says. “While working directly with the physical education teacher, I saw firsthand how the benefits of physical activity extended beyond physical health outcomes.”
Burkart spent the next six years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, completing an additional three degrees: master’s and doctoral degrees in kinesiology and a master of public health in epidemiology. It was during her Ph.D. program that Burkart discovered the importance of children’s sleep health in conjunction with their physical activity needs. Working with community- and school-based physical activity programs, she designed and implemented interventions to increase movement and improve preschool classroom behavior.
“It was the preschool teachers who encouraged me to consider other behaviors like sleep in addition to physical activity if I really wanted to influence children’s classroom behavior,” Burkart says. “They often said they could add as much activity as possible during the day, but if a child didn’t get enough sleep the night before, they would not be ready to learn.”
Having found a critical yet understudied niche, Burkart made the move to South Carolina for postdoctoral training in the exercise science department. After developing expertise in children’s sleep behavior and device-based measurement of sleep for three years, she accepted her tenure-track position as well as faculty affiliate roles with the Arnold Childhood Obesity Initiative and the Research Center for Child Well-Being.
We are excited Sarah accepted our offer to stay here as a faculty member. Her work adds a dimension that has the potential to really increase the impact of the research done here and with real translational impact.
Working with other scientists at the Center, Burkart is developing school-based initiatives that improve both children’s sleep and social-emotional outcomes during kindergarten. Her own research program focuses on the consistency of children’s health behaviors (i.e., sleep and physical activity) and their relationship to physical health, social-emotional health, and academic-related outcomes.
“Joining the Arnold School was an incredible opportunity to work alongside leaders in the field of child health and well-being,” Burkart says of her new position. “I’m most looking forward to contributing to the high-level team science approach and training graduate students/postdocs to become successful independent researchers. I am also really excited to build new and strengthen existing relationships with our school/community partners as we work towards a common goal of improving the health and well-being of children and families in South Carolina.”
"We are excited Sarah accepted our offer to stay here as a faculty member," says exercise science chair Shawn Arent. "She’s a tremendous addition to the department and brings a unique skill set to complement other areas of excellence. Her work adds a dimension that has the potential to really increase the impact of the research done here and with real translational impact. Sarah is also simply an outstanding person and someone who I am excited to see thrive and positively influence those around her."