When it came time for Joshua Keller to choose a school to pursue his doctorate, he followed the research. It led him to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
And as he graduates May 9 as part of a record class of more than 3,500 Huskers, Keller, who will earn a doctorate in human sciences, with specialization in exercise physiology, said he couldn’t be happier with his decision and his Nebraska experience.
An Ohio native, Keller earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Dayton, respectively.
“I got my feet wet with research at Dayton and was thinking about what my interests were,” Keller said. “What I really wanted to research was human performance — how we can make individuals faster, stronger and healthier through training and exercise. When you look at the research, my mentor here, Dr. Terry Housh, repeatedly comes up in the literature, so I reached out.
“He’s produced some really good professors in the field, scattered across the U.S., so I went to the source.”
Keller started his studies at Nebraska in 2016. His research examines human performance, specifically muscle fatigue, or why individuals get tired, what mechanisms control the rate of fatigue, and the overall magnitude of it. He’s also investigated implementing different exercise strategies to help mitigate the onset of fatigue.
Keller said opportunities at Nebraska and mentorship from Housh left him well-positioned when applying for jobs in academia.
“The amount of hands-on experience I have compared to colleagues made me a very competitive applicant,” Keller said. “Every semester, I’ve had some big responsibility to get my hands dirty and gather more experience.”
Keller had a few offers but chose a teaching position with the University of South Alabama. He’s looking forward to growing professionally and personally when he begins in August.
“They’re offering a chance to garner some incredible experience, working with some great people,” he said. “I can be a contributing faculty member right away, with research and in the classroom.
“I’ve never lived near a beach, so I’m excited to be on the gulf, and everywhere I go, I kind of pick up a new hobby. For example, before I moved out to Nebraska, I’d never been on a mountain in my life, and the last four years, I’ve had a ski pass to Breckenridge, and I learned how to snowboard. I’m excited to explore the gulf, and I’ve always wanted to get into stand-up paddle boarding.”
Becoming a Husker had advantages outside the classroom, too.
“I’m a big school spirit guy,” Keller said. “At the University of Cincinnati, I was a varsity cheerleader and I absolutely loved that. I love athletics, so coming out here — with the Big Red culture, where everyone is buying into that as fans — was something that was very, very important to me, and it was contagious. That energy made my time here a lot more enjoyable.
“There is just a completely different mindset. We have a really competitive spirit out here, but we’re also welcoming. It’s absurd how nice everybody is, and it’s made it really easy for me to call Lincoln home.”
Keller is excited to get into a classroom with students this fall, whether by remote access or in person, but his work at Nebraska isn’t finished. He’s spending his summer filming labs for remote-access courses, finishing up writing some grant applications and research articles, and advising his younger lab mates.
And, despite the circumstances, he’s looking forward to graduation.
“All things considered, they’re sending us our cap and gown, so I think once that comes in the mail, I’m going to get some decent photos, and the photos are what really last,” he said. “That’s what Mom and Dad are going to hang on the wall. Come May 9, I’ll probably feel a sting, but it’ll be short-lived.
“I think most of us will look back and say, ‘Remember the pandemic?’ I’m not trying to make light of the situation, because I know there’s been a lot of tragedy associated with it, but I think everyone will have their own unique story, and this is going to be ours.”