Skip to main content

Meet Joseph Vondrasek, an award-winning graduate student whose unwavering determination led him on the academic journey of a lifetime

Joseph Vondrasek

Joseph Vondrasek, a graduate student majoring in health science and kinesiology, is one of the winners of the 2023 Averitt Award for Excellence in Research because his academic career included a perfect GPA and almost 20 scholarly papers or presentations. Vondrasek, who will receive his Master of Science and Sports Medicine on May 13, hails from Owosso, Michigan.

“I learned that I could do more than I would have previously believed plus I learned how to be flexible and embraced the adage ‘don’t let perfection be the enemy of good,’” said Vondrasek.

“Without question, Joe is the strongest student I’ve had the pleasure of working with, both academically and in regards to his research ability,” said Andrew Flatt, Ph.D., who teaches on the Armstrong campus.

Flatt nominated Vondrasek for the award and it’s obvious why he did.

“Joe maintained a 4.0 grade point average through all of his coursework, which is uncommon for our program,” said Flatt. “During his time at Georgia Southern, Joe accumulated seven peer-reviewed journal publications, 10 conference abstract presentations and two other manuscripts are in production.”

Vondrasek’s research focused on improving cardiovascular health through lifestyle changes. 

“My main research focus is autonomic nervous system function and cardiovascular health, looking at ways to improve the health of these systems via everyday tools that people can use,” said Vondrasek.

In one research project, Vondrasek evaluated the accuracy and effectiveness of a cost-free smartphone application for improving heart rate variability—an important marker of cardiovascular health— during slow-paced breathing. To do so, he compared the app to the gold-standard electrocardiogram.

Vondrasek gained valuable lab skills to measure fitness, strength, autonomic nervous system status, body composition and blood markers through drawing blood from the study participants. 

“One thing I learned is that the value of understanding the theory of how to do something pales in comparison to actually doing it,” said Vondrasek. “I learned this through blood draws. I felt like I didn’t know enough to do it in the beginning, but, as cliché as it sounds, I soon realized you just have to go for it.”

Vondrasek also attended multiple conferences to learn how to present research to others.

“Joe has traveled to and represented Georgia Southern at various conferences across the country including San Diego, Philadelphia, Greenville, South Carolina, New Orleans and more during his short time here as a graduate student,” said Flatt. “His abilities and professionalism have been widely recognized in academic circles.” 

Vondrasek learned a lot about himself during his time at Georgia Southern. He found that he had a passion for research and the scientific process and that he enjoyed working closely with faculty members.

“I really learned how to be an adult at Georgia Southern,” said Vondrasek. “I got to have experiences like paying rent, building up my credit score, booking a flight and appealing parking tickets. I also learned the value of friendship and how fortunate it is to have amazing friends in and out of the lab.”

When asked to describe his Georgia Southern experience, Vondrasek said it was a challenging and rewarding journey. He especially appreciated the close-knit community and supportive faculty and felt his time at Georgia Southern prepared him well for his future studies and career in exercise physiology.

Vondrasek plans to continue his studies by pursuing a Ph.D. in exercise physiology at Florida State University in the cardiovascular and applied physiology lab. After completing his doctoral studies, he hopes to apply for a faculty position and continue conducting research and teaching.

“I am very grateful to receive such a prestigious distinction from the College of Graduate Studies,” said Vondrasek of the Averitt Award. “Being recognized for the research that I have done while at Georgia Southern was a great honor.”


Posted in Graduate Stories, Press Releases