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Eric Ryan, Ph.D.

Stallings Scholar and Associate Professor, Department of Exercise and Sport Science
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Allied Health
Director, Exercise Science Teaching Laboratory

Previous Education
Ph.D., University of Oklahoma, 2009
M.S., Florida Atlantic University, 2005
B.S., Tulane University, 2003


Contact Information:

Dr. Ryan’s research focuses on examining the influence of various acute and chronic stressors on neuromuscular function. Most recently, our team has specifically worked to mitigate injuries and improve occupational health and performance in first responders. Dr. Ryan has published over 120 peer-reviewed original research manuscripts and has lectured nationally on the research conducted with his team. An example of his current work can be found here.

PubMed Link:

Retired Firefighter Research Study Link:

Awards and Honors
Fellow, American College of Sports Medicine
Fellow, National Strength and Conditioning Association
Distinguished Alumni Award, Florida Atlantic University, College of Education
Terry J. Housh Young Investigator of the Year Award Recipient, National Strength and Conditioning Association

The Team

Gena Gerstner, PhD, MPH

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Educational Background

B.S., State University of New York at Cortland
M.P.H., University at Albany School of Public Health
M.S., California University of Pennsylvania
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Contact Information:


Gena Gerstner is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center. She is currently receiving further mixed methods research training using the Total Worker Health® Approach. She completed her doctoral studies the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in exercise physiology with Dr. Eric Ryan and has over 6 years of experience researching neuromuscular function specifically in public safety populations. She is an avid fan of puzzles, science fiction, and soccer, and spends her free time with her dog Trinity.


Hayden Giuliani, MA
Doctoral Student

Educational Background
M.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.S., Waynesburg University




Contact Information:
Twitter: @HayGiuliani

Hayden Giuliani completed her MA in Exercise Physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her BS in Athletic Training and Exercise Science at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania.  Under the direction of Dr. Eric Ryan, Hayden examines neuromuscular function, specifically the influence of muscle quality on measures of strength and function. Additionally, she is interested in investigating workload within tactical populations in relation to injury risk and job performance. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, lifting, and trying new coffee shops.


Evangeline Soucie, BS
Master’s Student

Educational Background
B.S., University of Kentucky



Contact Information:
Twitter: ESoucie1

Evangeline graduated from the University of Kentucky where she gained experience in the Exercise Physiology Lab and became interested in neuromuscular physiology. More specifically, she is interested in the neuromuscular responses to resistance exercise and different fatiguing protocols. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree under the mentorship of Dr. Eric Ryan and hopes to pursue a PhD in Exercise and Sports Science upon graduation. Some of her hobbies include rock climbing, long boarding, and playing card games.


James Merritt, BS
Master’s Student

Educational Background
B.S., East Carolina University

Contact Information:
Twitter: amerrittca


James is originally from Chapel Hill and completed his Bachelors of Science in Exercise Physiology at East Carolina University. He is interested in studying muscle recovery and regeneration in sports, and his future research goal is to be able to study the effects of neurodegenerative diseases on muscle performance.



Adam Coleman, BA
Master’s Student

Educational Background
BA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Contact information:

Adam Coleman is from Wilmington, North Carolina and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science. Here at UNC he will be working under the guidance of Dr. Eric Ryan in the Neuromuscular Assessment Lab to conduct research in tactical populations. Outside of school, Adam has worked as a Firefighter and Ocean Rescue at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina for the past four years. In his free time, he enjoys swimming, resistance training and hiking.

Undergraduate Research Assistants:


Faith Roy

Major:  Biology

Year:  Senior





Erika Cotrufo

Major:  Exercise and Sport Science

Year:  Senior




Lab Group Alumni
Eric Sobolewski, PhD. Assistant Professor, Department of Health Sciences, Furman University. Graduated 2014.
Gena Gerstner, PhD. Assistant Professor, Department of Human Movement Sciences, Old Dominion University. Graduated 2019.
Jacob Mota, PhD. Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology, University of Alabama. Graduated 2020.

Current Grant Funding & Research Projects
Total Worker Health Approach to Reduce Falls and Advance Fall Protection in Firefighters (Ryan – PI), Awarded by NIOSH-U19 (2021 – 2026)

Feasibility of a Train-the-Trainer delivered exercise intervention in firefighters (Ryan – PI), Awarded by NIOSH-R03 (2021 – 2023)

Predictors of reactive leg drop performance in young and older men and women – MA thesis project
Test-retest Reliability of a Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography Scanner for Measuring Muscle Size and Composition in Young and Older Men and Women – MA thesis project

Feasibility of workload monitoring within law enforcement officers and its relationship to injury risk and job performance (Giuliani-Dewig – PI), Awarded by NC Occupational Safety and Health Education Research Center and NSCA Foundation, 2021-2022.

Osteoarthritis Prevalence and Modifiable Risk Factors in Retired Firefighters (Ryan-PI), Awarded by the NC Occupational Safety and Health Education Research Center, 2019-2020.