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Sport and exercise science graduand scoring goals with First Class Honours


Sharlene King
24 June 2021
Student sitting on a large U-shaped letter outside a Southern Cross University building
Gurpreet Singh outside the Health Sciences building at the Coffs Harbour campus.

After a COVID-hiatus, Southern Cross University Coffs Harbour is delighted to welcome the return of students, academics, supporters and special guests for its first graduation ceremonies since 2019.

Around 1200 people – one of the Coffs campus’ largest University graduation gatherings – will celebrate the achievements of close to 300 graduands who are receiving awards across three ceremonies on Saturday June 26, two years since the last graduation event.

Among them is Gurpreet Singh who will be awarded a University Medal recognising his high academic achievement of First Class Honours. He will be graduating with a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science and a Bachelor of Health and Human Sciences (Honours).

Gurpreet’s Honours project investigated the effects of playing, exercising and training on synthetic grass, compared to natural turf, in the heat. Part of the study involved volunteers swallowing a body heat pill (known as an Ingestible Thermal Monitoring System pill) ahead of a training session to measure their core body temperature with an accuracy to within one-tenth of a degree Celsius.

One of the project’s findings was that while the synthetic grass surface did not elicit any physiological changes to the athletes in cloudy conditions compared to the natural grass field, air temperatures above the synthetic surface were higher than the natural grass field, which may be exacerbated in hot conditions.

“Achieving First Class Honours is unexpected yet exciting. I was never an academic student during high school,” Gurpreet said.

“But having good support at Southern Cross University, particularly my supervisor Dr Chris Stevens who has guided and mentored me on how to go about research in general, that’s really helped. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my degree.”

Gurpreet is now enrolled in PhD study to further delve into the research topic.

“If synthetic fields do induce physiological changes in core body temperature, what are some ways to reduce the temperatures of these fields? Because higher core body temperature has been associated with performance and health consequences,” he said.

“I’ve always loved sport, particularly cricket and soccer, and it reached the point where I knew I wouldn’t make elite level competition or make the elite teams. So the next best thing was to pursue study, particularly post-grad study, to follow my dream in sport.

“My ultimate goal is to work in high-performance sport, like the Olympics or FIFA World Cup, as a high-performance manager but also in academia, using research to improve athletes at the elite level.”

Senior Lecturer Dr Chris Stevens said: “Gurpreet’s research is making an important contribution to heat policy, protecting children playing sport on synthetic fields when they become extremely hot on sunny days.”

University Medals

A total of three University Medals will be awarded for high academic achievement of First Class Honours. Along with Gurpreet Singh, the other recipients are Janelle Driscoll (Bachelor of Psychological Science with Honours) and Meri Oakwood (Bachelor of Laws).

Honorary Doctorates

The University will be farewelling outgoing Chancellor Mr Nicholas Burton Taylor AM. In addition to his official role presenting students with their awards at what will be his last graduation event, Mr Burton Taylor will be conferred the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

Ian Hutton OAM, Curator of the Lord Howe Island Museum, will be conferred the award of Honorary Doctor in Natural and Physical Sciences. Mr Hutton has published multiple books and co-authored around 50 scientific journals on the Island’s natural history. He has also led important conservation efforts there, including weed and rodent eradication. Furthermore, Mr Hutton has supported multiple University projects at Lord Howe Island, including ‘A field guide to the marine life of Lord Howe Island’ by Ian Hutton and Professor Peter Harrison; annual Sea Slug Census (held on Lord Howe Island since 2018); Marine Debris survey; and helping students conduct their research.