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Woman lifting a training mannequin as members of the lab look on and Dr. Abel gives instruction

First Responder Research Laboratory

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The objective of the First Responder Research Laboratory is to enhance the health, safety, and occupational readiness of firefighters and law enforcement officers through scientific inquiry.


Director: Mark Abel, Ph.D., CSCS*D, TSAC-F*D


Phone: 859-257-4091

Current Students/Research Interest

Sarah Lanham, M.S. – Occupational performance, injury and fatigue in firefighters.

Thesis: The Impact of Gloves and Simulated Occupational Tasks on Handgrip Strength in Structural Firefighters

Jamal Thruston, B.S., ACE-PT, TSAC-F – Exercise-induced fatigue and injury risk in firefighters.

Jackson Miller – Fatigue and executive function in firefighters.

Past Students/Completed Research

Emily Langford, M.S. – Firefighter occupational readiness, health, & fatigue

Implications of Aerobic Fitness on Firefighters’ Occupational Performance, Health, and Risk of Injury

Alyssa Eastman, B.S. – Risk factors of injuries in firefighters.

Thesis: Etiology of Firefighter Injuries: A Health Care Practitioner Perspective.

Spencer Brock – Factors associated with exercise-induced injuries in firefighters

Maxwell Norris, M.S.

Predictors of Work Efficiency in Structural Firefighters.

Ryan Mason, Ph.D.

Effect of Exercise-induced Fatigue on Subsequent Fire Ground Performance in Firefighters.

Gabe Martinez, Ph.D.

Application of High Performance Training Strategies to Enhance Occupational Readiness in Law Enforcement Cadets.

Effect of a Law Enforcement Academy Training Program on Validated Fitness Outcomes of Cadets.

Anssi Saari, Ph.D., CSCS

Heartrate Dynamics During and After Simulated Fireground Tasks: Effects of Physical Fitness and Training.

The Influence of age on Firefighter Combat Challenge Performance and Exercise Training Habits:

Ashley Lesniak, Ph.D.

The Effect of Load Carriage and Respirator Use on Firefighter Physical Ability.

Relationship Between Heart Rate Variability vs. Occupational Performance, Physical Activity, and Fitness Measures in Structural Firefighters (Journal of Sport and Human Performance – In press)

Nick Trubee, Ph.D.

Influence of Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Body Fat on Arterial Stiffness in Firefighters.

Matt Thomas, Ph.D.

Effect of Load Carriage on Tactical Performance in Special Weapons and Tactics Operators.

Jason Keeler, Ph.D.

Predictors of Arterial Stiffness in Law Enforcement Officers.

Effect of Tactical Tasks and Gear on Muscle Activation of SWAT Officers.

Chris Morris, Ph.D.

Evaluation of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Physical Activity Patterns of Firefighters”.

Annie Beck, M.S.

Relationship of Physical Fitness Measures vs. Occupational Physical Ability in Campus Law Enforcement Officers.

Nicole (Koebke) Giganti, M.S.

Physical Activity, Sleep Patterns, and Health Outcomes in University Law Enforcement Officers.

Ross Pawlak, M.S.

Effects of a Supervised strength and Conditioning Program on the Performance of Firefighters.

Katie Dennison, M.S.

Effects of fatigue and training status on firefighter performance.

Other Publications

Lesniak, A., Sell, K., & Morris, C., & Abel, M.G. (2022). Relationship between heart rate variability vs. occupational performance, physical activity, and fitness measures in structural firefighters. Journal of Sport and Human Performance, 10(1), 56-72.

Domestic Partnerships & Research Collaborations

Fire Service

  • Asheville (NC) Fire Department
  • Brownsburg (IN) Fire Territory
  • Denver (CO) Fire Department
  • Lexington (KY) Fire Department
  • Palm Beach Gardens (FL) Fire Rescue
  • Sacramento (CA) Fire Department
  • Savannah (GA) Fire Department
  • Statesboro (GA) Fire Department
  • South County (WA) Fire Department

Law Enforcement

  • Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training
  • Lexington (KY) SWAT Unit
  • University of Kentucky Campus Police Department

International Partnerships

  • Police Research Center (ICPOL), Higher Institute of Police Sciences and Internal Security, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Singapore Civil Defense Force
  • Department of Health Sciences, Macquarie University, New South Wales, Australia

Research Collaborations


  • Department of Health and Human Services – Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association Research Foundation
  • Kentucky Fire Commission
  • University of Kentucky