Kinesiology doctoral student Wes Kephart selected as 2017 Graduate School Presidential Award Winner

March 27, 2017

KephartWesley Kephart, a Ph.D. student in the School of Kinesiology, was selected by a special committee of the Graduate Council to be the Graduate School’s Presidential Award winner for 2017. This is the highest honor a graduate student at Auburn University can receive.

“Wes is the first student in Kinesiology who has been selected for this award, which is a great honor,” said Mary Rudisill, Ph.D., Director of the School of Kinesiology. “We are so proud of Wes for being such an outstanding student!”

The Presidential Award winner is selected from among the students nominated for the Merriwether Fellowships or Outstanding Graduate Student Awards. The award is presented to an exceptional graduate student at Auburn University who possesses outstanding qualities of leadership, citizenship, character, and professional ability. Wes was one of 10 students university-wide selected for the Outstanding Graduate Student Awards, making him eligible for consideration for the Presidential Award.

“I am honored,” said Wes. “This really reflects the work of everyone in our lab; Dr. Roberts, Brooks Mobley, Petey Mumford, Matt Romero, Cody Haun, and Paul Roberson. The whole lab should be recognized because my award wouldn’t be possible without them. They create an environment for me and others to succeed.”

This semester Wes is completing his dissertation, “The Effects of 1-week and 8-month ketogenic dieting or ketone salt supplementation on markers of tissue oxidative stress and mitochondrial quality in rats.” Wes has long been interested in the ketogenic diet. He read about the Atkins diet when he was young, which essentially flipped the food guide pyramid upside down, recommending consuming fewer carbohydrates and more dietary fat and protein. For 10 years he has adhered to the ketogenic diet on and off.

“I thought, if it is the opposite of what everyone else is doing, it must be right,” Wes admitted. “I like to practice what we study so I know how my subjects feel. And it’s motivational if I test myself for ketosis when I test them.”

As the Presidential Award winner, Wes will be honored at an awards ceremony sponsored by the President’s Office and recognized at the Graduate Students’ Awards ceremony on April 25 at Auburn University.

“Wes’ publication record as a doctoral student is remarkable,” said Michael Roberts, Ph.D., Director of the Molecular and Applied Sciences Laboratory and Wes’ mentor. “He has published 14 papers in PubMed-indexed scientific journals, three of which are lead-author publications.”

Roberts says Wes’ breadth and quality of teaching is as remarkable as his scholarly productivity. He has received extraordinary feedback in all of the classes he has taught at Auburn, which demonstrates his passion for teaching.

“Both of my parents are teachers, so I suppose it runs in the family,” said Wes. “I love teaching and want to be known for being a great teacher.”

Wes is set to graduate in May and has accepted a position starting in the fall as an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Coaching Department. Wes is from Denton, Texas and completed his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and his master’s degree in Exercise Psychology at Stephen F. Austin.

“On behalf of the Graduate School and the Graduate Council, I would like to congratulate Mr. Kephart on this distinguished award and wish him the best of luck as he continues his studies,” said George T. Flowers, Dean of the Graduate School.