UAH College of Education welcomes Dr. Paul N. Whitehead

Paul Whitehead

The UAH College of Education welcomes Dr. Paul N. Whitehead.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Paul Whitehead became well acquainted with the "Rocket City" as a youngster playing hockey in Memphis. "I was familiar with Huntsville because we made at least two trips to the city each season. Driving in and seeing the rocket for my faculty interview at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) earlier this year was pretty surreal," said Dr. Paul N. Whitehead, an Assistant Professor in the College of Education's Department of Kinesiology. "I was always familiar with the UAH brand, but I didn't know a lot about the university. When I saw 'UAH Kinesiology' pop up on my job searches last year, I was immediately intrigued."

Before coming to UAH, Whitehead worked as the Sports Science Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Penguins, a professional hockey team, while finishing his PhD at The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). He conducted research activities at Pitt’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory as a Graduate Student Researcher. Prior to Pitt, Whitehead organized data collection sessions and conducted research studies as a Graduate Assistant/Lab Coordinator, in the Exercise Neuromechanics Laboratory at The University of Memphis (UM).

"In my search for faculty positions, I wanted a landing spot where I could teach a broad range of classes, have the independence to pursue my research interests, and establish a realistic means of conducting hockey-related research. The position at UAH matched all of these criteria," said Whitehead. "Additionally, a job at UAH would get the family closer to Memphis, our hometown. As the parents of two young children, getting our kids closer to their grandparents was a huge factor in the decision making."

Whitehead is excited to be part of a young kinesiology program, which is in its third year as an official major at UAH. "We have an opportunity to shape our research goals as a program and establish a curriculum that will help our students be successful in their ventures beyond UAH," he said. "I am intrigued by the research component of the undergraduate curriculum. One of my best experiences at Pitt was mentoring a couple of undergraduate students through the research process. Being able to incorporate that into my time at UAH was something that was very appealing to me."

This semester Whitehead teaches three courses, Measurement and Evaluation in Physical Activity, Biomechanics, and Introduction to Exercise Physiology. "My experiences at Pitt helped me harness various statistical processes and understand the implementation of biomechanical analysis in research. Still being fresh off completing my dissertation, I think I have an ability to relate my research experiences both from a statistical and biomechanical approach that allows for me to provide useful examples in class.

"At Memphis, my research was related to the Physical Readiness Test in the U.S. Navy. This work sparked my interest in Pitt, which was in the midst of a multi-year Department of Defense-funded research project," said Whitehead. "At Pitt, multiple funding mechanisms were in place to help facilitate independent research in students, and it was these studies that really helped me grow as a researcher. Without the strong and generous internal funding available to graduate students, I would not have gained all of the experiences I had."

His current research goals include building on his dissertation work by understanding the risk factors associated with chronic ankle instability. "Particularly, I am interested if any risk factors that are potentially modifiable through training and footwear interventions. To build on my personal interest with hockey, I have begun collaboration with the hockey team here at UAH and hope to establish a strong partnership between Kinesiology and the hockey program."

Whitehead is scheduled to have a research class in the spring. "Theoretically, the students I have in the spring will learn about the literature review process and how to shape their methods to best answer their research questions. Those same students will stay with me for the following fall to conduct their research, analyze their results, and disseminate their findings. I am very much looking forward to helping students through the research process."

Whitehead has been an active member of USA Hockey since he was five years old. He played club hockey at The University of Tennessee (UT) and was vice president of the hockey club at UM in its inaugural season, during the second year of his graduate program. "I joked that I would try out for the club team at Pitt for my 30th birthday, but I never got around to it. I am certified as a level four coach with USA Hockey and as a level three official. During my time in Pittsburgh, I had a chance to officiate high caliber hockey games ranging from Tier I AAA youth games to Division 1 college hockey games. I hope to get on the ice at some point this season. Huntsville is the hockey capital of the south, after all."

He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. A prolific writer, he is the author of many sports medicine news articles.

Additionally, Whitehead is the recipient of numerous awards, honors and research-based assistantships including most recently the Freddie H. Fu, MD Graduate Research Award (Pitt), and he was named the winner of the Doctoral Student Investigator Award by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Mid-Atlantic Chapter. "I am particularly proud of the ACSM research award. In the coming years, I want to continue to grow and evolve as an educator, mentor, and researcher."

He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and Electronic Media from UT. Whitehead then went on to earn a Master's of Science degree in Health and Sports Science from UM, and a PhD in Rehabilitation Science from Pitt.

"I am hopeful the collaboration with the UAH Hockey program yields a number of studies that will help build a base of knowledge for a sport that is significantly under-represented in the scientific literature," said Whitehead. "Being able to grow science and knowledge of human performance in a sport that has played such an integral part of my life would be a tremendous achievement, and UAH has given me the opportunity to be successful in my aspirations."

He is married to Michaela Whitehead a psychotherapist in Madison. The Whiteheads have two small children, Miriam and Isaac, and they attend the UAH Early Learning Center.


Dr. Paul N. Whitehead