New kinesiology program director wants to inspire undergraduates to pursue research

Catena did not originally major in kinesiology; current student says Catena made her fall in love with research

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter

Robert Catena wants to improve upon the current kinesiology program at WSU by applying the university for a doctorate-level program.

Catena, director of the kinesiology graduate program, was hired at WSU in fall 2014. He said he taught at a physical therapy school in Indiana before beginning at WSU as an assistant professor. 

Kinesiology is the study of human movement, and biomechanics is the measure of human movement, so the two are well-connected, he said.

Catena said he teaches biomechanics classes within the kinesiology program and conducts research on balance control and fall prevention. 

Catena said kinesiology was not his major when he went to school. He got his bachelor’s degree in biology and went to graduate school for human physiology with an emphasis in biomechanics. 

“I guess you can go a number of different ways with biomechanics,” Catena said. “I guess I’m in the kinesiology program because there’s a requirement of students to know biomechanics.”

Catena said he wants to grow a well-funded program for training graduate students in kinesiology. 

The highest level of education offered for the degree is a master’s program. Catena said he hopes to get to the point where the university can apply to be in a doctorate program. 

“To get there we need to show that it’s a viable program through the interest of the students,” he said. “We also need to be producers of research to get to that Ph.D. level.”

As the kinesiology director, Catena said he looks forward to seeing students develop an interest in research. 

As undergraduates, students do not have much interest in going into a research program, he said. In the master’s program, students tend to want to understand the research.

Catena said he enjoys seeing students get involved in understanding and appreciating the research. 

“I really enjoy what I do, so there’s no plans on leaving [the program],” he said.

Kinesiology graduate student Hallie Music took Catena’s class as an undergraduate student. She is currently taking another one of his classes this semester.

“He’s a good teacher. He’s very smart. He’s very knowledgeable,” she said. “You can tell his passion comes across, especially in the [graduate] class that we have. His passion comes across really well and the things he’s interested in.”

Music said Catena can break things down well and explain the content in simple terms. 

She said she thinks Catena is going to do well as the director of the kinesiology program. 

“I think he has been one of the people really spearheading getting the master’s program up and going,” she said. 

Music said she has been in Catena’s research lab, and he has helped her fall in love with research. 

Catena allows students to work at their own pace, and he helps students figure out questions, she said. 

“He’s helped me figure out how to ask questions in a way that makes me want to learn more,” Music said. “I wouldn’t be in grad school if it wasn’t for him.”