By: Isabella Churchill
Lately, Dr. Stephen Cheung can be found in his Environmental Ergonomics Lab, as a test subject, cycling a long distance for his master student’s research study. By testing participants over the weeks to come, Cheung’s team will be investigating the effects of increased atmospheric oxygen and changing thermal environments on athlete’s performance. This will be done by changing the oxygen and temperature conditions in a climate-controllable chamber he emerged from before the interview.
The environmental chamber allows researchers to focus on the effects of environmental stress by simulating extreme temperatures (ranging from – 30 to 50 degrees Celsius), and controlling for altitude and oxygen content, as well as humidity. Dr. Cheung’s research spans from fundamental investigations into physiological concepts while still being able to apply these concepts to real life situations. This ultimately allows for a seamless transition between basic and applied sciences. His work has also helped firefighters, coast guards, marine associations and Canadian Olympic teams in order to make work safer and performance more productive.
Dr. Cheung is an associate professor in the department of Kinesiology, and started at Brock in 2007 for a position as the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Ergonomics. Prior to this, he was a faculty member at Dalhousie University for nine years. Dr. Cheung currently teaches the third year Cardiorespiratory and Environmental Exercise Physiology course in the Kinesiology department at Brock. Students are also fortunate to learn about this topic through his textbook enough to share his knowledge with students through his book, Advanced Environmental Exercise Physiology, in which he wrote and published in 2010.
Cheung, originally from Hong Kong, moved to Vancouver at the age of seven years old. When it came time to pursue academics at university, he chose to complete his undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia in oceanography and zoology. In his spare time, Cheung was racing so much as a cyclist that he decided if he wanted to read papers and conduct research for the rest of his life, he wanted to make it personal. From there, he switched to Kinesiology with the notion of being a “cycling scientist” and completed his Masters in Kinesiology at Simon Fraser, and his PhD at the University of Toronto in Exercise Science. He then completed a post-doc at the University of Aberdeen. Although Cheung had no idea what a “cycling scientist” would entail or how he would achieve this, his passion for this area of research allowed him to be successfully accomplished in his area of environmental exercise physiology.
While not in his lab or cycling, this accomplished cyclist and co-author of the book Cutting-Edge Cycling enjoys spending time with his family and travelling through international research scholarships. Some of the many places that Cheung has been able to travel and conduct research include: Stockholm, Barcelona, Finland, Belgium and Greece. His advice to students and future researchers? “Follow what you love!” Cheung has never done anything with an end goal in mind, and has found that it is important to enjoy life every step of the way.