January 20, 2022 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Exercise science assistant professor Christine Pellegrini is one of just 13 early-career faculty members across the university to receive the 2022 Breakthrough Star Award from the UofSC Office of the Vice President for Research. Selected by peers based on early career achievements, Breakthrough Stars exceed expectations in their fields, demonstrate exceptional potential and make outstanding contributions to research and scholarship.
A mainstay of the Arnold School since 2017, Pellegrini is an exercise physiologist whose work leverages technology to successfully implement behavioral interventions related to diet, physical activity, weight loss and sedentary behavior. Her research, which takes place at the SmartState Technology Center to Promote Healthy Lifestyles, Technology and Behavioral Intervention Lab and Prevention Research Center, aims to advance the health of those with obesity and mobility limitations such as arthritis and knee replacement.
“Dr. Pellegrini’s work is both timely and creative; it addresses important, relevant questions and has both treatment and recovery implications,” says Shawn Arent, chair of the exercise science department. “Her work also addresses key health and economic burdens in these populations.”
Pellegrini became interested in behavior change and obesity treatment after the lifelong sports enthusiast spent a semester in London as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After observing the differences in sedentary behavior, dietary patterns and obesity prevalence in Europe compared to the United States, she became committed to addressing these issues through her career.
At the University of Pittsburgh, Pellegrini earned master’s (Health, Physical Activity, and Chronic Disease) and doctoral (Exercise Physiology) degrees and then completed two postdoctoral appointments. Returning to the University of Illinois at Chicago, she worked as a postdoctoral research associate with the National Center for Physical Activity and Disability. After completing her second fellowship with the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University, she stayed on for nearly four years as a research assistant professor and a co-leader for the Program in Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior in the Center of Behavior in Health.
Despite the early-stage status of her career, Pellegrini has already been awarded over $4.5 million from the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers. One of her current projects examines the effectiveness of an mHealth intervention to reduce sedentary behavior after having a knee replacement. Another project is looking into whether a phone-based walking program can improve arthritis.
“Too often, I think we confuse impact factor with impact,” Arent says. “In Dr. Pellegrini’s case, not only is her work being cited and establishing her as a national and international expert, but more importantly, it has the potential to positively influence health and well-being at a global level as well as within our own state.”