Career: Research physiologist
Soldiers are constantly at risk for injury. That’s why research physiologist Maria Urso ’97, M.S. ’00 and her work finding the most effective means to help muscles recover after injuries is so valuable to our defense efforts. Her research studying musculoskeletal injuries at the cellular level for the Department of Defense has been so important, in fact, that she was recently received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This prestigious national award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government upon science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President coordinate the awards. Honorees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.
Urso received both a bachelor of science in kinesiology and a masters in kinesiology from URI, followed by a doctorate from UMass-Amherst. She then joined the military for a four-year commission and has continued her work as a civilian research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s Military Performance Division at Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., where she focuses on finding the most effective means to help muscles recover after injuries.
Urso returns to URI three times a year to talk with kinesiology students about jobs in the field—and to educate them about related programs and scholarships they might not know about. It’s important to her that Rhody students understand they’re getting an education on par with those from any number of prestigious universities.
“If you look at the other people who won this award, they’re from MIT or Harvard,” she says. “This says a lot for URI and shows our students it’s not just those coming out of Harvard or MIT who are doing great things. Students coming out of URI are doing the same things.”