Steve Malin

Division of Life Sciences Spotlight on Dr. Steven Malin, Department of Kinesiology & Health

Tell me about yourself

I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health. I also have a joint appointment in the Department of Medicine/Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition. I’m affiliated with the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health as well as Translational Medicine and Science. Prior to work at Rutgers, I was an Assistant Professor at the University  of Virginia. Metabolism is my favorite topic. In particular, focus on how one develops Type 2 diabetes is an area of big interest.

I enjoy teaching a lot both the undergraduate and graduate level. I’m also involved in various professional organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine as well as the American Diabetes Association to name a few. Within these  organizations I  provide service at various levels. For example, at the American College of Sports Medicine I serve  as an Associate  Editor  for the flagship journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise as well as Chair the Nutrition Interest Group. On a personal note, I grew up in Philadelphia and feel fortunate to have traveled the country a bit for my  education. It’s nice to be back in the region I grew up and raise my kids here. I have been married for almost 16 years to my wife Becky and have 5 kids (3  boys;  2 girls). We all enjoy being active and getting to the beach. 

How did you become interested in science?

I  love sports! In high school I was so thankful to have great athletic training support. I played football, basketball and did track & field. I often found myself wondering how the body “works” and  how can we repair/make it function better. Talking to the  athletic  trainers as well as taking courses such as Anatomy & Physiology sparked the interest in becoming a medical doctor. Looking back I also believe growing up in a house where my mom had type 2 diabetes had a big impact on me. I saw first hand the effort it took to manage the disease. Together, I think my interest in sports  and disease, coupled with interest in learning made pursuing  a career in science a natural one. 

As a student, did you do undergraduate research?

Yes I  did. But it was more  like a stumbled into it. As I went to King’s college to study and play sports, my passion for biochemistry grew from a sports nutrition standpoint. I received a work-study  job to be a research assistant in a neuroscience lab. It was there I began to appreciate how research was conducted to answer questions no one (or at least very  few) was really sure about. I majored in neuroscience and we needed to conduct a research study as part of our capstone experience to graduate. Here I had to actually write a grant and propose a study! To my disbelief the faculty liked the idea so much that I received about $8,000 to buy a 3 lane rodent treadmill to conduct the study I proposed. The idea was to test at the time if creatine supplementation could improve running capacity  in rodents. Previously it  was thought creatine only helped  people run faster (not longer) or lift more weight. Based on the metabolism, it seemed possible that create would increase endurance. Well, as they say the rest is history. I finished the study and was encouraged to publish it. At the  same time, I  switched gears a bit to take “gap years” and receive a master’s in Human Nutrition from the University of  Delaware.  It was during my time as  a Master’s student I decided becoming a professor was really the path for me. The  idea of  studying an area that I’m passionate about, while having ability  to teach and work with people to learn simply seemed awesome. 

What are you researching?

The overarching thing we research  is how to optimize the exercise “drug”. What  I mean by this is  we think  of exercise  as a pharmacological agent. Here we think, when do  people need to  exercise,  how much (time, intensity) or what type (aerobic  vs.  weight lift) of exercise is best for health and well-being. On top of  that, does  food interact with exercise? How about pharmacology  (actual medication) or dietary  supplements? When we think  of exercise this way, we think then  we  can tackle designing the best exercise to combat chronic disease. For us, the major focus of the lab is improving prevention/treatment of Type 2 diabetes. To  do this, we  focus  on insulin resistance  as the chief  metabolic issue.  Currently, we have 2  studies going on. First, we are interested in understanding how the drug metformin interacts with exercise training. While many  would  say  1 +  1 =  2    from a medical standpoint (i.e.  2 good treatments = better health),  the evidence for  this is weak. Our hope  is  to understand this better to prevent future cardiovascular  disease and diabetes. The other study we  are starting to tackle  a bit relates to a single bout of exercise. Here we are interested in identify  how each “drug” of exercise  works  on   vascular  and  metabolic insulin sensitivity  in people  at risk for diabetes.  Our hope too is to understand how specific  cells in the  body called extracellular vesicles work to modify insulin sensitivity. 

What do you like about being at Rutgers?

Rutgers has so many possibilities. The breath of research on top  of being  a great academic center is stimulating. I appreciate how on one part of the  New Brunswick campus we have medicine and on another we have entire institutes designed to  promote good nutrition and human  movement. Further, there are great opportunities with neighbor campus in  Newark and Camden that make answering  any  question really  possible. Weaved throughout all of this is a host of outstanding people  wanting to make a positive impact of the lives of people in our community. Being able to provide the community with the latest knowledge through use of state-of-the art technology is inspiring. It’s also been wonderful to speak with students and learn about their own goals. Putting together all these energies makes for a fantastic place to build on for the future.  I’m grateful for the chance to contribute to the University’s mission of excellence through teaching, research and service.