Faculty You Should Know: Fabio Fontana

Fabio Fontana, a University of Northern Iowa professor of physical education, originally came to the U.S. from Brazil to learn English. Grasping every opportunity, he ended up learning much more than he ever imagined.

After arriving in the U.S. at the age of 24, Fontana began his studies as a second-language English student at the University of Pittsburgh. Although he didn't plan on it, he ended up doing volunteer work in different areas at the university, and was eventually offered a graduate assistant position.

Fabio Fontana
A huge part of Fontana's success in research comes from his students. With his help, they learn how to operate the newest technology in the field of motor behavior.

It was in Pittsburgh that Fontana completed masters programs in motor behavior and research methodology, and obtained a Ph.D. in motor behavior. As a graduate student, he spent time teaching physical education, worked in the motor behavior lab and developed a program for children with disabilities called "Kinder Kinetics." This program focused on the development of movement skills in children, especially addressing execution of rehabilitative movements.

Before he began his teaching career at UNI in 2008, Fontana spent two years at Eastern Illinois University as an assistant professor. As an assistant professor at UNI, Fontana began researching areas of physical education and motor behavior.

One of Fontana's favorite things about UNI is the dedication of each student in their area of study. Years ago, he was amazed by an undergraduate student in his research group who was battling cancer. He was shocked by how dedicated she remained, never missing a workday, and even leading one of the projects. "What was remarkable was how collected, calm and focused on her work she remained," said Fontana. "Her labmates never even figured out that she had cancer."

Fontana is also a member of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Some of his research examines youth sports and factors affecting physical activity levels in children and adolescents.

In the past, Fontana has done research about physical activity guidelines for children, among other things. "Physical activity recommendations for children are at least 60 minutes of moderate activity daily," noted Fontana. "Although they're nice guidelines, they're not practical." His research instead works on recommendations for the number of steps needed for children with different physical needs.

A huge part of Fontana's success in research comes from his students. He noted that students play a big role in his projects, sometimes even leading the research on their own. With Fontana's help, they learn how to operate the newest technology in the field of motor behavior.

"Most of the undergraduate students in the group have the intention of applying to graduate programs in physical therapy, exercise science, medicine and nursing," said Fontana. "The research experience improves their chances of being accepted into these programs."

However, the students on the research team aren't the only ones to benefit. Because of the research, the students outside of the group can be certain that Fontana is bringing them the latest knowledge in the field.

One of Fontana's biggest areas of pride comes from UNI's Physical Education Online Master's Program, which reaches many students who are unable to physically attend class. "I hope to help this program succeed by recruiting a great number of physical education teachers in the state to provide the students with a very high-quality education," said Fontana.

As he continues to gain experience and new ideas, Fontana continues to seize opportunities to advance his work and his teaching. "My plans are to stay at UNI until I retire," noted Fontana. "As I get more experience, I hope to keep making improvements to the courses I teach and always bring the newest information to the students."

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