Increasing our healthspan: Q&A with Tom LaRocca

Tom LaRocca stands alongside campus bike path shaded by trees.
Tom LaRocca

Tom LaRocca is an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University. Learn more about why he came to CSU and his research interests in understanding the biology of healthspan.

1.What brought you to the Department of Health and Exercise Science at CSU?

I like using laboratory science to develop practical applications or treatments that can help people (some people call this translational research).  The Department of Health and Exercise Science has a fantastic group of teachers and researchers who are all about doing work that can help people, and they approach it from many different angles–so it’s a great place for translational research.  I’m very excited to be part of it.

2. What are your research interests, and how did you get into that topic?

I am interested in understanding the biology of healthspan–the period of life during which we are healthy and productive.  As a graduate student, I studied changes that occur in the heart and arteries as we age.  Later, as a postdoc, I conducted research on the molecular biology of brain diseases like ALS and Alzheimer’s.  Through these experiences, I realized that the biological causes of aging and disease overlap a lot, and that focusing on these common mechanisms might be a good approach for finding ways to increase healthspan.

3. What’s your teaching philosophy?

I want my students to become independent thinkers and problem solvers, so I like to focus on thinking and practical skills.  I start by explaining key concepts and how I think about them, talking students through the thought process, and I model important skills using real examples whenever possible.  I explain how students can use what we learn in life or their careers, and I have them practice new thinking and skills whenever possible. Then, I give them bigger projects of their own that require them to apply their new knowledge.

4. What’s your favorite thing about campus?

Bike-friendliness (and people-friendliness!)

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.