Face Time: Rob Musci and Peter Brubaker

Fighting through fire, water and mud together was just the latest example of the bonds they've forged.

Photography by Heather Evans Smith

Spring 2012


There aren’t many professors who would run through fire, climb to the top of a mountain or crawl through mud with their students. Senior Rob Musci of Kernersville, N.C., found one in Professor of Health and Exercise Science Peter Brubaker (MA ’86).

Last fall in Virginia, Musci and Brubaker — along with a handful of other students and professors — participated in the Tough Mudder, a 10-mile obstacle course designed by British special forces. Fighting through fire, water and mud together was just the latest example of the bonds they’ve forged.

“I look at what he has done — not only in his teaching and research, but with his family and how he helps people — as a model for my career,” says Musci, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomechanics or physiology and follow in Brubaker’s footsteps teaching and conducting research in health and exercise science. “He cares so much; I aspire to inspire students like he has inspired me.”

Musci had planned on going to medical school, but he credits Brubaker, and other professors in the health and exercise science department, with opening his mind to other possibilities. The two began working together when Brubaker, who was researching the effects of a Mediterranean lifestyle on cardiovascular health, asked Musci for help translating some research from Italian to English.

As their relationship progressed from professor/student to collaborators, Brubaker offered Musci advice on research ideas, graduate school and training for marathons. He encouraged Musci to spend a semester at Casa Artom to follow up the research that he was doing in Italy. That led Musci to develop and conduct a cross-sectional study of physical activity levels involving both Wake Forest and Venetian college students. He plans to return to Venice next spring as a graduate assistant at Casa Artom so he can continue his research into the connections among lifestyle, diet and heart disease.

Rob Musci

“Rob is the type of student that every professor enjoys working with — bright, curious and passionate about learning both in and outside of the classroom,” says Brubaker, who is also director of the Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs. “His energy and drive towards school and life is contagious to all around him. I just wish I could keep up with him while running!”

The bonds of camaraderie and teamwork that they needed to survive the Tough Mudder have been essential to Musci’s education as well. “He genuinely cares about my success,” Musci says of his running partner and mentor. “He brought out what I really wanted to do. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do until he showed me.”

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