June 13, 2024
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The Other Side: Neuroscientist is making waves beyond the lab

Chris Bishop is also a nationally ranked swimmer

Psychology professor and swimming enthusiast Chris Bishop displays his United States Masters Swimming medals. Psychology professor and swimming enthusiast Chris Bishop displays his United States Masters Swimming medals.
Psychology professor and swimming enthusiast Chris Bishop displays his United States Masters Swimming medals. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

Four days a week, Chris Bishop wakes up at 5:15 a.m. so that he can go to Binghamton University Masters Swimming (BUMS) practice.

Bishop, a psychology professor and director of the integrative neuroscience program at Binghamton, is also a nationally ranked swimmer with BUMS, a United States Masters Swimming affiliated team. He started taking swimming lessons at his local YMCA when he was growing up in Michigan. In college, he stopped swimming to pursue tennis instead, only taking it up again after coming to Binghamton.

“When I moved here in 2005, I was looking for opportunities for exercise,” Bishop says. “I did a few different things like cycling and running. It wasn’t until 2010 when [Associate Professor David Werner] was hired, and he told me that there was a big group of people who swim at the University. It was masters swimming, which I didn’t know much about. Two years later, I was hooked. For the last 10 years it’s been a consistent thing for me, three or four days a week. It’s been amazing for me physically and mentally.”

Through BUMS, Bishop has been able to further his skills alongside other competitors, including graduate students, faculty and community members. During the past 10 years, he has garnered four All-American relay honors and two individual National Championships in his favorite event, the backstroke.

“I like the fitness aspect and social interactions, but I also really enjoy going to competitions,” Bishop says. “That’s where I’ve been able to hit goals, like finishing Top 10 in the nation for my event. Occasionally we’ll go to a meet where we win an event at nationals, such as the [mixed 200-meter] relay.”

The West Gym pool couldn’t be more convenient for Bishop. His Science 4 office is across the street, allowing him to fit the sport easily into his daily routine.

As swimming has become a part of Bishop’s lifestyle, it has also become a part of his family’s schedule.

“[My wife and I] passed swimming down to our daughters,” he says. “We spend many weekends at local swim meets. I got into it for myself and for fitness, but over time it became a lifestyle for me. I’ve been able to go to my daughters’ meets and I was a volunteer coach for the University team for a couple years. It’s been great to see different sides of the sport, but it’s definitely a family affair now.”

Bishop’s research intersects with his love of exercise and swimming.

“We study things like how exercise influences brain health,” he says. “One of the studies that is currently being sup-ported by the Department of Defense examines how exercise slows down the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Understanding how that is occurring within the brain may provide us with some interesting avenues for therapy in the future, such as prescribing exercise as therapy in certain stages of the disease. It’s understated how amazing exercise is for brain health, particularly when it comes to disease prevention.”

Bishop says he is able to balance and pursue his love of swimming alongside his work at Binghamton thanks to the support he and BUMS have received from the University.

“The University has made this all possible,” Bishop says. “They provide us with the facilities; they work with us to make it available. We have a good relationship with the varsity coaches and teams. We support them and they support us. [BUMS] couldn’t do it at this scale without the University’s sup-port and we really appreciate that.”

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