Erika Schagatay, Professor, Research Director of EPG
Erika Schagatay, professor in animal physiology, is the director of research. She obtained her B.Sc. in Biology at Lund University, studied marine biology at master level at Gothenburg University, and completed her PhD at Lund University in 1996. After post-doctoral work at the August Krogh Institute in Copenhagen and the Department of Community Medicine in Malmö, Sweden she joined Mid Sweden University in 1999 for a lectureship in animal physiology. In 2000 she was appointed associate professor of animal physiology at Lund University, and 2007 professor at Mid Sweden University. An active diver and instructor of apneic diving, her interest in physiology began when she during her travels met native apnea divers performing far better than stated possible in the medical literature at the time. Erika has since 1988 studied the physiology of several diving populations, including the Japanese Ama and the Indonesian Suku Laut and Bajau. Later studies have focused on competitive apnea divers, to reveal how they can breathhold for 10 minutes and reach 100 m depth on one breath. In addition to field and laboratory studies on trained and untrained human subjects, pigs have been trained to breathhold and their diving responses studied. The past 10 years research has also been focused on high altitude physiology, to reveal how human performance can be enhanced in this hypoxic environment, e.g. by comparing it to breath-hold diving. Under her direction, the lab also conducts research in thermal physiology. She has published over 50 original articles and many conference papers and book chapters on freediving physiology and human performance in other extreme environments, including aspects on human evolution. In addition to laboratory work, Erika has led many field expeditions to various extreme environments including the Nepali Himalayas, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan. Erika has always been engaged in teaching and has started several University programs and courses, and she has supervised eight graduate students, and more than 200 students in shorter research projects.

Lara Rodríguez-Zamora, PhD, Post Doc
After a 5 month visit at Mid Sweden University during graduate studies and finishing her thesis “Physiological responses and competitive performance in elite synchronized swimming” 2013 at Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya (INEFC) at Universitat de Barcelona, Spain, Lara joined for a two-year post doc with the EPG in 2015. This was followed by a 6 month post doc at Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre (SWSRC) and a 6 month temporary lecturer position at the department of Health Sciences. Lara is still working with several research projects in the EPG, where her main ongoing work concerns predicting high altitude performance. Laras studies in the high altitude laboratory revealed that factors related to the human diving response could help explain reactions to hypoxia at high altitude. She completed a field study during the Atlantic Freediving Cup at Tenerife studying the effects of divers “Hook breathing” on recovery after deep apnea dives, in collaboration with Fran de Asiz Fernandez from Madrid. Tests were done on competition divers in the open sea to reveal which method of recovery breathing – Hook or Normal - is better for rapid SaO2 recovery. It was concluded that Hook breathing had benefits for subjects prone to squeeze.

Angelica Lodin-Sundström, PhD
Angelica is a biologist with her basic education at Mid Sweden University and Uppsala University. She has worked with the group for over 10 years, during which she finished her BSc study followed by a Master´s thesis, both concerning spleen function during hypoxia. In parallel with her own work, Angelica took part in several studies as a research assistant and a field research assistant. She continued her studies by joining our PhD program with EPG, and presented her thesis “Initiation of Spleen Contraction Resulting in Natural Blood Boosting in Humans” in 2 June 2015. The thesis explored several different stimuli involved in eliciting spleen contraction in humans, and showed different situations in which sports performance could be enhanced by recruiting the spleen reservoir of red blood cells. After her dissertation she has continued taking part in studies in parallel with teaching and other academic assignments. She is the co-supervisor of graduate student Pontus Holmström, who joined the group in 2017.

Harald Engan, PhD
After having studied medicine and biology at NTNU in Trondheim and psychology in Australia, Harald joined the EPG and did his MSc studies in Sweden. His MSc focused on the effects of apnea training on a number of cardiorespiratory and hematological variables. He then joined for graduate studies, and 24 April 2015 presented his thesis in Health Sciences entitled “Cardiovascular, Hematological and Dietary Means to Cope with Environmentally Induced Hypoxia in Humans”. Harald investigated various physiological responses during conditions of reduced oxygen availability. The results showed that several protective responses are mobilized during hypoxic stress, and that some of these responses can be improved by training. He also explored the potential of Beetroot juice for improving performance in hypoxic conditions. His current position is as researcher at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway, but he continues his collaboration with the EPG. Harald is also co-supervisor of graduate student Pontus Holmström, who joined the group in 2017.

Alexander Patrician, M.Sc
Alexander had a 4 year B.Sc degree, majoring in Human Kinetics, from the University of Guelph, Canada in 2011, when he joined the EPG in 2012 for a Master By Research (MBR) program in Environmental Sciences – Extreme Physiology. He defended his MBR thesis concerning the effect of dietary nitrate on sleep at altitude in 2015. During the course of his studies Alex contributed to many other projects in the lab and the field in Sweden, Nepal, Cyprus and Egypt. His MBR studies were followed by positions as Amanuens and research assistant in EPG, along with tasks as internationalization assistant, lecturing and running student labs at the department of Health Sciences at Mid Sweden University. Alex returned in 2017 to Canada to do a PhD in Environmental Physiology at Okanagan university, but remains a close collaborator with EPG.

Pontus Holmström. M.Sc
Pontus finished his B.Sc. in Sports Sciences at Gothenburg University in 2012, followed by a 2 year M.Sc. in Portsmouth University, England, where he majored in Biomechanics and Physiology. His initial area was strength and conditioning and sports performance, but he soon developed an interest for Environmental Physiology during his M.Sc. in Portsmouth University, where he was engaged in various projects concerning extreme environments both as a researcher and as a test subject. Pontus recently joined the EPG for graduate studies, planning to do a PhD in hypoxia physiology, related to both High Altitude and Apneic diving. He will explore further the factors related to human diving responses and if they could help explain reactions to hypoxia at high altitude, aiming to develop an apnea based model for predicting performance at high altitude.

Eric Mulder M.Sc
Eric did his B.Sc. in Sports Sciences at Mid Sweden University, which he finished with a project describing the physical characteristics of top athletes in the extreme sport Freeriding - a relatively little described discipline of offpist skiing. His M Sc project in Sports Sciences at Mid Sweden University focused on methods evaluation when he compared force platform and motion-capture methods for measuring centre of mass displacement during a squat jump. He then changed fields to environmental physiology and joined the EPG for his MBR project with focus on the effects of training methods involving apnea in elite swimmers.

Helena Haughey, M.Sc
Helena is a graduate Licenciate student in EPG where she has been studying the role of the diving response in spleep apnea patients. She also determined the role of the spleen blood boosting in both healthy subjects and COPD patients. She continues with contributing to studies in sleep at high altitude, and after several years working in the clinic, she is now joining the EPG again, aiming to finish her Licenciate thesis in Health Sciences.




Contact EPG

Professor Erika Schagatay, research director


Phone: +46 10-142 84 12