Friday, February 17, 2017

Federal Work-Study student Devon Nelson Researches Salad Bars in Elementary Schools and Tests a Metabolic Cart

My name is Devon Nelson and I am currently a Junior biology major.   My current research focuses on a variety of topics.  The main two involve putting salad bars in elementary schools to see if this helps change their attitudes towards fruits and vegetables and testing the repeatability of a metabolic cart to determine if it's a reliable instrument to use for energy expenditure.  I got interested in the project because I'm a strong believer that lifestyle intervention early on is more beneficial than trying to change your habits later in life, especially when it comes to eating habits.  I also really like working with data, but that was beside the point.

I usually work on location two or three times a week.  My work involves researching a variety of different topics that our research projects focus on so that proposals can be written.  When I'm not assisting with that, I'm in the nutritional assessment lab practicing using the metabolic cart.  The metabolic cart is a machine that determines how much oxygen you breathe in and how much carbon dioxide you breathe out.  From these values, the machine can calculate how much energy it takes to keep your body going at rest.        

As a new researcher, I never realized some of the things that researchers have to face that I took for granted.  Working has also helped me understand that even if you have the best research idea, sometimes your project doesn't get approval or participants don't come in, so you need to postpone your work and find something else. I never appreciated how much researchers rely upon volunteers for their projects until this semester and it's made me start signing up for more research projects around campus.

So far, the projects have changed the way that I go about my day.  Now that my knowledge in subjects such as gut health and how that affects the body has increased, I'm more aware of what I'm eating and excluding some unhealthy items from my diet.  Since we're working on gut micro biomes and how different levels of certain bacteria's can make you more prone to certain diseases, I'm starting to understand how even if you have a good BMI, what you put in your body can still hurt your health.  I'm happy that I worked this semester because it's broadened my understanding in the field of research and in myself.