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Summer research students investigate relationship between behavior and diet

July 25, 2012

  • Alli Rotunno ’14, Michelle Leon, and Katherine Garvey ’13

At Lewis & Clark, summer doesn’t necessarily mean vacation. Many students spend up to 40 hours a week doing collaborative research with faculty each summer.

Two undergraduate students, Katherine Garvey ’13 and Alli Rotunno ’14, are working alongside Assistant Professor of Psychology Todd Watson to discover how different personality and behavior traits relate to diet and weight. Their team also includes Michelle Leon, a rising senior at Beaverton’s Health and Science School. In this Q&A, the researchers reflect on the value of these experiences.

What are you researching this summer?

Garvey: We are researching the relationships between eating styles and levels of impulsivity, attention, and risky behavior. We are looking at whether attention to food cues are indicative of eating style, using electroencephalogram (EEG) scans.

Leon: We hope our research can tell us more about common characteristics or personality traits seen in those who overeat.

How do you think faculty-student collaboration has impacted your education?

Garvey: My education would not be the same without the support of my professors and mentors. They have helped me so much over the years by being accessible and encouraging me to pursue my interests. I am very fortunate to be working in Todd’s lab this summer—there is so much to learn from him and what he is researching.

How do you hope your experiences this summer will impact your future studies or professional pursuits?

Rotunno: I am gaining experience not only with research techniques but also in the broader field of psychology. My goal is to explore a variety of topics to help me decide further career paths. I would like to continue my education in graduate school.

Leon: My experiences this summer will open many scientific opportunities for me while expanding my knowledge in many ways. This program allows me to do hands-on research, with a real scientific setting. One day, I want to have a career doing research.

How did you decide to attend Lewis & Clark?

Garvey: I decided to attend L&C after I did the overnight stay. The people I met were incredibly nice, and it was clear they loved going to school here. I knew they were the kind of people I wanted to surround myself with. L&C also had all the qualities I wanted—a small student population, small class sizes, a great science program, and a great location.


About the Program

Valuable summer research projects like this investigation of food and behavior would not be possible without help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). In 2008, Lewis & Clark received a four-year, $1.3 million grant from HHMI to support science programs and research projects; this spring, HHMI awarded the college an additional $1-million grant.

The Collaborative Research Program is designed to broaden access to science and is structured around the idea of laddered research team: each team consists of a faculty member, a Lewis & Clark science major, and a high school or community college student. The aim of the program is to provide students with a rigorous, lab-based experience emphasizing the collaborative nature of scientific research.

The grant also supports the Science Without Limits Symposium in the fall. This two-day event showcases new and exciting developments in interdisciplinary areas of scientific research, successfully engaging and informing a broad audience of students, faculty, and community members through presentations, joint colloquiums, and interactive activities.

Students make their final research presentation at the Summer Science Poster Session, held in conjunction with the Science Without Limits Symposium. Scheduled for September 18, the poster session is free and open to the public.

Zibby Pillote ’14 contributed to this story.


Opportunities in Science at Lewis & Clark


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