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Student’s Research Tackles the Genetics of Obesity

Nicole Lopes ’10 knew what her research topic would be before she was named a Von der Ahe Library 2009 Undergraduate Research Award winner: she would tackle obesity.

The natural science major had been studying the possible link between genetics and obesity for more than a year in an advanced nutrition course.  Hawley Almstedt, assistant professor of natural science, encouraged Lopes to continue her research and submit it to the contest.  Using twin, animal, and adoption studies, Lopes reported her findings.

“My research has shown that there is more of a genetic connection to obesity than I had previously thought,” Lopes said. “Adoption studies have found that children who are adopted have a body style more similar to their biological parents than to their adoptive parents, showing that genetics have more of an influence than the environment.”

She adds that though this may appear defeating to those who have trouble controlling their weight, it is possible to maintain a healthy weight with a nutritious diet and plenty of physical activity.

Lopes is grateful to the Von der Ahe Library for recognizing her findings and is eager to continue to study obesity.