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As the first student from the Department of Kinesiology to earn an Auburn University Undergraduate Research Fellowship, senior Christina Peoples can't help but shoulder a sizable load of self-imposed expectations.
"I feel like I have to set the standard,'' said Peoples, an exercise science major from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
According to one of the faculty mentors who will help guide her through the yearlong fellowship program, the College of Education would be hard-pressed to find a better representative.
"She's very inquisitive and she's a hard worker,'' said Dr. Leah Robinson, an assistant professor of kinesiology. "She really goes beyond what the typical undergraduate student demonstrates. She has great qualities as a young researcher.''
Peoples and 19 other students were selected for the fellowships sponsored by Auburn's Office of the Vice President for Research. The competitive program began summer 2008 and continues for the entire academic year. The fellowships afford students the opportunity to perform research under the guidance of mentors and provides for a stipend to assist with projects and related travel.
Peoples' project relates to the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States and the sedentary lifestyles that have factored into it. Because few studies have explored physical activity participation by preschoolers, Peoples is investigating children's activity levels during the school day. She is also examining the relationship of physical activity level to gender, motor ability and body weight. Robinson and Dr. Danielle Wadsworth, an assistant professor of kinesiology, are providing guidance as her faculty mentors. As part of her descriptive study, Peoples used pedometers to measure the amount of steps preschoolers took during each of the three daily play periods held over the summer at a day care center.
"We're trying to come up with what would be the optimal number of steps that preschoolers should be getting on a daily basis,'' Peoples said. "Research has shown that children between the ages of 6 and 9 should be getting somewhere between 13,000 steps (a day) to account for moderate to vigorous activity.
"What we're trying to do is come up with some kind of program that can be implemented into day care centers and childcare centers where children are actually getting physical activity that will help them developmentally with their motor skills.''
Peoples will discuss her findings at the upcoming Motor Development Research Consortium, hosted by the Department of Kinesiology in St. George Island, Fla., from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1. The free conference serves as a forum for researchers whose work focuses on motor skills development.
While Peoples had expected to pursue a career in physical therapy after graduation, the Auburn Undergraduate Research Fellowship has encouraged her to consider other possibilities.
"The research fellowship has opened my mind more to research in general,'' she said. "Research is the key to come up with new interventions and programs. It has inspired me to apply to graduate school in exercise science as well.
"I feel like I'm contributing to the discipline and that's a big accomplishment. A lot of people interviewed to be a fellow and I'm so happy that they chose me. I want to represent Auburn to the best of my ability.''
Last Updated: Jun 17, 2011