Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Classes: Week 2

Last week in class we began to write our own research hypothesis and study designs. The class has been divided into 5 or 6 groups, and we're all researching something different, so the outcomes should be varied. Our group decided to study if BMI* increases with age. We'll measure the data set of the 100 or so participants we originally surveyed, sort them by age category, then take their average BMIs and compare. It's not the most complex study, but given our time constraints, it should still be worthwhile.

For our design, we were given a bit of leeway and imagination. If we did have the time, our group decided this would make the perfect cohort study. In other words, we'd measure a random sampling of folks for 45 years, beginning at age 18 and following them until age 63. We'd measure their BMI annually. At the end of the time period, we'd have some great data, and we'd be able to (hopefully) show any causal link between aging and increased weight gain.

Our first quiz is this Tuesday, with a focus on the last two lectures, so I'll review notes and study tomorrow. I'd need to know various types of research, what a Type 1 vs. Type 2 error is, and the difference between Inductive and Deductive reasoning. So far, my professor has given very good, clear lectures, and I haven't needed the book at all!

* A quick refresher: BMI stands for "Body Mass Index", and is expressed as a percentage calculating your height and weight. A healthy BMI is around 20-25%. BMI is just one measurement clinicians can use to determine if a person is at a healthy weight.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summer Semester Begins

Welcome back to class! This summer, I'll be taking a course on RESEARCH. I'll have class 2x week for the next six weeks, so things will move fast. Luckily, I've had some experience with statistics and the like before, so I don't worry too much about getting in over my head.

Last night was class one, and we all went around the room introducing ourselves. I don't know anybody in the class, but everyone seems nice. There are 16 of us, and we're a pretty diverse bunch. Many of us already have one Master's degree in an unrelated field. Some are mothers. Some are exercise trainers. Many work. I am not the youngest or the oldest. Some are a few classes from graduation. Others, like me, are just starting out.

My husband asked me over (a very late) dinner last night, "Why does an RD need to take a research class?" I'll share my answer... RDs are required to earn continuing education credits yearly upon certification. We are also expected learn about the latest studies and findings in the field. A solid research background allows an RD to identify quality studies, and disregard some of the not-so-qualified junk being published out there. Additionally, as a community, most journal submissions are peer-reviewed, so it is possible that I would be tapped by the ADA every once in awhile to weigh in on a study's findings. And, in the words of my professor"... you never know what direction your career will take you." She started out as a consultant in the WIC program, and never imagined she'd be doing research.

Our professor has spend most of her career doing research on breastfeeding and childhood nutrition (which I find sort of interesting... which might make me a dork, I know...) Right now she is working on a study to determine if mothers who are sent home from the hospital with a breast pump in their goodybag rather than formula samples will stick with breastfeeding. Interesting fact of the night: America is one of the few countries in the world where things are reversed-- the upper middle class breastfeed their children, while lower income families tend not to.

We received our first assignment. Since we plan to conduct our own research over the course, we've been put to the task of creating our very own data set. Each member of the class submitted their answers to a short survey. Now, we must find 5 others to take the same survey so we have a test population of at least 80. Questions included age, weight, BMI, marital and educational status as well as questions about food intake and exercise level. Thanks to those who participated! I will post the averages and other interesting data as it comes in, and you all can see how you stack up among the other participants.

I will not be in class this Thursday due to travel, and therefore, will miss the first group lab assignment. My professor was very understanding and I will have to make up the exercise on my own.

PS. Alaska was fantastic, no we did not try any fish. I got freaked out by the salmon when it still had the skin on it.