Soccer and Scientists

Student Researchers Study Youth Team Sports

Story by Brian Zink

Tatum Lohse

On Saturday mornings, a group of Purdue students heads to Indianapolis to conduct research with youth team sports programs. The findings could help combat childhood obesity — and it is work that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without these student researchers.

“We all drive down to Indianapolis in a big van — REALLY early in the morning,” senior Tatum Lohse says with a laugh. She has been working since August 2018 on the research, which is led by Jorge Banda, assistant professor of health and kinesiology. During that time, Lohse, a nutrition science major, has been involved in data collection, reviewing related research literature, helping with Purdue Institutional Review Board approvals, and watching video of youth sports practices.

Megha Reddy

As part of Banda’s research, students fit accelerometers to children to monitor their physical activity; researchers also watch from the sidelines to document the snacks and drinks provided. In addition to Indianapolis, Banda’s team is working with youth sports programs in Lafayette.

“It’s really important for every health major to experience some kind of research opportunity,” says Megha Reddy, a senior majoring in public health who is part of the research team. “It gives you exposure to a wide range of journal articles as well as other problems out there in the community that you might not be aware of.”

Alec Suarez

That community aspect is of particular interest to Alec Suarez, also majoring in public health. After graduation, he will be working for the Marion County Public Health Department on programming to prevent diabetes and tobacco use. He plans to become an epidemiologist.

“Working in Dr. Banda’s lab has helped me gain so much exposure to what community health programs look like in the real world,” Suarez says. “He really exposed me to the kind of work done in communities and how community partnerships are made.”

“Working in Dr. Banda’s lab has helped me gain so much exposure to what community health programs look like in the real world”
Alec Suarez, (Public Health ’20)

Banda says it would be difficult to collect all the data he needs if it weren’t for the students. But beyond the practical goal of conducting research, involving student researchers serves another important function.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have some very good mentors and professors who have cared about me and helped me get to where I am in my career. And I try to do the same thing as well,” Banda says. “In my role as a professor, I want to create a positive environment and learning experience, and part of that is conducting research.”

More Life 360 Stories