Highlights from BYU colleges: New research focuses on childhood obesity, skin cancer

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College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Ph.D. student Kelsey Zaugg has conducted groundbreaking research on the connection between brain structure and childhood obesity. (Kelsey Zaugg)

A Ph.D. student has conducted groundbreaking research on the connection between brain structure and childhood obesity. Kelsey Zaugg is studying in the BYU clinical psychology program, where she focuses her research on ensuring the psychological, physical and spiritual wellbeing of children. Zaugg has discovered, using MRI data and neuroimaging, that parts of the brain associated with how people process rewards are shaped differently in obese adolescents. These findings are in the process of being submitted for publication.

“In life, we will not be able to remove all challenges children may face, but we can do our part to limit some of the vulnerabilities of children so they can face challenges with a strong foundation,” Zaugg said.


College of Nursing

The BYU College of Nursing’s new research on skin cancer risks for college students in the winter has been published in a dermatology journal. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

The BYU College of Nursing’s new research on skin cancer risks for college students in the winter has been published in a dermatology journal. Nursing professor Katreena Merrill and grad student Emily Graham found that only 9% of college students use sunscreen and that more than 50% of them use tanning beds, a percentage that increases during winter months. Tanning beds and unfiltered UV radiation from the sun expose skin to potential cancer by aging skin and damaging skin cells’ DNA, Merrill said. 

“Many people think they will be fine in the winter, but it’s just as important to protect yourself in the winter sun as it is the summer sun,” Merrill said. “That’s especially concerning in Utah, which has the highest incidence of melanoma in the country.”

The study was published in the latest issue of The Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association.


David O. McKay School of Education

BYU professor Lee Robinson was elected president of the BYU Faculty Women’s Association. (Bradley Slade)

A communication disorders professor was elected president of the BYU Faculty Women’s Association. Associate clinical professor Lee Robinson directs the BYU Speech and Language Clinic and has been involved with the Faculty Women’s Association for most of her 21 years at BYU. This will be the third leadership position Robinson has held.

The Faculty Women’s Association works to create a community for female BYU faculty and staff and improve professional life for women on campus. Women currently make up about 21% of BYU’s full-time faculty.

“We’re trying to help women in various departments across campus feel like they have a community of women that they can go to and connect with,” Robinson said.


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