Local News

Question Leads To Research Scholarship For Durham Student

Posted May 6, 2005 6:46 a.m. EDT

— A Durham high school student earned a $20,000 scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as the result of a three-month health research project.

The research study charts and graphs were born from a real-life question that puzzled Jamie Bell, a student at Jordan High School.

"I'm an athlete and it always struck me as odd that my BMI (body mass index) value borderlined overweight, when I exercise, like, seven days a week," Bell said.

Adolphe Quetelet developed the BMI in the 1800s. BMI is a calculation of your height and weight that determines your health risks. Bell surveyed 34 students about their exercise habits. She measured their body fat using a special scale, then she followed up with them after three months. She learned two things.

"There is a correlation between those who increased their exercise and they decreased their body fat," she said.

Bell's second conclusion is in line with what many fitness experts claim -- that the BMI index does not take into account lean tissue weight verses fat.

"You know measuring body fat with body fat scales is probably a better way to measure how healthy an individual is," she said.

For her work, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation included Bell among its Young Epidemiology Scholars.

"What we're trying to do now is to get the young students in this country to think about this as a career path," said James Marks, senior vice-president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Bell's father is a researcher with the National Institute of Environmental Health and Science. She may follow in his foot-steps with plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Duke University. She said the research experience will help her in almost any career field.