All Colorado State University (CSU) researcher Laura Bellows wanted to do was make a difference in people’s lives. She ended up being recognized as one of the most promising young scientists in the country.
On Sept. 26, President Obama selected Bellows to receive the 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in honor of her research into childhood obesity prevention. PECASE annually recognizes scientists and engineers whose work enters the frontiers of science and technology.
From her days as an undergrad majoring in exercise science, to a master’s degree in human nutrition, and a Ph.D. in community nutrition, Bellows has focused on the prevention side of health. When Bellows began work in 2001 as a research associate at “Food Friends,” a CSU nutrition project for preschoolers, obesity was not the hot topic it is today. Later, when the problem of childhood obesity started becoming known, her education and experience put her in position to examine the physical activity side of childhood obesity in the preschool setting.
Her interest and passion for combining both sides of the energy equation – nutrition and activity – led to her leadership in the “Mighty Moves” program, an 18-week program in which preschoolers engage in activities aimed at enhancing gross motor development and increasing structured physical activity opportunities in the classroom. Equally important, Bellows addresses the physical and nutritional education needs of parents and teachers – the “secondary influencers” who are the most direct role models of young children. “There is nothing better than when I talk to a group of teachers or parents and I can see the light bulbs going off and they say ‘Wow, that makes a lot of sense. I’m going to give that a try.’”
Bellows’ has published nine articles and her work has garnered several honors and awards, but PECASE tops them all. “It’s an amazing award and I’m privileged and extremely appreciative of the recognition,” she said. “I guess I’m still a bit in awe that I am one of the recipients!”