Across Continents and Cultures

Amy Nagle's (l) field experience in Ghana set her apart from other graduate school applicants.
When Amy Nagle, a then undergraduate exercise science major  in the College of Life Sciences, traveled to Ghana to conduct a research project that she had conceived and designed, she did not just open her mind to new information—she opened a door to her fu- ture. “My experiences at BYU made me an excel- lent candidate for all the schools I applied to,” she says. This fall, Nagle began a master’s program in occupational therapy at the University of Utah.

Nagle developed a research project looking at body core strength of young women on opposite sides of the world and comparing the different kinds and intensities of their physical activities. Her field study, conducted with Dr. Wayne Johnson of the Depart- ment of Exercise Sciences, took her to Ghana where she was able to gather data. “How many students get the chance to travel to another continent to pursue research in their field of interest?” Nagle marveled.

This field study set her apart from other students when she applied to graduate school. Opportuni- ties in the College of Life Sciences allowed Nagle to distinguish herself as she cultivated an interest she has long held. “Ever since I was little,” she says, “I’ve always wanted to work in the health field helping and serving children.” Choosing the College of Life Sci- ences helped Nagle to bring that dream a little closer. Although freshmen pre-med courses at Boston Uni- versity dissuaded her from pursuing pediatrics, Nagle soon discovered a perfect field for someone with her desire to help children, young adults, and people with disabilities—occupational therapy. “I fell in love with it,” she says. “I transferred to BYU the next fall, and I started [right] into learning more about the human body. I loved learning about a tangible object.”
Over the summer, Amy finished analyzing data she collected over the course of her study. “I was looking to find an association between the types, durations, and intensities of physical activities and core stability,” Nagle explains. “I found no significant difference in core stability between the Ghanaian and American samples of girls.” What she did find, Amy continues, “was that the Ghanaian girls seemed to report physi- cal activities of higher intensities doing routine tasks or chores, whereas the American girls reported physical activities of higher intensities during peri- ods of exercise and planned, organized activities.”

Nagle with study participants.
As a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints four years ago, Nagle was especially impressed when one of her BYU profes- sors spoke of a “divine hand” present in scientific processes. Now, she says, “I know that life is more than just compounds and ions interacting with one another, and I feel safer knowing that I am in the hands of something greater than science.”

Nagle credits influential professors in the College of Life Sciences for not only this rich perspective on science, but also her success and professional oppor- tunities. She and Johnson have submitted an abstract covering a portion of the study to the World Congress of Physical Therapy. By doing so, Nagle may have opportunities to present her research to the health com- munity. Dr. Johnson reports he now has two other students who are planning field studies for 2011 that will continue this line of research started by Amy.Nagle stated, “Working closely with Dr. Johnson was prob- ably one of the best things that could have happened to me as a student at BYU.” Amy found in Dr. Johnson an enthusiastic and supportive mentor whose interest in her proposed study fueled her own creativ- ity and ambition, and she is well prepared to succeed in graduate school. “BYU,” she says, “trains students to be independent thinkers.” Combining this training with her passion for helping others, Nagle will continue to influence lives across continents and cultures.

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by Mary Eyring