Author Archives: Katelyn May Schreckengast

Indoor Tanning: Not So Sunny After All

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A study tried to find the link between Melanoma and indoor tanning to prove that it is strong after all.  The scientists found that among 1,167 cases and 1,101 controls, 62.9% of cases and 51.1% of  the controls had tanned indoors and the risk of melanoma increased through the years.  It also claims that no matter what the age, your risk of melanoma is higher if you tan indoors.

This case has a good sample size, but the information was gathered through surveys and phone calls.  Not only does this mean there could be bias in the answers given, it’s also not a very reliable way to collect information.  There is always the possibility of chance, and the researchers didn’t get a full background report on all of the people involved in the study which makes it hard to tell if the person involved had a history of higher melanoma risk in their family.  The study is observational and not experimental which isn’t as reliable in this case and correlation doesn’t always mean causation.

Even though this particular study is weak, there have been other studies conducted on the same topic as well.

This study also looks at the link between melanoma and indoor tanning.  I believe that with all of the studies conducted, there is enough information to believe that there is a link between the two and it is harmful to people that tan indoors.

Works Cited:

“Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <>.

“Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <>.

Rats Find the Fountain of Youth


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According to a study conducted by researchers at Harvard University, rats may just have found the fountain of youth.  Scientists injected older mice with the blood of younger mice, and what they found is astonishing.  After the young blood was injected into the old mice, the brain and muscles started to show improvement in function.  They also found that after four weeks neurons and muscle tissue were being produced.  They then took the old mice that were injected with young blood and compared them to control old mice while they performed various tasks like maze navigating, and running on a treadmill.  The old mice easily outperformed the control group.  When the reverse happened, and young mice were injected with old blood, there seemed to be reverse effects.  The young mice seemed to reverse in aging.

While animal studies are almost always intriguing with new and interesting ideas, it is hard to say that the implications that this has on human beings is reliable.  There is always the possibility of chance, and with more studies in the future, I think there could be some reliable data for rats.  For humans however I think that is a completely different story.  There is also the problem of third-confounding variables.  What were the living conditions like for the rats?  Their diets?  There may also be complications with their genetic predispositions.  I do however like the use of a control group to compare the injected mice with.  I don’t think there is a problem with reverse causation however, because the control group helps to eliminate that problem.

This study may be a breakthrough for mice, but when it comes to the implications it has on humans, I think there is much left to be desired.

Works Cited:

“New Studies Show That Young Blood Reverses the Effects of Aging When Put into Older Mice.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <>.

Obesity and Life Expectancy: More Weight, Less Life


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In a recent study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University, researchers looked at the link between obesity and life expectancy.  They took statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (from years 2003 to 2010) and found that very obese individuals could lose up to eight years of life, obese individuals could lose up to six years of life, and overweight individuals could lose up to three years of life.  They also found that healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those who had a healthy weight.  The researchers used a sample size of 4,000 people to pull results from.

This study is an observational study, but it was conducted with results that already occurred before the researchers began to collect the information.  Therefore there was no bias on the side of the people being studied.  However, the study was conducted with results from Americans, so the implications in other countries are questionable.  There are also many other third confiding variables that aren’t taken into account.  What if a majority of the people studied died in accidents and things completely unrelated to their weight or BMI?  There is also always the possibility of chance.  Correlation does not always equal causation so the relationship between BMI and years off of one’s life could be completely due to chance.

I believe there may be some truth to this study, but the only way we’ll be able to draw conclusive evidence is to keep replicating these studies to try and eliminate chance as much as possible.  This could have a lot to say about the future implications of this information.

Works Cited:

“Obesity May Shorten Life Expectancy up to Eight Years.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <>.


The Higher the Heel…… The More Helpful the Man?



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A recent study published in Springer’s Journal Archive’s of Sexual Behavior studied the correlation between the height of a woman’s heel and the influence that has on how men act around her.  Nicolas Guéguen, the director of the study, took a woman outdoors and had her ask people to complete a survey in flat shoes and high heels.  In this situation Guéguen observed that men were more likely to complete the survey if the woman asking was wearing high heels.  The heel height had no affect on other women though.  Next, Guéguen took the woman to a bar and found that men were more likely to start talking to her if she was wearing heels rather than flats.  Guéguen does believe that more research should be conducted on this specific topic, but it’s a start.  He also stated that he believes that men act the way they do around women in heels because of the way women in heels are portrayed in the media.

This study immediately caught my attention because I am a heel loving, and wearing, girl.  How could one small factor effect men on such a level?  What does this say about our society today, and what implications could it have for the future?

After thoroughly examining the study, I found a few flaws in this system.  First of all, the study is observational and is only partially blind.  The giver of the survey (the woman) and the person observing were both in on what they were trying to find, so that could have caused the woman to be more open to reaching out for help from the men instead of the women.  There was also only one woman used in the study.  A bigger sample size would have reduced the effects of chance, which can never be eliminated, and are still always present.  Another problem is that they didn’t account for third variables.  Guéguen even states that the media could be another factor that plays into the results that the study produced.  This study was conducted in France, so readers also have to be cautious about the implications it has in America.

Overall I think the study has an interesting topic, but there should be more studies like it.  If this study is replicated and rid of other conflicting variables there may be some good evidence that in fact there is a correlation between the helpfulness of a man and the height of a woman’s heel.  For now I find it hard to even say that there is a strong correlation because of the flaws in this particular study.

Works Cited:

“High Heels May Enhance a Man’s Instinct to Be Helpful.” N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <>.

What does Baldness and Prostate Cancer have in Common?


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So what does baldness and prostate cancer have in common?  According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, they may actually be directly linked.

Evidence has been emerging that male pattern baldness and prostate cancer are both connected to elevated levels of male sex hormones thus creating a link between the two.  In this study, scientists analyzed data from 39, 070 men in the prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial.  They found that 45 year old men who had moderate baldness on the front and crown of the head had increased chances of developing prostate cancer by 40 percent (Medicos).

Senior study author Michael B. Cook, an investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD explained that, “Our study found an increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer only in men with a very specific pattern of hair loss, baldness at the front and moderate hair-thinning on the crown of the head, at the age of 45. But we saw no increased risk for any form of prostate cancer in men with other hair-loss patterns (Medicos).”

So what does all of this mean?  Can we trust the data?  I believe the study is on the right track, but there is still a lot of research to be done.  In fact, a research team is currently working on two more studies to further solidify the research already completed.  However, there are still a few holes in the experiment.  There is a very large sample size of male participants, but we don’t know if they are all from the same area because if they are there may be a third confounding variable not being measured.  We also don’t know what all of their lifestyle habits are like.  There probably isn’t enough time or funding to do background research on 39,070 men though.  Reverse causation isn’t ruled out.  Does pattern baldness cause prostate cancer, or does prostate cancer cause pattern baldness?  There is also always the possibility of chance.

Overall I think this is an important study for the future of prostate cancer research, but there should be more tests conducted.

Works Cited:

“Medicos Find More Evidence of Baldness and Prostate Cancer Link.”Medicos Find More Evidence of Baldness and Prostate Cancer Link. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <>.

Does Adolescent Marijuana Usage Cause Autoimmune Diseases?


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I first started to really pay attention to the topic of marijuana when I began taking classes here over the summer.  In one of my COMM classes we discussed both sides of the story, from legalization to the health effects.  It seemed to me like there were no big detriments to ones health if they smoke marijuana.  However, a recent study conducted by the Universita degli Studi di Milano in Italy seems to show a correlation between adolescent marijuana usage and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis (Autoimmune).

The experiment began with scientists injecting mice with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for ten days.  In mouse years that’s the equivalent to the span of human years 12 to 18.  A placebo group of mice was put in place as well.  After the initial ten days, the mice were left alone for two months, until they were fully developed adults (Autoimmune).

After this time scientists studied the immune systems of the mice and found that there were large alterations to the immune response in adulthood, described by a clear switch toward a pro-inflammatory and cytotoxic phenotype (Autoimmune).

Researcher Paola Sacerdote concluded that “I hope that the knowledge that early exposure to marijuana is associated with immediate and long-term deleterious effects on the immune system may reach adolescents and their families (Autoimmune).”

I believe this study is important to the future of marijuana studies, but there are still a few things that I find questionable.  First of all, I don’t know how many mice were used.  The sample size is extremely important when looking at the implications for a the entire world.  Secondly, there are many confounding variables not taken into account.  They used mice, not people, so we can’t be completely sure about how this will carry over into actual human usage.  I like how the study is an actual experiment and information can be proven, but in this study it’s only really proven for mice.  Reverse causation is ruled out, but correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.

This study is important to the future of marijuana studies, but there is only so much that can be done with mice.

Works Cited:

“Autoimmune Diseases Linked to Adolescent Marijuana Use.” Autoimmune Diseases Linked to Adolescent Marijuana Use. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <>.


Dogs vs. Your Own Child


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One of my best friends has a tiny Chihuahua  that goes everywhere with her family, and sometimes I feel like her mom almost loves the dog more than her (it’s creepy I know).  Turns out I may be right.  A recent study released by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the differences in brain activity of women when looking at pictures of their dog an then their own child.

Lori Palley, co-lead author of the report explained that, “Several previous studies have found that levels of neurohormones like oxytocin rise after interaction with pets, and new brain imaging technologies are helping us begin to understand the neurobiological basis of the relationship, which is exciting (This).”

Palley started the experiment by finding a group of women that fit certain requirements in order to be able to compare the brain activity patterns involved in a human-pet bond and maternal-child bond.  Participants were required to be a woman that had a child aged 2-10 years old and own a dog for two years or longer.  The next step was laying the participants on a scanner to look at photographs as functional magnetic resonance imaging was carried out.  The photos displayed were of the women’s own child, dog, and then an unknown child (This).

The results were quite interesting.  They found that parts of the brain that were previously linked to emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social interaction were engaged when the participant was viewing her own dog and child.  They found that the part of the brain that is important to bond formation lit up when viewing one’s own child, and the fusiform gyrus, which is involved with facial recognition, showed a greater response to own-dog images than to own-child images (This).

Luke Stoeckel, co-lead author of the PLOS ONE report explained that the results, “suggest there is a common brain network important for pair-bond formation and maintenance that is activated when mothers viewed images of either their child or their dog (This).”

I think this study is pretty magnificent.  For the most part, the experiment is pretty solid.  It is an actual experiment because they were measuring data and collecting information, so they actually have something to prove.  Reverse causation is ruled out, and most confounding variables are as well.  By requiring such a specific group of individuals to be involved with the study, they eliminate a large amount of confounding variables.  The only thing I couldn’t find was the sample size of participants, and that would have been useful information to know.

In conclusion I was very pleased with the way the experiment was carried out, and the methods used to collect the data.  Now I want to know if this theory applies to how I feel about my gerbils…..

Works Cited:

“This Is Your Brain on Dogs.” This Is Your Brain on Dogs. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <>.




Out-of-body Experiences or Hallucinations?



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A few years ago, I read an article about a boy who, while in the hospital barely escaping death, experienced something strange.  In the article he explained that he was surrounded by white as far as the eye could see, and in front of him was a talkative Kanye West who decided to rap with the boy.  Now when I first saw this I thought it was quite funny.  Then I thought to myself, what if this was actually real?  Do people actually consciously know what’s going on around them when they are lying on what may be their death beds?  Dr Sam Parnia, Director of Resuscitation Research at The State University of New York tried to find out.

The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study took patients who survived cardiac arrest from 15 different hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States, and Austria and conducted in depth interviews with them.  The study found that 39 percent of participants were able to describe a feeling of awareness, but couldn’t really remember more than that.  Parnia explained that this observation suggests that, “more people may have mental activity initially but then lose their memories after recovery, either due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory recall (Near).”

Those patients that said they experienced a feeling of awareness were then taken into a second interview where they reported 46 percent of people experienced many mental recollections in relation to death.  Some of the experiences included a feeling of fear and persecution.  9 percent of individuals experienced something similar to a near death experience, while only 2 percent were compatible with an out-of-body experience (Near).

Parnia concluded with the statement that, “while it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness, due to the very low incidence [2 percent] of explicit recall of visual awareness or so called OBEs, it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area (Near).”

I completely agree with him.  Because it is an observational study, nothing is proven.  There is also the possibility of chance, and the survey set up could introduce response bias.  Reverse causation is ruled out, but confounding variables aren’t.  They didn’t conduct tests on the individuals mental state before entering the hospital, and they ended up interviewing right after they were released from the hospital and probably not feeling the greatest which may have an effect on their answers.

In conclusion I completely agree with Parnia that there is much research left to do on this topic, but if conducted correctly could open many doors for the future.

Works Cited:

“Near-death Experiences: New Study Finds Evidence to Back Anecdotal Claims.” Near-death Experiences: New Study Finds Evidence to Back Anecdotal Claims. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <>.

Snap! Crackle! Pop! You’ll Remember It


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I’m going to start off this post by conducting a short quiz.  I’m going to give you a part of a popular ad, and I want you to see if you can fill in the blanks.

1.) 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on ____ _________.

2.) So easy a _________ could do it.

3.) Help!  I’ve ________ and I can’t ______ up!

I would be willing to bet a large amount of money that the majority of readers could complete these statements in 30 seconds or less.  The entire point of advertising is to attract consumers to the product being sold, and what better way to get consumers to remember your product than to leave a lasting impression that they can’t forget?  With all of the items being advertised on TV today, it takes a lot for an ad to really stand out and catch a consumers attention, and researcher Andy Rogers thinks he has found the key.

Rogers’ study involved 48 participants that were exposed to 3 different commercials, each with three different levels of audio, visual alignment (Andrew).  The first level was the original piece, where the music is perfectly in sync with the visual affects. In this video interview, Rogers explains that “sync points” are the moments when the audio and visual elements align perfectly.  The second level displaces the music so that it is slightly ahead, and the third level pulls the music even further away from the picture on the screen.

The clips were randomly allocated to the participants and after each clip was viewed, a memory test was distributed.  Rogers found that the first clip provided no statistically significant results, whereas the second and third tests produced significant (p< .05) results.  These results led to the conclusion that speeding up the music in an advertisement will lead to more consumer recognition (Andrew).

I think this is a very interesting concept.  I’ve heard of the dynamic attending concept, but this is a completely new way to approach advertising.  However, I found a few things that were questionable about the study.  First of all there is always the possibility of chance.  Secondly, because of the observational nature of this study, nothing can be proven.  We also cannot assume that correlation is equal to causation.  However, reverse causation is ruled out because there is no way that someones mind could cause the advertisement to change.

One of my biggest problems with the study is the sample size.  48 participants aren’t enough to make a conclusion for the entire world.  This also happened in another country, so, there is a possibility that it could be different depending on different cultures.  There is also a problem with confounding variables.  They didn’t take a cognition test before they began allocating the videos, so some participants may have been superior to others when it came to memory.

In conclusion, I believe the concept of this study is intriguing, and could have some effects on future advertisements, but it’s just not a strong enough study for me to completely trust it yet.

Works Cited:

“Mis-synced Music Proves to Be a Powerful Enhancement for TV Ads.” Mis-synced Music Proves to Be a Powerful Enhancement for TV Ads. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <>. Emotional Impact of Musical/Visual Synchrony Variation in Film (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Sneezing in the sunlight


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Something that has always appalled me for as long as I can remember is why I sneeze every time I step out into the sunlight.    In fact, I’m not the only one asking this question.  According to, Aristotle pondered the same strange occurrence in The Book of Problems asking, “Why does the heat of the sun provoke sneezing?” (Looking).

Turns out, we still don’t know.  In the 17th century, another curious English philosopher named Francis Bacon decided to step outside with his eyes closed in order to refute Aristotle’s idea that heat on the nose causes sneezing.  Bacon experienced heat on his nose, but he didn’t sneeze.    Now it was believed that when sunlight hit the eyes it caused the eyes to water which sent moisture into the nose and irritated it.

However, our current understanding of physiology makes this explanation impossible.  Our tear ducts are too slow and the sneeze happens too quickly.  Although we don’t have an exact answer to this pressing question, we have some sort of idea of what may cause sneezing in sunlight.  This sneezy sensation is termed photic sneeze reflex and today experts believe it may all be linked to the crossing of wires in the brain.

The most recent theory suggests that the trigeminal nerve, which causes you to sneeze, is accidentally triggered when the optic nerve, which is very close to the trigeminal nerve, is signaled, thus causing a sneeze.  The optic nerve pics up changes in lighting, which explains the suns role in photic sneeze reflex.

So why don’t we know more about this topic?  My guess is that this isn’t harmful to humans so there would be very little funding, or interest, to back up an experiment of this kind.

It looks like we’ll still be in the dark about the causation of photic sneeze reflex.  But until there’s a better answer, don’t forget your tissues on a sunny day.


“Looking at the Sun Can Trigger a Sneeze.” Scientific American Global RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. <>.

Is social media making us stupider?


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I love social media.  My instagram, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Yik Yak keep me up to date on what’s going on around me.  No matter how many times my mother tells me to put my phone away because these “apps are a waste of time and brain cells”, I’ve always felt like there was more to it than that.  Is this idea that social media is dumbing us down a myth?  A recent study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface tried to debunk this idea.

As humans, we are a copycat race.  We have advanced to where we are today by watching others and mimicking, therefore adapting.  So, in this age of the internet, will the endless amounts of information at our fingertips confuse us, or increase our knowledge base? described the experiment as follows:

“…researchers tested university students with a series of brain-straining . 100 volunteers were separated into 5 social networks each with 20 individuals. Connections between the people in the networks were assigned randomly by a computer to fit 5 different network patterns. At one extreme all the people in the network were connected directly to all the others, and at the other extreme there were no connections at all. To test how these networks helped the people in them to learn, the scientists quizzed the volunteers with a ‘cognitive reflection test’, a series of questions which rely on analytical reasoning to overcome incorrect intuition.  To see if the social networks helped the people in them to improve their answers the volunteers were asked each of the questions 5 times. The first time the volunteers had to figure it out on their own, the next 5 times they were allowed to copy the answer from their neighbours in the network.”

In the end it was discovered that the individuals with well connected networks performed better each time they were asked a question and each time they had the chance to steal their neighbors answer.  This finding proves that when we have well connected networks we mimic our peers, which helps us form the correct answer (Is Social).

In a way this is great.  We are becoming smarter by way of mimicry of our networks.  But the study didn’t stop there.

The scientists compared how well the volunteers faired in the three consecutive questions to see if the volunteers were actually getting better at figuring out the problems themselves or just at copying the right answers. They found that there was no improvement from one question to the next; even when individuals had realized in the first round of questions that finding the solutions required deeper thought, in the next question they were back at square one.”

So where does this leave us now?  In the long run it seems that social media may make us dumber, or at least leave us at the same level as before, but for now it is increasing our knowledge base.  Although this study is a sizable advancement, I fell as if there aren’t enough factors being taken into consideration.  What if the person’s networking isn’t as advanced as it seems to be in this study?  Scientists didn’t seem to take into consideration that over half of children are already using social media by the age of 10 (Reporter).  What kind of networking could a seven year old possibly achieve?  Mom, dad, and Suzy from the playground?  In my mind we are still left with the same answers we had before.  We have no idea.  There are still so many questions to be answered when it comes to the long term effects, but because of social medias newly formed presence it may be awhile until we see the studies that may shock and scare the entire world.

But until then, all we know is that if you fit into the group of well networked adults, you may or may not be victimized by social media.



“Is Social Networking Making Us Stupid?” Is Social Networking Making Us Stupid? N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. <>.

Reporter, Daily Mail. “More than Half of Children Use Social Media by the Age of 10: Facebook Is Most Popular Site That Youngsters Join.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 05 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. <>.

Is diet soda healthier than regular soda?


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I’m not going to lie.  I’d take a Coca-Cola over a Pepsi any day (sorry Penn State), but when it comes to the diet versions of each of these drinks, I always find myself at a stand still.  The word “diet” is fascinating and appealing to me.  Like almost every young woman, I want to look and feel my best, so I’m always looking for food and drinks with the most flavor and least amount of calories.  But how healthy is this diet soda that one fifth of Americans age two and up drink every day (Centers)?

The answer is: not very.

Before I get into why diet soda is actually pretty bad for you, it’s important to know what the differences are between the two drinks.  A regular soda consists of flavoring, carbonated water, and corn syrup or sugar, while the diet sodas switch out the sugar for zero calorie artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and stevia (BuiltLean).

The problems don’t lie within the carbonation or the flavoring, but rather the artificial sweetener.  When the body receives the artificial sweetener, it’s tricked into thinking it’s receiving real sugar and it doesn’t know how to react.  In an article from CNN Health, Susan Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University, explained that the problem with consumption of real sugar after artificial sweetener is that, “your body doesn’t know if it should try to process it because it’s been tricked by the fake sugar so many times (Study)“.  This becomes a problem because the hormone that regulates blood sugar and blood pressure isn’t released.

This leads to an even longer list of health problems.  According to MSN’s Healthy Living, drinking diet soda can lead to kidney problems, a faulty metabolism, obesity, cell damage, rotting teeth, and much, much more (7 Side).

What does this mean then for every other food and drink that has some artificial sweetener incorporated in its lower caloric deliciousness?  Have we strayed so far from natural products that we are now trading in lower calories in one meal for a shorter life span due to the complications attached to it?

So, think twice the next time you pick up a diet soda.  It may just be worth the few extra calories.



BuiltLean. “Is Diet Soda Healthy or Harmful?” The Huffington Post., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <>.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <>.

“Study: Diet Soda May Do More Harm than Good.” The Chart RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <>.

“7 Side Effects of Drinking Diet Soda.” MSN Healthy Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <>.

Hi everyone!

My name is Katie Schreckengast and I’m a freshman planning on majoring in broadcast journalism.   My big goal is to be the next Lara Spencer on Good Morning America.  I took classes here this summer and I LOVED it!  I’ve been writing for The Daily Collegian and I’m currently in the Blue Band so hopefully you’ll see me on game day!  I have always had an interest in science, but I have never been good at it so my adviser told me to take this course in order to fulfill my requirements.  However, I also think it’s important to be literate in every subject possible in order to be a broadcast journalist, so, I’m trying to take a lot of different classes!

I don’t plan on being a science major because I’ve never had the passion for science that I’ve had for reporting and writing.  Please talk to me if you have the chance!  I love meeting new people.  I also love the office so here is a gif (click on it!) from one of my favorite episodes that describes how I feel when I see a scientific problem.