Author Archives: Kyle Thomas Finnerty

Freshman 15

Everyone has heard of the “Freshman 15”.  It is the term for weight gain during Freshman year of college.  But what I found interesting about this is that there are many different ways to actually end up at the Freshman 15.  At first I thought that it was simply the overall unhealthy lifestyle of college that will catch up to people.  But in reality there are certain ways in which Freshman students dealing with different things can find themselves in this position at the end of the year.  So what are some of the ways in which this can occur?



Emotional eating can be one of the biggest factors in Freshman gaining weight while they are away at school for the first time.  This is often because they are lonely or homesick and eating is one way that they are able to feel comfortable again.  This is completely understandable because college is a really difficult transition for some people to make and food can help bridge the gap of feeling away from everything you used to know.  This habit can have a snowball effect if one starts finding themselves snacking in their room constantly while they are doing homework.

Another big issue for the Freshman 15 is the fact that for many kids this is the first time that they will go an entire school year without participating in their childhood sports.  This is a huge deal that can lead to a student gaining weight without even changing their diet!  But what has changed is the amount of exercise that they are doing and therefore they are burning off much fewer calories.  This is is why going to the gym on campus or getting outside for some running is  absolutely crucial to fighting off unwanted pounds at college.



The good news is that at Penn State there are multiple high quality gyms that one can workout in if they so desire.  Specifically, most Freshman are located in East Halls which is extremely close to the IM building.  This is a really beneficial perk to have here because the IM building is so nice, it’s not a chore to workout there.  So Penn State is trying to help all of its students stay in shape and feeling positive.

Overall, the Freshman 15 usually isn’t 15 pounds worth of fat put on by students during their first year of college.  Rather, it is just bad habits that result in slight weight gain.  This is important to carefully manage though or else it really could get out of control in a hurry and become extremely unhealthy.


Flossing: Good or Bad?

We have always been told throughout our childhood that flossing is a crucial part of human hygiene.  Every dentist would tell every kid that walked through the door that they needed to be doing more flossing.  Well this topic came up briefly in class and it caught my attention, so I figured it was worthy of a blog.  So is flossing is good or bad?

It now appears as though there is a serious lack of scientific evidence that flossing is beneficial.  In fact, according to a flossing review from 2011, there are no signs that flossing is going to actually prevent plaque from building up at all.  It states that there is some slight benefit to be gained from flossing as it could potentially protect the gums from inflammation if done correctly.  However, if flossing is done incorrectly it could lead to you ripping up your gums and therefore be detrimental to your oral health.  The biggest problem overall with flossing though seems to be that many people just don’t know how to utilize it effectively.



There actually is more nuance to it than simply jamming the string straight down between all your largest teeth after all.  This is the largest reason as to why most researches say that flossing as a whole in today’s society is marginally beneficial at best.  The American Dental Association (ADA) still maintains a belief that flossing that is truly done correctly is still worth it because it can potentially prevent gum disease from occurring later in life.

This is actually a subject in which I believe an experiment could be easily accomplished here in America.  You could simply have two groups of people, one who constantly flosses and one who never flosses, and see if there are any differences in their teeth after a long span of time.  This would be easy and not controversial because of how many people there already are in the country broken up into these two groups by their own choice.  Each group would still brush their teeth twice a day, but doing this control experiment over a long period of time would gather some key data into whether or not flossing protects from gum disease.



Personally, I have always found flossing to be comforting after meals that can be stressful on the teeth.  I realize that it is unlikely that I am flossing as a medical professional would, but I feel as though flossing can really allow for some relief after putting down a couple ears of corn on the cob at a summer BBQ.  My takeaway from this research on flossing is that it is much much more important to get two quality sets of teeth brushing in per day than it is to worry about any flossing.  However, if you are someone like me and you just enjoy to floss every once in a while, that certainly won’t hurt either.


Education: single-sex and coed. Is one “better”?

With the diversity of education system offered in the United States today, many parents often wonder what the best route for their children’s success is.  Some feel the more controlled route of single-sex education will better serve their children’s future in the long run.  However, other parents feel that their children will be more greatly benefitted by a traditional co-ed education.  I have seen this debate play out in my own family between my cousin and I, both of us of the same age.  I went to a public coed high school and he went to a private single-sex high school.  He is now attending Notre Dame this fall as a Freshman, while I am obviously here in Happy Valley.  This sparked my mom to jokingly say at the family BBQ this summer that perhaps she should have sent her son to a single-sex school as well.  This actually got my attention and made me wonder if there is any legitimacy to those arguments.  This blog gave me the opportunity to do a little research and see for myself if there is a “better” education option between single-sex and coed.



Now, in the U.S this debate is mostly just opinions on either side referring to potential pros and cons of each education system.  This leaves us with little in the way of scientific research on account of parents understanding unwillingness to allow their kids grades to be tracked through some sort of experiment.  Also, in the U.S there are a number of confounding variables that could get in the way of such an experiment.  For instance, socioeconomic status in the U.S is certainly a confounding third variable that will distort whether or not single-sex schools are any better than coed schools.  Specifically, socioeconomic status could potentially account for a higher quality of teachers at private single-sex schools rather than coed schools.  

This was discouraging news for me to discover on my initial hunt for the answer to my question.  However, I soon discovered this study that was taken in Seoul, South Korea by a research team from the University of Pennsylvania.  In this study all of the variables for the experiment are perfect, except for the fact that the children in the study itself are not American.  Teachers are evenly distributed out so there is no worry of bad teachers in certain schools weighing down otherwise bright students.  The students in South Korea get randomly assigned to either a single-sex school or a coed school anyway just because that is the way things are done in Seoul.  Under this perfect storm of scientific experimental circumstances, the researchers managed to determine that both boys and girls placed in single-sex schools were able to achieve higher academic ceilings in the areas of college attendance and test scores in comparison to their coed counterparts.  



This study left two new lasting questions in my mind.  First, does a study that takes places in a country as different from the U.S as South Korea still apply to American children?  Second, does this data collected actually show that single-sex schools are “better” than Coed?  I feel as if both of these questions can have evidence and opinions on both sides of the fence.  This is a question that I am not sure science will ever be able to entirely answer.  Simply on account of how different the pace children’s brains develop is.  Also, it is usually not taken into account in this debate the other areas of education outside of the direct classroom that can only be found coed schools.  For instance, there are critical social skills being developed by students at coeds at a young age that will help them in all career fields down the road.  This is a factor that should also be taken into account along with the standardized test scores in any education debate.  Therefore, after concluding my research, I feel as though there is no such thing as a “better” education method between single-sex and coed.

Frustrating High School Science Teachers

Hello SC200, my name is Kyle Finnerty.  I am from Ridgewood, NJ and I’m a freshman here at Penn State.  Both of my parents attended Penn State so it was an easy decision for me to come here.  I’m currently undecided on my intended major, but I am leaning towards something in business.  I’ve never really had a serious problem with science and enjoyed biology freshman year of high school.  However, my sophomore and junior year of high school I was stuck taking Chemistry and Physics with two teachers who were extremely frustrating to be in class with.  They did the bare minimum teaching by the book and never created any interest in the actual content of the class for us students.  I would venture to guess that there many other students in this SC200 class that had a similar experience in high school.


I am taking this course because it seemed like a good fit for me.  My advisor told me at orientation that this was a class where a non-science loving student could still be interested and enjoy going to class everyday.  She also mentioned that students really enjoy the teacher and after a couple of classes I can see why.  I am really interested in sports and how science is a factor in aspects of each game.  I often view ESPN’s sports science segments because they are short and interesting.  The one I chose to paste in this blog breaks down the differences between LeBron James and Steph Curry.  This is especially relevant now after this years thrilling 7 game NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavs; here is the link.  I am not majoring in anything related to science, but I am looking forward to doing some abstract thinking about interesting topics in this course.