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July 14, 2010

Several students at Framingham State are currently taking part in a unique research experiment being conducted on campus by FSU alumna Tracey Smith ’02. Smith is studying the effect of probiotics on the common cold and other minor upper respiratory viruses as part of her doctoral dissertation.

“Probiotics are basically healthy bacteria found in common food, like yogurt,” said Smith, who received her master’s degree in Nutrition from Framingham State. Smith is researching whether certain strains of probiotics will reduce cold symptoms in students living in Framingham State’s residence halls.

“It’s really a perfect setting because a lot of college students tend to get sick during the school year with common infections,” Smith said. Five graduate students and one undergraduate student are serving as paid research assistants for the semester.

Dianna Carpentieri, who is pursuing her master’s degree in Food and Nutrition, said working with Smith has given her a greater appreciation of how much work goes into a study.

“Prior to this, I didn’t realize the time and energy required for this type of research,” Carpentieri said. “It’s a huge commitment. I’m really excited to see the outcome.”

Together, Smith and her assistants recruited 230 students living on campus to take part in the study. Half are taking the probiotic for a 12-week period and the other half are taking a placebo. Each day all of the students fill out a survey to determine when they feel sick and how the symptoms are affecting their daily life.

The study is being funded by a company that makes probiotics. Smith hopes to demonstrate that certain probiotics effectively reduce the impact of cold symptoms on daily life. Research assistant Kristen O’Brien, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutrition, said it has been fascinating being involved with the study.

“I’ve read a lot about this type of research, so it’s cool seeing everything that actually goes on when you conduct the study,” she said.

The University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved Smith’s application to perform the research on campus in January.

“I really wanted to do this at Framingham State,” said Smith, who works in Natick. “I had such a great experience here. I wanted to give back by providing current students a chance to serve as paid research assistants.” Smith said she’s received valuable support from Consumer Sciences Chair Janet Schwartz and other faculty and staff on campus. The research will wrap up in early May and Smith hopes to provide her general findings to Framingham State this fall.

About Framingham State University

As Massachusetts' premier state university, Framingham State University offers prepared and motivated students a wide range of challenging undergraduate and graduate programs. Located just 20 miles from Boston, the college offers many options for students to engage in real-world learning both on its quintessential New England campus and in Boston and its thriving MetroWest region.

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Framingham State University

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Framingham, MA 01701-9101

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Phone: 508-620-1220