Get to Know our Scientists – Dr. Nicole Fearnbach

Nicole Fearnbach is no ordinary scientist. For her, life outside the walls of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center is full of costumes, high stakes and thrill. When the day draws to an end and Nicole hangs up her lab coat, she transitions to her other passion: circus arts.

Dr. Fearnbach believes exercise should be accessible, fun and exciting. Unfortunately, making exercise fun for children seems to be getting harder with each generation. With technology keeping kids indoors and inactive, the rates of pediatric diabetes and obesity are on the rise in both Louisiana and our nation. In an effort to change that, Nicole is dedicated to learning the key motivational factors behind being physically active.

Her research at Pennington Biomedical focuses on childhood obesity prevention, including neurological, physiological and behavioral mechanisms underlying the effects of nutrition and exercise on obesity. She knows that not everyone enjoys exercising, but she wants to find out why exercise feels harder for some more than others. One of her goals at Pennington Biomedical is to figure out how to make exercise feel easier and more habitual, factors she brings to the community through teaching circus classes.

“I’m a big proponent of fun fitness, so I teach circus arts to kids and adults in the evenings. One of the things I try to integrate into my research is how to give people opportunities to do stuff that doesn’t feel like exercise, so teaching these classes allows me to continue that work outside of the studies” she said.

Nicole has been intrigued by the circus since she was a little kid watching her dad juggle fire. For her, aerial flips and flying trapeze tricks don’t feel like exercise since she’s doing what she loves. She could easily continue her performances without the added work of teaching it to others, but she loves to implement her research beyond her work hours.

In order to reach kids who may not enjoy circus arts, Nicole is working closely with TReCC, the Translational Research Clinic for Children at Pennington Biomedical, to make this “fun fitness” concept more accessible.

TReCC recently acquired an exercise bike designed for children and plans to create a kid-friendly exercise research space. This space would allow passionate scientists like Nicole to implement studies that are essential to finding the causes and treatments of pediatric obesity and diabetes.

There’s just one problem. TReCC is in need of an EKG machine that will monitor the heart function of kids during exercise testing. Unfortunately, this machine would cost them $20,000, an expense they cannot cover without the help of others. To support Nicole and her fellow scientists in their quest to discover the causes and treatments of pediatric obesity and diabetes, we’ve created a crowdfunding campaign, #CardiacforKids.

When you give, you’re making a difference for Nicole, her coworkers, and thousands of children with obesity and diabetes.

Donations close in just 2 weeks, so support #CardiacforKids today!