TomatoesThe next generation of nutrition researchers

On Monday, December 3, the Mount’s Applied Human Nutrition (AHN) department held its fifth Research Day featuring student research efforts. Supported by AHN faculty, professor Dr. Kyly Whitfield initiated the event to provide students an opportunity to present their research projects in an environment resembling a professional academic conference. “This is an opportunity for them to show that they can generate new knowledge,” Kyly says.

At the event, AHN students present fifteen-minute summaries of research efforts that have been many months in the making; students also fields questions following their presentation, a great preparatory experience for their future careers. And the benefits of the event are not exclusive to the student presenters. For students in earlier stages of study, it is an opportunity for exposure to the world of research, and it’s a time of reflection for those who supported the projects showcased.

“AHN faculty embrace their roles as mentors within the nutrition and dietetics profession, so any chance they get, they create situations where students can benefit and learn from themselves and others,” notes Dr. Daphne Lordly, Chair of the AHN department and professor. “Our Research Day is seen as such an opportunity.”

This term, the event featured students conducting research through master’s, undergraduate honours, and self-directed study and engaged with topics ranging from weight cutting (or fast weight loss, often pre-competition) in combat sports to developing high-protein meals using egg protein isolate. AHN professors Dr. Shannan Grant, Dr. Daphne Lordly, and Dr. Bohdan Luhovyy supervised this year’s student presenters. Daphne says that faculty value and embrace their roles as mentors in the nutrition and dietetics profession.

“To see our students shine as they introduce their research questions, justify and articulate the methodology they have chosen, present and discuss their results and talk about the theoretical and practical significance of their work is so important,” Daphne says.

Meet student researcher Gillian Chu
Gillian Chu-AHN Research Day

Gillian Chu is a graduate student working under the direction of Dr. Shannan Grant. At the Applied Human Nutrition Research Day, she presented a self-directed quality assurance project on the importance of media training, specifically examining the Media Training Workshop for Applied Human Nutrition students that took place at the Mount earlier this year.

A collaboration between Dietitians of Canada, Media Training Bootcamp, the Human Nutrition Department at St. Francis Xavier University, and the School of Nutrition and Dietetics at Acadia University, Gillian hopes to present the project at the Dietitians of Canada National Conference in Ottawa next year, which would be an exciting accomplishment to cap off her program. The project was supported by a Social Change Through Community-Engaged Research Grant (a SSHRC Aid to Small Universities Research Grant). She says the project showed her the importance of working with media, and the need to hone that skill professionally. She also hopes her work inspires others to do media training of their own. “There are so many opportunities with media for nutrition professionals,” she says. “I hope I can help others feel comfortable embracing them.”

Along with this self-directed study, Gillian is completing her thesis on marketing aimed at children, specifically examining children’s perceptions on the healthiness of cereal that has packaging featuring characters and mascots. Balancing both projects has taught her time management and critical thinking skills – but perhaps more importantly, she has learned how much she is capable of accomplishing. “[Research] was something I struggled with at the beginning of the program,” Gillian says. “These projects have shown me how hard I can work.”

Hailing from Scarborough, ON, Gillian completed her undergraduate in Applied Human Nutrition at Ryerson University. Taking advice from family, she found herself looking to the Maritimes for new academic opportunity and found the Mount’s Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition program. Reflecting on her four years in Halifax, Gillian is grateful for the life-long community she has found. “It was a leap of faith to move here by myself,” she says. “But I will leave being able to say I’ve made friends from every province.”

Note: Gillian is defending her thesis on spokes-characters in early January. Those interested in attending can email, for more information.