Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).
I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), where I broadly work at the intersection of implementation science and nutrition. Before joining the NCI, I completed my graduate training in nutrition (PhD, MS) and public health (MPH) at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the School of Medicine at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. My undergraduate degree is in chemistry from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. I value my time in the chemistry lab because it helped me understand the value of transdisciplinarity and that I am more apt to population science than basic science!
How would you briefly describe your current research/job to someone who is not familiar with your field of study/work? What is your main research interest?
My goal as a Cancer Prevention Fellow is to integrate implementation science with diet-related behavioral research, community interventions, and stakeholder engagement to advance health equity. I am particularly interested in the social environment and how networks influence behavior change, the dissemination of health information, and the implementation and sustainability of interventions. Research is my primary job as a Cancer Prevention Fellow, but because I work in a government setting, I am also excited to learn about NIH/NCI’s leadership in developing scientific priorities and growing and supporting new areas of population health research.
What are the main barriers you encounter/experience when conducting research, or what information/skills do you lack to conduct high quality research?
There are great opportunities for broader inclusion of communities and stakeholders in research. Sometimes it is necessary to integrate multiple priorities to meet stakeholders’ needs (for example, by incorporating a strong focus on social determinants of health when intervening on diet-related behaviors and outcomes). Also, while we know that community and context matter, I think that the development of high-quality measures will improve research in this area. Lastly, our field needs to continue to strive for diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in our workforce and research.
What could help you as a student/ECR to further develop/grow in your current position?
I have to echo what was mentioned in prior Student & ECR Spotlights: mentorship, collaboration, and support networks. It’s all about the people, and through these connections (both professional and personal), I believe that creativity, innovation, and scientific progress will follow.
What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or physical activity field?
I’m excited to see the growing interest in systems science methods (agent-based modeling, system dynamics, and social network analysis to name a few) in the ISBNPA community and beyond. As nutrition and physical activity investigators continue to adopt systems science methods, I think we need to challenge ourselves in making these approaches participatory, equitable, and accessible to our partners. The potential impacts of studying complexity are only as strong as our abilities to explain complexity and disseminate findings in meaningful ways.