After my third year of a PhD program in nutrition science, I was getting pretty used to fielding questions about nutrition from grocery store cashiers, taxi drivers, casual acquaintances, friends, family members, and really anyone else who asked about my career and got an honest answer from me.
But even after years of practice, I still struggled to answer some of the most common questions: what should I be eating? Should I be worried about this new study? Do I need to avoid preservatives, artificial colors, carbohydrates?
Working at IFIC as the 2017 Sylvia Rowe fellow gave me the chance to think about and work through how I could- or should- be responding to those questions. By writing blog posts and working with the IFIC staff, I learned how to structure my posts so my messages would be clear, concise, and easy to understand. I also practiced thinking and talking about science using language that is, not just consumer-friendly, but also accurately reflects the evidence.
This experience has made me more effective in communicating nutrition science and food safety information. Whether I continue to pursue a career in nutrition communication or not, I know that the practice of condensing research into an easy to understand format has already helped me develop more effective presentations and lectures.
Writing for the IFIC website also gave me the opportunity to learn about popular nutrition topics outside of my own research. I wrote blog posts about coffee consumption, popular diets, and hydration, all subjects outside of my academic “comfort zone.” As much as I have enjoyed my graduate school work, it was refreshing and challenging to dig into the scientific literature on something new.
Part of the reason I went to graduate school in the first place was to have a positive impact on public health, and working for IFIC gave me the time and opportunity to learn how to effectively share my expertise beyond the nutrition science community. My grocery store cashiers, taxi drivers, casual acquaintances, friends, and family members may finally get good answers to their nutrition questions.
Interested in applying for the 2018 Fellowship? Here’s more information!
This blog post was written by Julie Hess, PhD, the 2017 Sylvia Rowe Fellow.