Lost in Translation

Earlier today, technically not more than 30 minutes ago, I attended a seminar about the Institute of Medicine and how they create recommendations.

The report of interest states: “Added sugars should comprise no more than 25 percent of total calories consumed. Added sugars are those incorporated into foods and beverages during production which usually provide insignificant amounts of vitamins, minerals, or other essential nutrients. Major sources include soft drinks, fruit drinks, pastries, candy, and other sweets. ”

And the message the population got when this was release was: “I can eat all the sugar I want as long as I don’t go over 25% of my total calories.”

Not the desired message.

What the IOM was trying to say was that going over 25% of total calories consumed with sugars will displace other nutrients, posing disease risks.

Let’s just use this one as a lesson in how important proper communication of scientific findings is.

Being Faculty Statement

Research, extension, teaching, mentoring… all of these are tasks that faculty members may take on as part of their job at a university. For myself, I would like to be a teacher primarily, and would like to do either community-based research or extension. I have a passion for nutrition efforts for children, especially in schools.

I thoroughly enjoy mentoring. I want my students to know me by my first name and feel comfortable discussing personal matters with me as well as academic interests. I think that a separation of personal and work life is a nice idea, but it’s simply not feasible. Personal experiences shape who you are, and this diversity enriches the workplace. My advisor, Dr. Elena Serrano, encompasses this idea and has inspired me to be much like her in my future faculty role. She evaluates each student’s goals individually and gives them ideas of small steps they can take to achieve their goals, while understanding hardships that evolve in personal lives.

As a teacher, my role is not only to share information pertinent to the class, but to also create an environment where students feel encouraged and safe to provide their input about the material. I want to maintain a culture of respect, both between students and myself, but to also be inviting to diversity. Student should feel that they can share personal experiences and make connections in my classroom. Community is paramount.

Research is also important, but I foresee my position as a faculty member primarily focusing on the students, not the publications.


Formality in the digital age

Technology: blessing and a curse. Students are very familiar, or too much so, with social media and the age of the “instant”. Instant replies, for everything. Patience is lost, and so is formality. The lovely comic posted below is intended to be funny, which it certainly is. The sad part… I’ve gotten an email like this from a student. The art of the formal mail has died.

Special thanks to the insanely funny and creative folks at http://www.phdcomics.com

Higher Ed… what are we doing here?

What would I change about higher ed?

Well, a lot. I would change the tenure process. It’s complicated, narrow-focused (generally), and it doesn’t necessarily make sense to me. How would I fix it? I honestly couldn’t say.

I would love to see more access of higher education for free. Oh yes, you heard me right, FREE. I said(wrote) it. I have been very blessed to attend college in Georgia, my home state and source of HOPE scholarships. What does that mean? If I kept my grades up I got to go to school for FREE. I graduated without debt, I could choose what school I wanted to go to for graduate school without worrying about recovering from debt. Debt is far too common.

I would make our universities more accessible to the public. We shouldn’t be in ivory towers, nor seen as being in such. Extension should have a greater presence. Many students don’t even know what extension is!

“That I may serve”. Not ourselves, others. We should be focusing on higher education for the greater good, not just a piece of paper with a fat salary and a fancy frame to stick on the wall.

Thinking about thinking.

Recently while working very hard on my research, *cough* was on *cough* facebook, I stumbled upon this gem posted by a high school teacher of mine.

How often do we, even as college students, have this reaction? “OH NO I HAVE TO THINK?!”

It’s something to think about.

Open Access

After hunting for some nutrition related journals I found an appropriately titled Food and Nutrition Research journal.

This journal doesn’t seem to have a specific location, but the publisher, Co-Action Publishing, is responsible for more than 30 open access journals and is located in Sweden.

The journal aims to act as a place to exchange ideas in original papers and reviews between both academic and private users. The journal notes that nutrition topics of the journal would be of interest to “Dentists, Dieticians, Medical doctors, Nutritionists, Teachers, Journalists and Manufacturers in the food and pharmaceutical industries”, a wide array of readers.

It appears the journal is rather new or unrefined, as many areas on the site are under construction. The journal notes that the open access policy means that the journal is available directly via their website, through Google Scholar and on the directory of Open Access Journals. The journals views seems to align with the idea of open access, as does the ideas of the publishing company, which has many journals that are open access.

Case for case-based learning

Recently I read an article on case-based learning in the nutrition field. At first glimpse of the title I thought to myself, “why WOULDN’T we use this method?”

The study, a little method heavy for me, examined successes and student perceptions of case-based learning in upper level undergraduate nutrition classes.  It’s an interesting read if you have the time. If not.. here’s a short summary.

Case-based learning:

  • Real-world problem-based learning
  • Working in groups
  • Critical thinking: analyzing, evaluating, and creating

I’m definitely going to think more on how to incorporate this in future classes!

Pedagogy: Pony Edition

Allow me to take liberties here. Okay, lots of liberties. I’m going to talk pony.

Today I made a connection. A friend of mine at the barn agreed to work with my horse and I on groundwork. This involves getting the horse more “in tune” with your body language so they respond with the slightest of cues.

In the middle of her explanation she noted “it’s not about showing them what the answer is, it’s about asking the question in the correct and patient way that allows them to give the proper answer.”

Oh the proverbial light bulb flicked on, and this sucker was a megawatt bulb.

Is that not what teaching is in problem based learning? We ask questions, and we must structure the questions so the student doesn’t get too frustrated. We need to pose the questions such that a student may arrive at the desired answer.

It’s an interesting connection. How often do we use pedagogical techniques outside of the classroom when working with others? Animals, even? It’s interesting to ponder.

Code of Ethics

As a student in the Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise Department here at Virginia Tech, I naturally searched for a code of ethics from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This code focuses on the honest conduct of members and promotion of the code of ethics through the American Dietetic Association which is found here. There are responsibilities to the public, clients, and the profession which generally pertain to respectful behavior towards others and the use of the knowledge learned. It’s awfully long, a massive document, and much is rather intuitive, or one would think.

It’s overwhelming. I think it outlines important topics (be respectful, help others) which may be intuitive to some, but I suppose the code is there for a reason… it was likely an issue at some point.

I snooped around the ORI website, naturally clicking on ethics in human research studies. It seems to me like it’s another form of the Institutional Review Board certification that many of us using humans in research at Virginia Tech must have. It’s a good tool to have on your graduate student researcher belt, both as a researcher and as a study participant. It has definitely helped me to understand just how difficult some studies are to conduct, especially when they involve taking samples from participants. Don’t even try to use a sensitive population (children)- that’s a whole new ball game. It’s rather comforting that these ethics codes exist but I can’t help but wonder, do people actually read them?