Our BCDRN trainee profile this winter is Hadis Mozaffari, a PhD Student in Human Nutrition at the University of British Columbia, in Annalijn Conklin’s lab. She recently presented her research entitled “Does eating a more varied diet lead to better health? Findings from a systematic review” at Vancouver Diabetes Research Day 2019.
What did you study in your undergrad and where?
I studied Nutritional Sciences in my Bachelor’s degree, and passed the fundamental courses across a comprehensive diversity of fields, which formed the stepping stone for my further education. Right after my Bachelor’s, I took the national university graduate placement test in Iran towards Master’s degree. I got the first rank among about 4000 applicants of the same major, and was admitted at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. During my Master’s program, I devoted my in-depth study to the association of nutrition, particularly dietary patterns and indices, with chronic diseases. The ability to investigate the latest questions in nutrition science fascinated me so much that I planned to continue to a PhD program as a step towards my future career in research.
What got you interested in diabetes research?
I personally derive unexplainable intellectual satisfaction out of research and that being so, I aspire to be an active and helpful researcher. During my previous academic years of studying nutritional sciences, I have been involved in different awareness campaigns about diabetes. One of my family members is also living with diabetes. So, I really realized when a family member, especially a child, is diagnosed to have diabetes, how shocking it will be for the family members. Many questions will come to their mind. How can we get the proper care? How much are the medical costs? How can we manage diabetes at school or gym? Abruptly, you may feel the world on your shoulders. Therefore, this understanding, together with my aspiration for research played the most important role in my decision for pursuing a doctoral degree in Dr. Conklin’s lab to work on diabetes.
How far along are you in your degree and what do you hope to achieve in 2020 with your research?
I have just started doctoral program at September 2019, and I think as the first semester it has been productive by itself. We published a conversation piece on health effect of food variety, which was the top read for the month of October. I presented an abstract on the effect of food variety on development of diabetes at Vancouver Diabetes Research Day. Also, I attended Life Sciences Research Night to present a study on cardiometabolic risk factors. For now, I am working on health effect of food variety, with more focus on risk of diabetes, in the context of a multi-ethnic study. And, I am eager to attend a Nutrition 2020 conference organized by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) in May-June.
Any advice for trainees starting out on how to connect with colleagues?
The importance of networking in university is very real. The connections you establish can help you to realize what drives, inspires and fulfills you. The advice given from your prospective networking connections can help you become familiar with what to do and what not to do when it comes to either academic or potential career decisions. Making mistakes and learning from them is an important part of life, but in the academic setting you are able to learn them in a safe and forgiving environment instead of facing and experiencing them in the real world. Reaping the advice that peers and mentors have for you will help to move through your academic journey more efficiently. So, I suggest taking every chance to build up your network through volunteering, or involvement in events, conferences, organizations or fraternities, as it can be a chance to develop skills, experience something new, and even a route to future career opportunities.