GCU students get taste of success

Wed, 27 Jan 2021 16:19:00 GMT
Eimear (left) and Joanna were delighted to be representing GCU at the national event
Eimear (left) and Joanna were delighted to be representing GCU at the national event

Two fourth year Human Nutrition and Dietetics students have been given the opportunity to virtually present their very own final year projects.

The British Dietetic Symposium took place on 2 December 2020 and provided dieticians, dietetic students and researchers the chance to showcase their research, highlight the ongoing development of dietetic practice and be published in the BDA Journal Human Nutrition and Dietetics (JHND).

Eimear McCoy and Joanna Taylor had the opportunity to represent the University, with their work featuring as part of 100 different presentations on the day. There was added success for GCU, with Eimear picking up the prize for best presentation in her stream.

In this interview both students look back at the experience and how it’s given them confidence for looking ahead to their future career.

Q) Tell me a bit about your project...

E: “My research focused on folic acid supplement use amongst Scottish women. It looked at the socio-demographic of those who did not take the supplement in the period before pregnancy through to the first month of pregnancy. I wanted to find out what women were not taking these supplements in order to help inform policy in the future.

There’s quite a big debate currently in the UK as to whether we should introduce a mandatory folic acid policy – where basically folic acid would be fortified in our flour. By looking at whether women were taking these supplements, I was able to focus on whether we need this or if the supplement policy by itself is enough.”

J: “I was originally going to do my own research but then the pandemic hit and I had childcare responsibilities for my boys at home, so I had to be efficient with my time. Dr Yvonne Brogan, who’s one of our lecturers, suggested looking at the difference of dietary intake between little ones that fed at night and those that didn’t. This was a secondary analysis of a survey from 2011.

We focused on the age group of about 12-18 months and I noticed there was no guidance for parents or health professionals and very little research on the impact of night feeding. It became apparent that this was quite an interesting area that no-one had really looked at before.”

Q) How did it feel when you found out you had the opportunity to present?

E: “One of my lecturers encouraged me to put forward my research, so I decided I would. When it was accepted I was absolutely delighted. It was a really good experience for future as well to have that chance to present to people you didn’t know – it was just great.”

J: “It was an honour to represent the University and I was really keen to present because this area that Yvonne had recognised needed to be looked at in more detail. I felt it was important to let people know about this and get a conversation going because I don’t think it’s really thought about to the extent it should be.”

Q) How was the whole experience of presenting virtually?

E: “It was quite different to what would usually happen – I think it’s normally a big conference. At the time I was actually on placement, so if it was in person I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend. Thankfully I got the opportunity and having the opportunity to present definitely gave me a good boost in confidence.”

J: “During the course of my placement we had a lot of meetings with dieticians using Microsoft Teams and we also had discussions with patients online as well. I think over the course of my 12 week placement using online platforms almost became second nature to me. If I hadn’t had that experience during placement then presenting would definitely have been a bit more stressful!”

Q) Eimear, you won best presentation – that must have been a big honour?

E: “I was really shocked when they announced it! They marked in terms of presenting but also just the content of the project, they’d scored each prior to actually presenting but I just wasn’t expecting it."

I was up against people who have been working in research and as dieticians for a lot longer than I have. I’d put a lot of work into it and it was just really nice to get that recognition.”

Q) Overall, how important has this experience been for you?

E: “I’m currently applying to do a Masters course next year and this has given me the confidence to know I should apply. If I get accepted then I’ll have to do research presentations in the future, so it’s great to have had the opportunity and brilliant experience going forward.”

J: “I think it’s a really good to have on your CV and also to have shown interest in a specific area. Some of the dieticians I was on placement with were saying that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it opens your eyes to think about the research route going forward. It also made me think about my own work in a different way, which was important for the final version of my project.”

Q) You’re both clearly successful researchers – are either of you considering that as a potential career route in future?

E: “Long term it’s definitely something I would consider pursuing but obviously I’m only doing my undergrad at the minute. I’ll do my Masters and then consider all my options in the future.”

J: “I know it’s something that some people combine with clinical practice and it’s probably something I will consider in the future. The topic I’ve been looking at has shown that there is room for more research in that area and that’s something I might think about in the future. I’ll just have to wait and see what comes my way.”

By Ross Clark
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