Blog of the Peer Advising Leadership Program, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

September 6, 2006 10:25 PM

How I ended up in nutrition...

Looking back, it's amazing how fast undergrad flies by. Now a junior majoring in Nutritional Sciences, I can nostalgically refer back to my freshman days when I first arrived on the sprawling Berkeley campus. Hailing from a small city in socal called South Pasadena, I had settled on bioengineering as a major. I was really interested in research, and bioe seemed to fit like a glove with my goal of making a living from pipetting growth medium and nurturing cell cultures. It only took two weeks of classes, however, for me to realize that I did not get along with engineering. I didn't find biotechnology especially interesting, and decided to pursue something that would place more emphasis on biology or biochemistry. MCB and IB were certainly viable alternatives, but their large class sizes ultimately turned me away from them (over 40% of undergrads are declared as MCB).

As serendipity would have it, I enrolled in NST 10, introduction to nutrition, during my first semester. It's a class I'd recommend to every undergrad, as it teaches you the importance of exercising and maintaining a proper diet. It

steers clear of society's pressure to lose weight, discarding the common belief that thin is necessary healthy. The class is essentially a course on "common sense," but it's intriguing to see how hard it is to maintain such sense when so many other factors, such as the marketing of foods or their placement in supermarket shelves, affect our eating habits. The subject of nutrition fascinated me, and I began to look into it as a possible field of study.

What ultimately brought me to Nutrition were the major's relatively small size and the personal attention it afforded. Professors were remarkably accessible, and in the subsequent courses I took with the department, they knew me by name. The major advisor, Tammy, was very willing to provide me with information. She later helped me with the transfer across colleges, which went smoothly. Last semester, she helped me transfer two courses from Cal State LA that were not yet approved by the Dean; she personally to the department head and got them approved herself.

Another strength of CNR as a college is the emphasis it places on research. Programs such as SPUR fund projects that students develop alongside faculty advisors. The Honors Program allows Juniors and Seniors to do research under a faculty advisor, compose a paper, and graduate with an additional mark of recognition. Currently, I'm involved in plant symbiosis research with Dr. Ellen Simms. We study the cost/benefit relationships between lotus plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The work has great potential in the field of agriculture, which depends on the mutualisms of such bacteria to increase the fitness of crops.

In conclusion, I settled on CNR because of the personal attention and research opportunities it afforded. And I selected nutrition as a major because of its applicability to our lives. It is a field that will grow in importance, working in tandem with public health to tackle issues such as diabetes and heart disease. I'm really glad that Cal offers such a major that allows me to study what I enjoy, and at the same time helps me achieve my goal of doing medical research.

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