We are so pleased to welcome Rebecca Gould to the Discover FSHN Series! Rebecca is a graduate of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Dietetics program at the University of Florida, and she recently accepted a postdoctoral research position at Duke University. Read on to learn about her time at UF, her inspiration for studying inherited metabolic disorders (IMDs), and her passion for her photography business!
Congratulations on accepting your new postdoc position! Will you tell me about it?
Thank you for the kind words – I am so excited for this next step in my career! I will be working under Dr. Priya Kishnani (Chen Family Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics Chief, Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Core Faculty in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Member in the Duke Clinical Research Institute) in the Division of Medical Genetics at Duke University School of Medicine.
I feel very grateful to be given the opportunity to support the families who are affected by an IMD and hope that my research ultimately improves quality of life and treatment outcomes for patients.
The division is housed in the Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Kishnani’s research involves a multidisciplinary approach to care of individuals with genetic disorders. She uses both clinical and bench research to better understand the history and complications of genetic disorders and focuses on developing new therapies for genetic disorders through translational research. I feel so fortunate to have found a postdoc opportunity in the field I am most passionate about and am eager to learn from Dr. Kishnani and her team.
How did you become interested in inherited metabolic disorders?
I was introduced to inherited metabolic disorders through my dietetic internship and coincidentally, my major advisor, Dr. Robert Pazdro, had just begun teaching a course titled “Inherited Metabolic Disorders” here at the University of Georgia (UGA). My dissertation research is based in biochemistry and genetics, so it was a natural transition for me to assist him in developing the course material, and I have been the teaching assistant for it ever since. I was absolutely enthralled by IMD research and knew it was something I wanted to do long-term.
I feel so lucky to have been in the PhD/Dietetic Internship program here at UGA as it prepared me for a career in nutrition research while allowing me to explore my interests in genetics and the metabolism. Nutritional care is an essential component for management of these genetic disorders, and I feel so lucky to have found a field that combines all of my research interests. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to positively impact lives – a true honor and one I do not take lightly.
Would you share how you chose the Dietetics program at UF?
I actually found the FSHN department after taking Fundamentals of Human Nutrition as a sophomore. Herschel Johnson, who at the time was the CALS Biology advisor, encouraged me to take the course after I expressed interest in minoring in Nutritional Sciences. After the first few classes, I learned what a registered dietitian was, and I was hooked! I immediately changed my major to Dietetics that week. It was the best decision I ever made.
How has the FSHN department shaped your career?
I could write a whole book on how FSHN department has been influential in my career. I may be biased, but the FSHN advisement and classes is the absolute best. Dr. Beth Gankofskie and the FSHN advisors were the best mentors and advisors a student could ask for, and the classroom environment was so welcoming.
Something I commonly talk about when reflecting on my time at UF is how spectacular the dietetics education was as a result of FSHN being in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and how the department includes courses focused on not only human nutrition but also food science. I left UF educated in ALL aspects of nutrition, metabolism, and the basics of food science and food production – something I am so grateful for. I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Anne Mathews’ Get Fruved research project which was the first introduction I had to community-based nutrition research. This research exposed me to a side of nutrition that I otherwise may not have known. My graduate work uses animal models and bioinformatics, so I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in a community-based research project.
When I think of courses that were essential in preparing me for my career, a few pop in my head (even though really, all of the UF FSHN courses are phenomenal). For example, without Dr. Mitchell Knutson’s Nutrition & Metabolism course, I truly don’t think I would have been as prepared for my Ph.D. program or research which is heavily based in biochemistry. Also, Laura Acosta’s Medical Nutrition Therapy course TRULY prepares you for work as a clinical dietitian. Believe it or not, I still use the nutrition “handbook” I made in her course! I took it with me as I completed my dietetic internship, and I commonly reflect on it as I create lectures and prepare for my postdoc research.
If I were to thank the UF FSHN department for one thing, it would be for preparing me for success in graduate school and a dietetic internship.
What are your plans for your career?
I hope to conduct research in the field of inherited metabolic disorders as this field combines my three passions: nutrition, metabolism, and biochemistry. My graduate work involved benchwork and management of large cohorts of mice, and I am excited to transition to clinical-based research. My dream is to work in partnership with a hospital conducting research to advance treatment strategies for these genetic disorders.
What do you believe is the most important fact the public should know about metabolic disorders?
One thing that has stuck with me throughout my three years being involved with the IMD course at UGA, as well as through societies and organizations focused on genetic metabolic disorders, is that though they are rare, most do not have a cure. I feel very grateful to be given the opportunity to support the families who are affected by an IMD and hope that my research ultimately improves quality of life and treatment outcomes for patients.
What do you like to do in your free time?
This past semester hasn’t been very giving in free time, but I love to get outdoors with my dog, Lacey, and my fiancé, Jeff. We spend a lot of time hiking in North Georgia!
Something I have been growing over the past few years is my photography business. Photography has been something that I have always loved ever since my grandma gave me an old vintage camera. Prior to UF, I even debated going to college for photography!
If you were a food, what food would you be and why?
Hmmm…I guess I would be a cucumber? I like to think I am dependable (are cucumbers ever not good?), and that people leave conversations with me feeling heard and refreshed! But I also love a good Twix bar. They are the ultimate comfort food for me and hopefully people leave conversations with me feeling comforted.
Note: Some images in this post were taken prior to national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing.
P.S. The Discover FSHN Series highlights the unique experiences of UF’s Food Science and Human Nutrition students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Want to read more about the amazing work going on in the FSHN department? See our previous features below:
Savanna Curtis, Food Science (M.S.)
Carley Rusch and Matthew Beke, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Alexa Hosey, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Vicnie Leandre, Food Science (M.S.)
Rufus Theophilus, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Amber Fritsche, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Dr. Naim Montazeri, Food Science/Food Virology
Dr. Jeanette Andrade, Dietetics
Dr. Zhiyong Cheng, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Juan Andrade Laborde, Global Nutrition
Dr. Razieh Farzad, Food Science