A warm welcome to Jamie Zeldman, the latest guest in our Discover FSHN Series! Jamie is a double gator, completing both her undergraduate degree (dietetics and applied physiology & kinesiology) and master’s degree (Master of Science-Dietetic Internship) at the University of Florida. She is an alumna of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at UF.
Additionally, Jamie is the recipient of the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award from the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics! She took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about her inspiration for studying dietetics, her work as a research coordinator and Ph.D. student, and her passion for nutrition advocacy.
How did you become interested in dietetics, and why did you decide to attend UF?
I grew up doing competitive gymnastics for over ten years, during which my initial passion for health and nutrition developed. I started my undergraduate career as an Applied Physiology and Kinesiology major on the Fitness/Wellness track. In the program, I took a sports nutrition class.
The class was so interesting, and after it ended, I knew I wanted to learn more about the field of nutrition. I added dietetics to my studies and didn’t look back, graduating with a double major. I chose to attend UF because it is a top-rated university, and I grew up hearing about the Gators because my mother is an alumna! Plus, I grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, and wanted to remain close to my family.
What was it like completing both your BS and MS degrees at UF?
I loved having the opportunity to complete both my BS and MS here at UF! The people I’ve met along the way and the opportunities I’ve received here have truly shaped me into who I am today. Whether it’s studying in the library, attending professional development events and seminars, or cheering the Gators on at sporting events (gymnastics being my favorite!), I have always felt supported here at UF. It feels like home.
What are you working on as a research coordinator in the UF Department of Health Education & Behavior?
While volunteering in Dr. Karla Shelnutt‘s lab as an undergraduate, I discovered my passion for research! I continued working as a research assistant throughout the MS-DI program. After graduating and becoming a registered dietitian, I began working as a research coordinator in the Nutrition Education and Behavioral Science (NEBS) Lab in the Department of Health Education and Behavior.
In that role, I worked with the Principal Investigator, Dr. Amy Mobley, to lead multiple research projects, coordinate the undergraduate research assistants, lead lab meetings, and conduct data collection, analysis, and dissemination of findings. NEBS Lab focuses on early childhood obesity prevention, food insecurity, mHealth, community nutrition education, and health promotion.
Due to my desire to expand upon my current knowledge and passion for the research projects in NEBS Lab, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the Department of Health Education. I am currently in my third year! As a soon-to-be triple Gator, my current program has been a perfect complement to my dietetics background. I recently became a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), and I am excited to continue building upon my skills and work toward developing interventions that are evidence-based, sustainable, and desired to ultimately improve the health of diverse communities.
What are your future plans in nutrition and dietetics?
My immediate plan is to graduate with my Ph.D.! Post-graduation, I am still determining my next steps. I go back and forth between doing a post-doc to prepare for a career in academia or pursuing a different path, such as industry or private practice. Wherever my path leads me, I am passionate about working in research. A healthy work-life balance is essential, so I will pursue a career that honors this balance. Fortunately, the field of nutrition and dietetics has a variety of job avenues and opportunities. I will also continue to advocate for and advance the dietetics field.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love going on walks, cuddling with my cat, Clover, spending time with my family and friends, traveling, going to the beach, and attending country music concerts! As I mentioned, I am a proponent of a healthy work-life balance. Although my Ph.D. program keeps me very busy, I always try to find balance and take a step back to enjoy quality time with my friends and family. I also participate in activities that fuel and support my happiness.
If you were a food, what food would you be and why?
I would probably be a pizza. Pizza is my favorite food, and it is so versatile! I am passionate about supporting a healthy relationship with food. With my all-foods-fit and everything-in-moderation mindset, I believe tasty pizza can and should be enjoyed in anyone’s dietary pattern.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
In the last few years, I have been actively involved in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics through the Nutrition Education for the Public Dietetic Practice Group and at the district level. I served as the President of the Gainesville Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND) this past year, helping initiate a district merge with the First Coast Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that resulted in the creation of the North Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. My experiences volunteering in leadership positions with the Academy have fueled my passion to continue supporting and advocating for our profession.
We are the change we want to see in the profession. I highly encourage nutrition and dietetics students and professionals to get involved in organizations and leadership positions to help advance our field. My term as President of GAND was a huge growing experience, and I have since discovered my passion for leadership and mentorship.
Also, I wouldn’t be where I am today without active networking and putting myself in sometimes uncomfortable situations. That is where growth happens! I can’t wait to continue challenging myself in the future and becoming the best version of myself professionally and personally.
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 (click on arrows to expand):
Shannon Mai, Dietetics
Alex Colon, Dietetics and Jenny Duong, Food Science
Jackie Shannon, Nutritional Sciences
Jennifer Jordan, Food Science
Lily Tucciarone, Dietetics
Tim Cassella, Nutritional Sciences
Kate Mullis, Dietetics
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)
Amy Jones, Food Science (Ph.D.)
Melissa Perez Santana, Food Science (M.S.)
Jeena Endter, 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
Dr. Beth Gankofskie, Dietetics
Dr. Anne Mathews, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Diana Taft, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Boce Zhang, Food Science/Food Microbiology
Dr. Cora Best, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Katherine Thompson-Witrick, Food Science
Dr. Laura Acosta, Dietetics
Dr. Rebecca Gould, Dietetics, Postdoctoral Research
Dr. Becca Solch, Nutritional Sciences, Postdoctoral Research
Hannah Cooper, Dietetics, Private Practice
Dr. Richie Li, Food Science, Product Development
Doctor Brian Barrow, Nutritional Sciences, Medicine/Physician
Luciano Junoy, Food Science, Product Development
Carlin Dixon, Dietetics and Professional Dance