We are really excited about welcoming Dr. Patricia Heavy to Tullamore College tomorrow for her talk during Healthy Living Week. Patricia is Course Co-ordina tor for the Bsc Health Science and Nutrition at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and she will be talking to students about science courses, nutrition, wellbeing and potential career choices.
What inspired you towards a science related career?
When I was in secondary school many of the subjects I studied looked at how food and a person’s diet can have a huge effect on health and disease. I thought this was fascinating so I applied to do a nutrition degree in the University of Ulster. This was a brilliant way to explore how nutrition influences all aspects of our lives. Studying nutrition involves understanding the fac tors that influence the food we eat, what nutrients that food contains, what happens to those nutrients in the body and the effect of the diet on health and disease. What we eat and what we choose to eat can affect how our body works, how well we perform, our mental wellbeing as well as being an important part of social interactions. I found it all so interesting and over the years, I have worked in a variety of nutrition roles- research, communication, nutrition advisor and lecturing. I am now working in AIT as a lecturer and course co-ordina tor for the Health Science and Nutrition degree. Students on this course gain an understanding of nutrition and health. We are very keen that students can translate that knowledge in to practice so on the course students undertake placements as well as getting involved in different nutrition projects and working with the community to promote nutrition and health messages.
What types of jobs can students apply for with a Nutrition qualification?
Students with a nutrition degree can work in a variety of areas. Many students go on to work in health promotion or community nutrition- working to improve nutrition and health knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and health outcomes among individuals, families or small, groups. Some students go on to work in nutrition and health research- investigating the links between diet, food and its impact on health and disease. Another career option is to work in the food industry- there are new products constantly developed and Nutritionists can be part of these teams. For example, many nutritionists have worked with other scientists to develop healthier food options, supplements and nutritional aids for athletes. Communications is another interesting area- many companies and organisations have Nutritionists who will talk to the media and the public about healthy eating as well as developing nutrition education tools such as leaflets, books and websites/blogs. If you are interested in working with patients (people with a specific disease/illness) you can go on and train to become a Dietitian. Students who complete a nutrition degree can go on and do postgraduate training to become a Dietitian- this usually takes a further 18-24 months.
What are events like the Midlands Science Festival so important do you think?
I think it is a great opportunity to explore the world around us- it is so important to be curious about why things happen and how they have an effect on us personally and on the environment. Science is all around us- events like the Midlands Science Festival provide students with the opportunity to explore the vastness of science in a fun way.
What else can we be doing to encourage more young people to consider a third level option and career in science?
It is important that young people realise that science is not something abstract but a part of everything we do. I think that helping students to understand this connection will encourage them to consider a career in science. I also think it helps if students are aware that science is so broad – there are so many different careers out there.