Championing health through research and education

health hero OG image
Portrait of Jillien Zukaitis

Championing health through research and education

OpenGraph title
Meet Health Hero Jillien Zukaitis

From Charlotte, North Carolina, Jillien Zukaitis is a registered dietitian and researcher working toward her PhD in nutrition. She plans to work in academia, teaching and mentoring future nutrition professionals.

What inspired or interested you about your field of study? And why did you choose OSU and the College of Health?

What inspires me about my field of study is the impact that nutrition has on individuals, communities and society as a whole. 

I've always been interested in the intricate relationship between food, health and well-being, and I research to understand how proper nutrition can prevent and manage various health conditions. 

Additionally, I've been drawn to the idea of empowering individuals to make informed dietary choices that can positively influence their lives. 

I decided to pursue my PhD in nutrition at Oregon State University because of its renown in nutrition research. I knew that by joining the research teams here, I would have the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in nutrition and dietetics. 

Also, OSU's commitment to fostering a supportive and collaborative academic environment aligns with my aspirations to become a professor and mentor in academia. 

OSU provides me with the resources, mentorship and opportunities necessary to excel in my academic and professional pursuits while making meaningful contributions to the field of nutrition.

Tell us about your research and what you’ve learned.

I've been actively engaged in research for the entirety of my higher education career, focusing on parent and child health, particularly the pivotal role of human milk in early infant development. 

I've gained insights into how dietary choices can impact health outcomes across different life stages and populations. 

My time in research has been incredibly rewarding as I have been fortunate to witness how nutrition research directly translates into tangible improvements in health care and individual health outcomes.

Have you completed an internship?

Having completed my dietetic internship in May 2023, I now hold dual roles as a registered dietitian and researcher. This dual perspective enables me to connect clinical practice with research, ensuring that my work is directly beneficial to patient outcomes and makes significant contributions to advancements in human nutrition.

What do you think of your experience at OSU and in the college so far? Any stand-out experiences?

My experience at OSU and in the College of Health has been incredibly rewarding. 

Whether you're into public health, epidemiology, nutrition or anything else health-related, the OSU COH is a place where you can learn and grow surrounded by supportive faculty and peers. 

It's a fantastic place to make a difference and help people lead healthier lives, regardless of your field of study or background.

What are your post-college dreams/plans?

I would like to work in academia as a professor and researcher to teach and mentor upcoming dietitians in their didactic program in dietetics, as well as become a research mentor to other graduate students. 

There is a need for compassionate and committed educators to be a consistent presence to grow the fields of health and nutrition, and I plan to be a part of it!