Nutrition PhD student is a YouTube nutrition star and foster mom for cats

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Lauren Chan

Nutrition PhD student is a YouTube nutrition star and foster mom for cats

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Meet Dean’s Health Hero Lauren Chan, RD, ’16

Lauren Chan, RD, ’16, from Tigard, Ore., is a nutrition PhD student and was selected because of her passion and commitment to nutrition education.

A two-time OSU alum, Lauren is a community volunteer, has worked on COVID-19 research projects, and eventually would like a position where she can continue exploring the relationship between food and reproductive health.

What inspired you to pursue your nutrition PhD?

Food is central to life, not only from a biological perspective but also for its ability to unify humans through shared meals and culture.

I have always considered myself a foodie, and the focus of both my undergraduate and graduate studies has been developing my understanding of food from all aspects, including what it’s composed of, how it fuels the human body, and its impact on society and public health.

I find myself being interested in so many avenues of nutrition because each new discovery in this field holds the opportunity to become something, whether as simple as an innovative new recipe approach or as impactful as a life-changing nutrition intervention to improve health.

Tell us about your time at Oregon State. Is there someone or something who/that has helped you succeed? 

Having been at OSU for both my undergraduate and one of my graduate degrees, I have found a strong support system within the nutrition department and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Truly every professor in the department has been inspiring to me, whether it’s through sharing their knowledge in courses or from their support in my graduate work.

Having a team of brilliant humans challenging you to be better and cheering for you along the way is so needed in graduate school.

What challenges have you overcome along your academic journey?

One of the most challenging aspects of my nutrition PhD degree has been the pandemic, as this period delayed a large portion of my research progress for over a year.

While it wasn’t as I had originally envisioned, I spent that year working on COVID-19 research projects, which were both needed and very interesting opportunities for me to expand my skill sets.

Do you participate in any campus or community clubs or organizations?

While much of my volunteer work is not on campus, I do frequently work with non-profit groups in my community.

In the nutrition community, I have spent the last five years working on a dietetics education YouTube channel through a non-profit group called Dietitians in Nutrition Support. This effort was largely started as a means to provide free, accessible supplementary education to dietetics students and has grown into a fairly successful channel in the last few years.

In my local community, I am a cat foster mom and had the pleasure of fostering about 75 cats last year. These fuzzy pals are always great study buddies and help keep me company during dissertation writing.

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Lauren Chan fostering an armful of furry feline friends

Are you involved in nutrition research?

The independent research focus for my dissertation includes computational assessment of dietary and health surveys to evaluate the association between environmental exposures and female reproductive disorders.

This project hopes to identify meaningful lifestyle interventions that could be used to identify and prevent endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts.

Generally, my research work throughout my PhD has encompassed a wide variety of topics, spanning bioinformatics, dietetics education, COVID-19, and pharmacoepidemiology.

What are your post-college dreams?

Following the completion of my nutrition PhD I hope to find a position that allows me to continue exploring the relationship between food and reproductive health, as well as one that enables me to work with students and grow my skills as an educator.

What message do you have for your peers or future students?

From your friendly, neighborhood dietitian, there is always room for ice cream and a cookie in a healthy diet :)