Iggy Aldama-Shaw

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Iggy Aldama-Shaw

Iggy Aldama-Shaw

Health disco academic program
First-year, Nutrition
healthy disco cohort year

I remember waiting for my first team meeting on a Zoom call in February. I was feeling stuck with a sort of impostor syndrome after realizing I would be working not only with faculty but also upperclassmen who, just as I was starting the first year of my nutrition degree at OSU, were close to finishing theirs. Although initial insecurity about my own ability to be part of the research was scary at first, it would only take about a week to be introduced to others on the team, have a solid grasp of what I was part of, and be given tasks and instructions moving forward.  

Dr. Stephanie Grutzmacher, an associate professor in the College Health, was more than welcoming and quickly got me familiar with the research project. I applied to her URSA posting because it was relevant to my degree and was focused on food insecurity, which is an intriguing topic I have experience with. The research project is focused on a statewide analysis of the Oregon Double Up Food Bucks program, which is operating on a temporary grant. There are many goals and metrics for assessment, but generally the team is looking for indicators of success and satisfaction at all levels of the program.  

When applying for URSA Engage, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into. However, Healthy Discoveries provided several meetings that involved faculty and students who have gone through undergraduate research as well. These gave me confidence to commit to the research I was interested in and laid out some norms and etiquette around communicating with faculty that was helpful. Once into the groove of having the time commitment added to my schedule it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The research was qualitative, so my job was to do transcriptions of interview recordings from previous data gathering cycles. This could sometimes be monotonous but looking back, starting every new interview was exciting because I had no idea what kind of personality or opinions the next interviewee would have.  

At one point during the 15 weeks of URSA, I was working 20 hours a week and taking 17 credits while also trying to do transcriptions. It was easy to feel overwhelmed when I started to get behind, but I remembered to communicate with my team, and it helped to tell myself that the stakes were not as high as I thought they were. I plan on continuing part-time after URSA and am excited to see what else I am able to do with this opportunity.  

What was your path to OSU?

At first, I hated the idea of going to college when I was in high school, but as I neared closer to graduation and matured, I realized I had no personal or meaningful connection to what I wanted to pursue after high school.

I spent two summers working at my local community garden, which was a positive experience for me, and I became interested in a possible career related to food. Additionally, I have been vegan/plant-based since I was 14 and have always been hooked by debates and arguments on nutritional approaches, methods and philosophies.

Because of these reasons, I decided to start looking at schools that offer nutrition programs and knew I would have to attend in-state. After some researching, it was quickly made clear that OSU offers the strongest nutrition program for undergraduates in the Oregon.

My advisors and teachers in high school let me know that with my academic record I would have no problem getting into the university and would probably be rewarded financial aid, so I decided to apply. After being accepted, I committed to OSU and moved into on-campus housing to start fall term 2022.

Why are you interested in research?

Being part of research projects, with results that have actual effects and consequences, as an 18-year-old, while being compensated, sounded too good to be true at first.

After finding out about URSA, I knew I needed to be part of the program. I looked through the CPHHS faculty postings that were looking for team members and although nearly everything was interesting, I wanted to do something connected to my major.

I expected to learn a lot about teamwork, professionalism and communication, with the opportunity to do real research hands-on, and this has definitely been true so far.

Why did you want to be part of Healthy Discoveries?

I think that as many students as possible should be encouraged to participate in URSA and research in general.

There is generally a consistent need for undergraduates on research teams, so if Healthy Discoveries is informing people on possibilities as an undergraduate in the CPHHS, then I want to be supportive of it.

Additionally, the compensation from Healthy Discoveries on top of URSA reimbursement is significant in making paying for university a reality.

What research will you be working on and with whom?

The research project I am part of is led by Stephanie Grutzmacher, an associate professor in the CPHHS, who specializes in examining food insecurity and strategic approaches to fighting and solving it.

The project aims to conduct a multi-year, statewide evaluation of the Double Up Food Bucks program in Oregon, which is a federally funded nutrition incentive program connected to SNAP.

A major part of this research is the qualitative analysis, through interviews, of the program’s effectiveness. My job specifically is to transcribe interview data collected from both venders and customers at CSAs, grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

What are your future career or academic plans?

So far, I am feeling comfortable with my nutrition major and think I am unlikely to change my academic course.

Like most other freshmen, I am unsure of what exactly I want to do in the future. As far as after graduation, two possible fields I am currently interested in are food policy analysis and food systems management, both of which are relevant to the research I am working on now.


The Healthy Discoveries undergraduate research program is made possible with the generous support of the Patricia Valian Reser Fund for Experiential Learning.