Louisa Vu

Health disco OG image
Louisa Vu

Louisa Vu

Health disco academic program
healthy disco cohort year


Hi! My name is Louisa and I’m a first-year undergraduate student majoring in Nutrition (pre-dietetics option). This year, I participated in OSU’s URSA Engage Program with the Dallas Lab to create a standard operating procedure (SOP) on an in vitro digestion model called the SHIME.

dallas lab

There are a lot of options when it comes to future careers in dietetics, especially when it comes to the type of work (e.g., clinical practice, community nutrition programs/policy, etc.). Since I’m still exploring these options, I thought research would be a great way to start!

  • I was inspired to do research on the SHIME in particular because it included many opportunities to learn diverse research and professional skills. Some of the experiences I had include:
  • Working remotely to gather relevant information on SHIME operations to develop a procedural outline (including experiment setup and SHIME maintenance)
  • Getting hands-on experience at the SHIME lab to learn more about its functionality and gain specific insights to improve the SOP
  • Creating a research poster and presenting at the Spring Symposium to share my research to fellow researchers at the Dallas Lab and the OSU community
Louisa Vu and co-researchers

Throughout the process, I got to work with my mentor and a fellow undergraduate student, which really helped me to stay on track and to stay accountable for my work.

Before URSA, I didn’t have a lot of research experience, nor a lot of expectations of what it would be like. What I found the most surprising, however, was how different a research project could look like depending on the topic. During the Spring Symposium, I saw a large variety of topics with many different research methods used including literature reviews, field experiments, lab work and surveys. So, for someone who is hesitant about doing research, there are plenty of options to choose from that can fit your interests!

Louisa Vu

As for challenges, the most difficult part was keeping up with time management and scheduling for times to work in person in the lab. Because everyone has their own schedules, it can be difficult to organize a time where everyone can meet up for extended periods of time. That’s why it’s important to maintain communication with the people you’re working with and to be transparent about any questions or conflicts that might arise.

Being part of this project was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The SHIME is a new piece of technology in our lab, let alone one that simulates all regions of the digestive system, so being able to make an SOP to help fellow researchers use it for their own research felt like I was really making a difference to create pathways for future discoveries!

Louisa Vu

Overall, I’m glad to have participated in URSA. I met a lot of great people and practiced applying research and professional skills in the process! Although I won’t be able to do URSA again, it opened up a lot of other opportunities for me, and I hope to participate in more experiences like this in the future.

Why did you choose the COH at OSU to pursue your studies?

As a nutrition major, I chose the College of Health at OSU because of its accredited nutrition and dietetics program along with the many graduate and internship opportunities it offers.

Through my studies in this program, I feel that I can learn more about nutrition through a holistic approach, discover the many career pathways for an aspiring dietitian, and become prepared for a future in dietetics.

What sparked your interest in health?

Health is a discipline that involves all aspects of our life, including our physical, mental and social health.

For me, nutrition is an integral part of life, and its impact can be found in places you don't often think about. Food plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as in preventing diseases and improving health outcomes.

But food also plays a role in our identity and culture. From developing cooking as a hobby to sharing a meal with friends and family, food has evolved into an expression of art and love rather than just a means to better physical health.

Why are you interested in research?

Research is a great opportunity to make connections and to learn from people who are more experienced in a field of your interest.

Not only will you gain more insights and confidence in professional skills to use in a future career, but you also can explore the work of people with similar and different experiences to benefit from a more nuanced and interdisciplinary education.

What research will you be working on and with whom?

I'll be working with the Dallas Lab led by Dr. Dave Dallas and my mentor, Jillien Zukaitis.

Our overall research is based on creating a better understanding of different methods to process human donor milk and how it impacts the milk's nutritional content (e.g., proteins and bioactive components) to improve health outcomes for preterm infants.

Specifically, I'll be working on research for a new piece of technology at our lab called SHIME, which allows us to perform in vitro digestion experiments that imitate real human digestion.

I'll be able to learn more about how the machine works and perhaps even help run experiments for our lab!

What are your future career and/or academic plans?

As a first-year student, I still have a long way to go in my education studying nutrition, specifically dietetics.

After earning my bachelor's degree, I hope to earn my master's degree and participate in a dietetics internship to explore the many career options for a dietitian, ranging from working on public nutrition programs and policy to working with patients in a clinical setting.


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