Andrew McLeod, 2018 Pfizer Predoctoral Fellowship Recipient and Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Medicine

Andrew McLeod received his M.S. in Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is currently working as a Research Assistant at the University of Illinois at Chicago Lab of Dr. Lisa Tussing-Humphreys. Andrew has been a member of ASN since 2016.

1. How did you first get involved in nutrition science and research?

I first got involved when I decided I would follow what I was passionate about as opposed to what I thought I was supposed to do. I was working a temp job as a paralegal in intellectual property litigation and realized that the only reason I was in the job was because I thought I was supposed to have a popular job, like being a lawyer. I soon learned that law was not my calling, and I thought of things I was interested in. Since high school I had always been interested in nutrition, and in undergrad I had done some research. I had also tutored. So I figured I could combine those interests—nutrition, research, and teaching—into a new career. Being a dietitian reflected those interests and so I then got my Masters in nutrition science as well as my dietetic license. It was during my Master’s program at UIC that I first got involved with nutrition science and research. I was assisting a professor, Dr Angela Odoms Young, who was studying the effects of a weight-loss intervention on obese African-American women. After working with her, I started a doctoral program with Dr. Lisa Tussing-Humphreys.

2. Tell us about your current position and the research activities in which you are involved.

I am a graduate research assistant working on a randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of the Mediterranean Diet and weight loss on cognition and the gut microbiome in obese older adults. I work on various aspects of the study, from recruitment, to screening, to data collection, data processing, and data management. I have also been doing what a lot of PhD students do: authoring research articles, attending conferences and seminars, and learning new experimental methods.

3. Is there any specific aspect of your research that you are personally passionate about?

I am personally passionate about our research participants. They are of an ethnic minority and are older. They have so much knowledge to share and so much joy to give. Beyond that, they are also the foundation of human research and deserve the most profound respect. Many of us nutrition researchers wouldn’t be anywhere without them.

4. What aspects of ASN membership have you found most useful professionally?

What I have found must useful professionally are the scholarship opportunities. They have truly allowed me to conduct my research. Perhaps even more useful is the wide network of researchers that ASN members have access to. This network places collaboration at our fingertips.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to tell ASN members, especially students?

I’d like to tell them to never give up trying to get awards and grants. I have been rejected more times than I can remember. However, with each failure comes an opportunity to grow and improve, which is necessary not only in the research field but also in life. Also, remember to collaborate. It might be difficult, but it is necessary because as the old proverb goes – to go fast, go alone; to go far, go together.

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Andrew McLeod is a nutrition scientist and registered dietitian whose main research interest lies in how diet can influence cognition through the microbiome. In addition to his primary research, Andrew has developed several experimental protocols detailing blood and stool data collection, processing, and storage practices in order to provide quality control measures to potential future projects. His research proposal, “The Impact of the Mediterranean Diet and Weight Loss on Gut Bacteria and Cognition in Older, Obese Adults,” earned the 2018 Pfizer Predoctoral Fellowship.