The ASN Science Policy Fellowship is offered to advanced graduate students, early professionals, postdoctoral trainees, or medical interns, residents, or fellows. The intent of the Fellowship is to allow for an expanded understanding of current nutrition policy issues and initiatives. The Fellowship provides recipients with the opportunity to gain an enhanced perspective on public policy issues related to nutrition and facilitates the acquisition of skills and tools necessary to become well-informed advocates for nutrition research and policy.

Lyndsey D. Ruiz is one of two current fellows. Ruiz is a Doctoral Candidate in Nutritional Biology, at the University of California, Davis. She has been a member of ASN since 2016.

ASN : How did you first get involved in nutrition science and research? What led you to be interested in nutrition policy?

Lyndsey D. Ruiz : I was first introduced to nutrition science and research during a conversation with Dr. Rachel Scherr, now my major professor, when I was an undergraduate. I connected with Dr. Scherr to learn about career opportunities in community nutrition after realizing that dietetics was not the right career path for me. Fortunately, I was able to move into a staff position and work directly with Dr. Scherr at the University of California, Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools (CNS). I was interested in employment at CNS for the opportunity to gain experience in nutrition education and community-based research. This position introduced me to nutrition policy as well; CNS partners with government agencies to implement programs. Collaborating with these agencies led to my interest in nutrition policy because I wanted to better understand how organizations inform and operate within parameters of policy.

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

I am currently a doctoral candidate in Nutritional Biology at the University of California, Davis and work within CNS with Dr. Scherr. My research focuses on assessing various health and academic outcomes following food literacy-based education delivered utilizing cross-age teaching methodology in low-income communities. This work has included leading the development of a food literacy curriculum for high school-aged adolescents and testing a two-tiered cross-age teaching model wherein undergraduate students educate adolescents and mentor them to then become teachers for younger youth.

Ruiz working in a school garden, essential to the educational programs she assesses. 

What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing nutrition researchers today?

I think the biggest challenges facing nutrition researchers involve overcoming competing messages from media and other individuals with a platform perpetuating misconceptions. This matter comes up frequently in my work with youth who tend to be susceptible to taking misinformation as fact. Given the potential impact on so many individuals, effective science communication and methods for improving science literacy are imperative.

What influenced your decision to apply to the ASN Science Policy Fellowship program? How do you see yourself benefitting from this position?

Given the large and important role that policy plays in community-based programming and research, I decided to apply for the ASN Science Policy Fellowship program to gain more knowledge and experience applicable to my current work and research goals. This position will allow for me to learn about the logistics of policymaking and processes that are specific to nutrition and science policy. Additionally, I look forward to the guidance that will be provided from mentors with expertise and ample professional experience in policy. As I enter my final year in graduate school, this mentorship will be invaluable for aiding in refining my career goals and next steps.

What are your future career goals and what do you plan to do to achieve them? (e.g. in the next five years)

My ultimate career goal is to hold a dual position that allows for working within policy development while also continuing health education research and mentoring students. To achieve this goal, I plan to continue getting varied experience through policy and educational learning opportunities.

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

I have thoroughly enjoyed networking with other ASN members and learning from other more experienced researchers in the field. Connecting with other ASN members, particularly through serving on the Executive Board of the Nutrition Education and Behavioral Science Research Interest Section, has allowed for several rewarding research collaborations and professional development opportunities.

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

I would like to tell students to take advantage of the wonderful networking opportunities that ASN provides, especially at the annual conference, Nutrition. I also recommend being active in the Research Interest Section for your specific field.