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.
Matthew J. Landry, PhD is one of two current fellows. Dr. Landry is a Research Scientist and Dietetic Intern at The University of Texas at Austin. He has been a member of ASN since 2014.
ASN: How did you first get involved in nutrition science and research? What led you to be interested in nutrition policy?
Matthew J. Landry, PhD : Growing up in the soul food capital of America, South Louisiana, food has always been a major aspect of my life. I first became interested in nutrition as a field when I attended Louisiana State University as an undergraduate student in nutrition and food sciences. A part-time research assistant job and undergraduate thesis fueled my inquisitive nature and allowed me to develop a strong desire to discover the link between food to overall health. Wanting to further study this association, I enrolled in the Nutritional Science PhD program at the University of Texas at Austin. My research focused on the impact dietary patterns established during childhood have on the risk of obesity and chronic diseases as well as how effective school and community-based interventions and innovative public policy strategies can reduce those risks.
I really started getting interested in nutrition policy after participating in the Public Policy Workshop, put on by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I had the opportunity to meet with my U.S. Representative and Senators to advocate for and encourage them to sign on for nutrition related bills. As an ASN Science Policy Fellow, I would look forward to further opportunities to meet with legislators to discuss the importance of nutrition policy.
Tell us about your current position and the research activities in which you are involved.
Upon completion of my PhD in August 2019, I felt compelled to expand upon my nutrition and dietetics background and enrolled in the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at UT-Austin, complete a dietetic internship, and be eligible to sit for the national Registered Dietitian examination. Participating in the requisite dietetic internship to earn this credential has been a really rewarding experience. It has given me additional practical, real-world experience that can be used to guide and enhance the effectiveness and impact of my future clinical and public health nutrition research. In conjunction with this program, I am working part-time as a research scientist building upon my doctoral work. Starting in the Fall after completion of my dietetic internship, I will be a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing nutrition researchers today?
I think one of the biggest challenges we face is science communication. Our field struggles with disseminating our research to the public. Reliable, trusted avenues of scientific dissemination aren’t accessible or widely used by the public. I think researchers should have increased training in being able to creatively and effectively share their research findings with lay audiences.
I think another potential challenge we face as nutrition researchers is navigating conflicts of interest, especially those with food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries and companies. I think we can prepare early career researchers better to understand how to properly navigate partnerships with these groups to ensure that research outcomes are reputable.
What influenced your decision to apply to the ASN Science Policy Fellowship program? How do you see yourself benefitting from this position?
Throughout my educational training, mentorship and a strong network have played a critical role as I navigate through opportunities and make critical professional decisions, helping me develop as a scientist. A benefit of participating in the fellowship is the mentorship and networking opportunities with leaders in the field of nutrition that are involved in science policy.
What are your future career goals and what do you plan to do to achieve them? (e.g. in the next five years)
Ultimately, I would like to apply for a tenure-track position where I would have the opportunity to continue my research, teach undergraduate and graduate level courses, provide leadership and service on the university and national level, and mentor students. I look forward to applying my solid foundation as a behavioral nutritionist to building a successful research career that has meaningful impacts on the health and well-being of individuals throughout our diverse communities.
I am interested in exploring policies that provide equitable access and availability to nutritious foods that are encouraged in our federal nutrition guidelines. In the future, I’d like to ensure that my day-to-day work extends into my local community. I would like to collaborate with civic leaders to explore policies that provide equitable access and availability to nutritious foods.
What aspects of ASN membership have you found most useful professionally?
One of the most beneficial aspects of ASN membership is the ASN Health and Nutrition Policy Newsletter. It’s an excellent resource for staying current with nutrition policy as well as activities of ASN and other relevant organizations. A second useful benefit is NutriLink, ASN’s Online Member Community, specifically the discussion boards. They’re a great avenue to connect and network, share and discuss different perspectives, and get help or assistance from other researchers in your field of interest.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell ASN members, especially students?
Policy is so important for the field of nutritional sciences. It controls both funding for researchers and the foods we all eat. Nutrition policy doesn’t just occur at the national or state level. It also occurs at the local (county or city) and even at university level. I encourage ASN student members to find an area of nutrition policy that they are interested in and get involved.