By Debbie Fetter, Guest Blogger

It was an early start to the “Successful Scientist: What’s the Winning Formula” session hosted by ASN’s Young Professional Interest Group (YPIG) on April 29, but it was well worth it. The five panel members were pleased with the great turnout of young professionals at the early hour. Regan Bailey, PhD, RD, a Nutritional Epidemiologist from the National Institutes of Health, set the relaxed tone for the session by exclaiming, “If you are able to make it to an 8:00 a.m. session as a student, then you’re already more successful than I was!” The attendees laughed and knew they were about to get the rare opportunity to interact with and receive priceless advice about varying career paths with the well-established panel.

Dr. Bailey proceeded to give the audience instrumental information; such as apparently there really isn’t a set way to land a government job. She reiterated the importance of networking, especially with those who could teach you. The best-kept secrets to finding a career path are serendipity and an open-mind. Also, bars in Copenhagen are a great place to hang out. That’s where Dr. Bailey ran into a prior contact and he ended up helping her get a job. You never know who may become a vital connection and help you discover your calling. This is why people are the best resource in the entire world and you should “be yourself; unless you are mean, then be nice.” It’s also important to get involved and to stay involved (i.e., professional organizations: hint, hint, ASN). Finding your balance is key, and Dr. Bailey reassured us with, “If ‘Plan A’ didn’t work. The alphabet has 25 more letters! Stay cool.”

Marion B. Sewer, PhD from the University of California, San Diego was the next panel member to speak. Dr. Sewer told the attendees to embrace failure, since many will criticize–if the bottle of scotch hidden in your drawer is not sufficient, this may not be the career for you. Surround yourself with personal cheerleaders that understand how difficult this field is. Be a team player, but learn to say “no” to protect your time to be successful. To all the perfectionists in the crowd, Dr. Sewer said, “Sometimes, 70% is good enough.”

After, Michael L. McBurney, PhD, FACN from DSM Nutritional Products, put in his two cents. Trust and reputation are earned, not given. Accumulate knowledge and expertise–know your science. It also probably takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert, so might as well start now. Work well with others and do what you do with intent. Most importantly, when you go on sabbatical, go somewhere warm.

Connie M. Weaver, PhD from Purdue University, followed with an eye-opening thought, “Aiming for success is the wrong aim point, it’s not your goal. Your goal is to be of value and to like what you’re doing.” She also emphasized the significance of interdisciplinary interfaces and to explore unfamiliar areas. This is the pathway to discovery.

The last panel member, Brian Wansink, PhD from Cornell University, told us to think of your career as chapters and each chapter could offer something different. He shared his observation that the single best predictor of success is “the number of papers you co-author and submit with a productive professor while you are in residence.” Dr. Wansink let us all in on the secret that the fourth times actually the charm. He ended with, “If my Dean knew how much I loved this job, he wouldn’t pay me.” We can all hope to find a career we are passionate and excited about; that’s definitely something to strive for.

An open panel followed and more advice was given. Finding a way to turn negative energy into something positive was a common theme. Dr. Bailey suggests exercise for stress release. “There’s nothing a good run can’t cure,” she offers. Moving forward is important for success, Dr. McBurney told attendees. If the study didn’t work, find out why and try again. It’s also critical to set some “me” time. Dr. Weavers suggests budgeting it in, like an appointment. Dr. Sewer spends her “me” time doing home improvement. “Stress equals a new bathroom,” she shares and the audience laughed.

In terms of figuring out your passion, Dr. Sewer said to pay attention to how you feel when you’re doing different activities to discover what you value in a career. Dr. Wansink recommends getting involved in as many projects as possible while in graduate school to explore different areas and to build your skill set. Dr. Sewer feels the winning formula to success is what works for you and keeps you motivated and excited. Never be afraid to change if you’re unsatisfied. Dr. Weaver told the attendees to find a way to be of value, and with that you will be happy. Dr. McBurney shared that life is a series of choices, some good, some bad, and no job is perfect. It’s far better to work for a great boss at a mediocre company than a mediocre boss at a great company. Dr. Wansink identified people in academics, who had a huge impact and attempted to find a commonality. He found they all not only dedicated a lot of time to their work and worked hard, but they took a seemingly strange risk that magnified their impact. Don’t be afraid of what others may think of you, if you want to take on a project that interests and entices you, do it. The real secret is there are many paths to success, you just have to find your own.

What makes fish smell “fishy”?

By Ann L.

If you have ever caught fresh fish, you know that it doesn’t have a particularly strong odor, maybe a hint of ocean or lake water.But sometimes the fish you get from the store can have a pungent “fishy” odor.What causes that smell?

The answer has to do with some interesting physiology unique to sea creatures.Water in the open ocean is about 3% salt by weight, but the optimal levels of dissolved minerals inside an animal cell is less than 1%.In order to maintain fluid balance, ocean creatures must fill their cells with amino acids and amines to counter the saltiness of seawater. Ocean fish tend to rely on trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) for this purpose.

The problem is that when fish are killed, bacteria and fish enzymes convert TMAO into trimethylamine (TMA), which gives off the characteristic “fishy” odor.This smell can be reduced in two ways.TMA on the surface of the fish can be rinsed off with tap water.Treating the fish with acidic ingredients such as lemon, vinegar, or tomato can also cause TMA to bind to water and become less volatile.Thus the odor compounds do not reach the nose.

Freshwater fish generally do not accumulate TMAO because their environment is less salty than their cells.As a result their flesh tends to be milder, and they do not get as “fishy” as ocean fish.However, freshwater fish sometimes suffer from an unpleasant “muddy” aroma.This often occurs in bottom-feeders such as catfish, and is caused by two compounds produced by blue-green algae (geosmin and methylisoborneol).These chemicals concentrate in the skin and dark muscle tissue of the fish.Acidic conditions will cause these compounds to break down, so there is good reason for the inclusion of acidic ingredients in traditional recipes.

Next time you have fish be sure to give it a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar!

Reference: McGee, Harold.On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.New York: Scribner, 2004.

By: Jovana K.

Over the past decade the use of low fat milk has become more prominent than the use of whole milk because there is substantial scientific evidence that consumption of foods high in fat causes weight gain and increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. However, there is some controversy over whether processed low-fat pasteurized milk can meet the needs of developing offspring and whether it should be consumed during pregnancy and development.

Milk Consumption During Pregnancy

Human brain development involves increased incorporation of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) in brain phospholipids. From the third trimester through to second year of postnatal life LCPUFA (i.e. docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA)) are actively incorporated into the developing brain. The proportion of DHA and AA that the infant has reflects the presence of these fatty acids in the maternal diet. Dietary sources of LCPUFA include fish, fish oil and DHA fortified dairy including milk.

Naturally, cow’s milk does not provide a rich source of DHA however in North America whole milk and partially skimmed milk (2%) are fortified with DHA by adding DHA rich feed additive to cattle’s diet. Skim milk or low fat milk (1%) cannot be fortified with DHA because DHA is contained in the milk fat. The DHA-fortified milk products may allow mothers who do not eat large quantities of fish to obtain the levels of DHA that their baby needs for brain and central nervous system development.

Milk Consumption During Postnatal Development

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that toddlers drink whole milk because fatty acids are helpful for brain and bone development. However, some doctors recommend low fat or skim milk to overweight or obese children. Whether low fat or skim milk protects children from weight gain is under debate.

According to a cohort study of 12,829 US children aged 9 to 14 years, weight gain is associated with excess calorie intake and consumption of low fat or skim milk, but is not associated with drinking whole milk products. This finding although surprising is consistent with some animal findings. Pigs fed reduced-fat milk gain weight easily while pigs fed whole milk stay lean. Male rats fed whole milk had significantly lower concentrations of plasma triglycerides, very low-density lipoproteins and apolipoprotein B than rats fed low fat milk. The effects of whole milk on lipid profile and body composition are not well understood, but the process of removing fat from milk may in part be responsible for some of the observed effects.

Milk is an emulsion of butterfat globules and water-based fluid. Butterfat contains unique nutrients that support thyroid function and help the body develop muscle rather than fat. The butterfat properties of whole milk are different from that of low fat or skim milk, which may help to explain the effects of whole milk on body composition. Future studies should explore the mechanism by which whole milk may protect infants from gaining weight.