Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Rachel Shaw

I am working on researching experiments and studies conducted in third world countries on mothers and children regarding nutrition and behavior change to nutrition. I currently have the pleasure of working with Dr. Constance Gewa of George Mason’s Nutrition and Food Studies Department. I find studies and review and compare them, and Dr. Gewa decides which aspects of the studies would be most useful in constructing her own study on nutrition in Kenya.  

On a weekly basis my main responsibility is research. I find the best peer-reviewed articles on the topic Dr. Gewa needs and condense them down into an annotated bibliography. I usually try to find five or more sources. I also convert the annotated bibliography into a spreadsheet summary. I divide the columns into topics such as “theory”, “sample size”, or “results” so that we can better understand the effectiveness of the studies. This semester so far, I have been working with data from a study conducted on women’s nutrition in Africa. I am responsible for filling in the blanks in the data, correcting mistakes, and interpreting the data.

I have learned so much in this job. This week I discovered that maize (corn) and potatoes are the most common staples in the Kenyan diet. I found this interesting because corn and potatoes are new world foods, not traditionally grown in Africa. Millet and other grains originating in Africa have almost become obsolete in African cultures today. The effects of this can be seen in the growing rates of malnutrition in children and adults, and there has been a push to return to farming the grains original to the climate rather than raising the new world foods.

My long-term goal in school is to earn my BSN and become a nurse. I believe everything I do in this project helps me towards that goal. I am learning how to best treat and care for people who are suffering from malnutrition or who are living in food deserts while also learning about the cultural and socio-economic effects on nutrition. I believe that this type of learning and understanding will help me to become a more compassionate nurse.