The Importance of Student Research

Who knows what will become of my summer project. Maybe the report I present to my respondents will be extremely useful and help them better implement nutrition policy in Tanzania, or maybe it will just reinforce what they already know. I hope to compile something that can at least point them towards new ideas and approaches. But selfishly, I already know I’ve gained so much.

When I first came to William and Mary I knew I was interested in biology, politics, and vaguely in public health. But I hadn’t really found the specific area of the enormous field of public health where I wanted to make my home. Originally I thought it might be infectious disease. AIDS, Ebola, the flu – they were all part of my freshman seminar Emerging Diseases which I found extremely fascinating. But when I started working with Professor Ickes the spring of my freshman year I was introduced to public health nutrition. I began to realize that nutrition incorporated all of the things I like about public health. The hard science and biochemistry of nutrition collides with the social science of community development and government policy. And that multidisciplinary nature has become so clear throughout this project. I’ve realized that nutrition is an area of public health I can see myself studying and working in long term.

There’s still so much more to learn and decide. Do I want to focus on the science or the policy? Do I want to a PhD or a masters? But this project has renewed my enthusiasm for public health and given me such a greater understanding of how health policy is enacted. And whatever my final output, that is incredibly valuable.