Friedman School hosts research conference

The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy on Saturday held its sixth annual multidisciplinary graduate research conference on the topic of “Future of Food and Nutrition.” The conference featured a panel discussion about global nutrition and feeding a growing population.

The oral and poster presentation sessions provided a platform for students from 14 different universities to share their research on any topic related to food or nutrition, ranging from domestic and international issues to policy debates, according to event co-chair and Friedman School student Brooke Smith.

“One of the major goals for us at Friedman is to give graduate students and some undergraduates a chance to present their research,” Smith said. 

“People have been working on a lot of interesting issues, and students don’t really get that much exposure or that many chances to share their research other than in class.”

The event kicked off with an introduction from Dean Ad Interim of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Robin Kanarek, Smith said.

The theme of this year’s expert panel was “7 Billion Strong: Approaches to Feeding the World.” 

Speakers included Vice President of Sustainable Agriculture Policy for the Monsanto Company Michael Doane, Policy Advisor at School Food FOCUS Thomas Forster and Research Analyst for the International Food Policy Research Institute Sivan Yosef.

“We wanted [panelists] from as many different spheres as we could,” Smith explained. “It was important for us to get someone from the industry and from research. It was really just trying to cast a wide net.”

Each panelist spoke for 15 minutes about his or her viewpoint on current trends in nutrition science and policy and then engaged in a question-and-answer session during which the audience could have a dialogue with the experts, event co-chair and Friedman School student Johanna Andrews said.

Friedman School professors chose 18 students from a large pool of applicants to deliver oral presentations on their findings at the conference based on their abstract submissions, Andrews said. 

“We actually had double the number of applicants this year than we had previously, so we were really excited about that,” Andrews said.

The oral presentations covered a wide range of topics – from urban food policy and planning to global child malnutrition and agriculture – that informed conference attendees, event committee member and Friedman School student Marianne Santoso said.

Santoso noted the uniqueness of this year’s presentations in light of their coverage of diverse areas of nutrition study, such as the policy of street food vending in Hanoi, Vietnam, and the development of a jackfruit industry in southern India.

The conference also incorporated an hour-long section during which an additional 14 students showcased their research on poster boards, Andrews said. 

“The poster session is a little more interactive,” Andrews said. “People [were] able to ask one-on-one questions to the poster presenters.”

The event attracted nearly 200 attendees, most of whom were graduate students. Undergraduates were also welcome to submit their work and to take part in the conference, Andrews added. 

Smith noted that the conference coincided with the Friedman School open house for prospective students on March 30 and thereby allowed admitted students to attend the event.

Smith said she decided to get involved as an event coordinator after attending the conference last year as a newly admitted student to the Friedman School.    

“I was really impressed and thought it reflected really well on the Friedman School,” Smith said. “I thought they did a really good job, and the presentations were really interesting.”