Once you leave school and head to University most of us are around the ages of 17-19. For me it was 18 and I found it quite daunting to think that at this young age I should be choosing a career path. However to be eligible for the undergraduate courses at University I was interested in, it was actually the age of 16 when I had to start making decisions about what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. I decided at this stage that I liked science and health so a career in Nutrition might be the way to go for me.Six years later after my final 2 years of high school and a 4 year University degree I graduated with a Bachelor of Dietetics and Nutrition.
Most of my class-mates at University had decided on clinical based careers whilst I knew that wasn’t really for me. When the opportunity of a research assistant job came up with a focus on using my nutritional knowledge and skills it seemed like a good opening into a previously unthought of career field. My ideas of research had been those of white lab coats, analysing samples and spending hours in a windowless lab. However as I have discovered that vision is only one stream of what research is and can offer those who work in it.
In 2011 I started working within The Child Health & Wellbeing Program here at the University of Melbourne. My job, as a Research Assistant, has given me the opportunity to develop a nutrition education pilot study which explored whether nutrition education and support can improve the nutritional quality of food being distributed through emergency food relief networks. I also co-ordinate a dental birth cohort study with over 300 children involved, that looks at gaining a broader and more detailed understanding of the factors involved in the development of dental decay in young children.
Food Bank hamper
This job has allowed me to work with a great team of people from all different backgrounds and each week have been out interacting with the agencies who provide emergency food relief, collecting data from the children and their mothers in the dental study and been all across Victoria from the suburbs of Melbourne out to Warrnambool, Ballarat, Ararat and rural and remote town’s in-between. I have developed skills in planning, researching, organisation, management and communicating with key stakeholders, our participants and our wider team. To hear feedback like the work you do helps to improve the nutritional quality of food given out at food relief agencies and thereby improving food insecure individual’s health, has motivated me to want to continue working in population health and given great insight into how projects are started, managed and evaluated.
Although this job is very different to what I thought I would ever be doing at the age of 16 and throughout University it’s been very rewarding and full of learning. In particular this job has highlighted the fact that while you may be young when you are trying to navigate your way from school to university and then transitioning into the “real world” of work, that what you want to be when you “grow up” is a constantly morphing idea and that there are always going to be opportunities out there that you may not have even knew existed until they pop up along your journey.
Blog by Emily Amezdroz
Research Assistant, Child Health & Wellbeing Program