Graduate Student Spotlight

The University of Minnesota is where some of the best and brightest future industry leaders are honing their research.

Each week we will feature a different graduate student and their current research efforts, giving you an opportunity to learn more about what is happening in our department, as well as the world of food science and nutrition research right now.

kalea pittman with the gopher football teamName: Kaela Pittman
Hometown: Woodbury, Minn.
Degree Pursuing: M.S. Nutrition
Adviser: Len Marquart

Research focus: A comprehensive investigation related to the development and integration of a Sports Nutrition Department within a NCAA Division I Interdepartmental Sports Medicine Team.
This project aims to define and develop a sports nutrition department within the University of Minnesota Athletic Department in order to provide safe and effective sports nutrition guidance for 750+ gopher student athletes. Proactive steps are taken to successfully integrate the new sports nutrition department into the established interdepartmental sports medicine team, traditionally influenced by sport coaches, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning specialists. To stimulate trust, collaboration and respect for nutritionists within a UMN sports medicine team, a study was conducted to gain insight on the nutrition perspectives and values of other sports medicine departments involved with the Gopher Football Program.  

How did you become interested in nutrition? 
With my childhood and young adult years invested in team sports and an active lifestyle, my interest in nutrition was stimulated when I noticed the difference in how I felt and preformed when I took the time to focus on fueling my body correctly.

Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?
I actually started taking classes at the University of Minnesota at the age of 16 though my high school's PSEO program (Post Secondary Enrollment Option)! After learning more about the UMN nutrition department during my PSEO years, I had no hesitation in enrolling in the FSCN Nutrition BS program upon graduation.

How does your research tie in to the research being done in your adviser's lab?
I was connected with my adviser, Len Marquart because of our mutual interest in sports nutrition; although my research is not streamlined with his other projects, it allows an expansion in the work conducted by his lab.

Future plans 
In the future I plan on directing a sport nutrition program at a Division I collegiate setting, while raising a family, before directing the National Football League's future nutrition organization and teaching aspiring sports RDs to effectively relate their knowledge to athletes!

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