June 10, 2014, by Duane Mellor
Graduate Profile – Camilla Peterson
BSc Nutrition Graduate 2009
Project Coordinator – Nutrition Action Healthletter
Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington DC, USA
I’ve always known I wanted to work in nutrition and getting my BSc from the University of Nottingham (UoN) was the first step in making this goal happen. Four years after graduation, I have a Master’s degree in Public Health and have worked in three countries for a range of non-profits, humanitarian organizations, and government agencies. The UoN certainly gave me a good start and my university experience was a truly valuable one. Two opportunities I was able to take advantage of during my time at UoN which stand out as playing an important role in my life post-graduation (and getting jobs) are the Erasmus study abroad program and the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme (UAS). With Erasmus I took my third year out to learn French and spent six months studying in Paris. I knew language skills would be necessary if I wanted to work internationally so this was a good option for me. By the end of my third year my French was at a high intermediate level and my communication skills in general had improved dramatically. Oh, and I also got to live in Paris for six months — amazing!
Tip: Participate in interesting schemes like the Erasmus program or the year in Industry. These develop you as a person, give you incredible life experiences, and liven up your CV.
UAS is a communication focused dissertation option. I have always considered myself as a scientist, but the idea of doing my dissertation on a lab-based rat study did not excite me. Nor did it relate to what I wanted to do after I graduated. With UAS I worked as a science teaching assistant and designed a study which examined the impact of nutrition education in schools on pupils’ nutrition related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours. I was able to teach and communicate my subject, independently design a dissertation project I was passionate about, and gain practical work experience with teaching. I was also lucky enough to have my dissertation published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Tip: Make sure you know all of your academic options and go after the ones that fit you best. You may have to work harder for them, but they will be worth it.
Nowadays having an excellent academic profile isn’t enough; students with work experience have a huge advantage over those without. My first practical experience in nutrition was volunteering with an adolescent weight loss camp, Wellspring. I had just finished my first year at UoN and wanted to spend my summer being productive. Volunteering got my foot in the door at the company and I went back (as a paid employee!) each summer until I graduated.
Tip: Work hard for good grades as they are important. But go further than this and get a job and/or volunteer, preferably in your field. Start building work experience as soon as possible and look for these opportunities early – companies can finish hiring for the summer as early as March.
The summer following graduation I requested to be transferred to a Wellspring camp in the U.S to mix things up; I ended up liking where I moved to so much I stayed and looked for jobs over there.
Tip: Treat looking for jobs like a job. I spent four to six hours a day (or more) filling in applications, sending out letters of interest, posting my CV, researching companies I wanted to work for, etc. The more applications you send out, the higher the chances one will be successful!
A few months later I landed a job working in a government nutrition program assisting low income women and children (WIC). This was perfect for me as I was again working directly with children, yet I was also learning about a new age group and building clinical assessment skills. I was lucky enough to have a boss who was pro continuing education and I participated in several training courses which further expanded my knowledge.
Tip: Continue your learning with online education, work trainings, attending conferences, etc. These keep you up to date in your field and help you continually improve your performance.
Although I loved WIC, after a couple of years I knew I needed to be challenged more in my work. I decided to get my Master’s in Public Health where I specialised in Health Policy and Management at EHESP in Paris (my French came in handy!). This was an international program with a focus on building practical skills so I knew it was a good fit for me. I also took the advice I just gave you and continued to build my work experience while studying with internships at Action Against Hunger and an obesity research lab (SCOOPT).
Tip: Sometimes you may not have all the qualifications you need. Think about where you want to get to and what you need to make it happen.
I always regretted not participating more in extracurricular activities while at UoN so at EHESP I joined the student board and ran the school newsletter. As it turns out my decision to run the newsletter was a life-changing one as I (re)discovered a love for communication and media; I also volunteered as a writer for online journal Experimentation so I could write more in my spare time.
Tip: Extracurricular activities are not only fun but they also show employers you are interesting, motivated, and able to time manage/multitask.
Four months prior to my graduation I started job hunting. On the day of graduation I received confirmation for (my now current) job in Washington D.C., working on a nutrition newsletter at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Here I conduct nutrition-related market research, gather information for articles on various nutrition topics and food products, and edit, fact check and proof read article content. I love that I am combining my love for media and communication with nutrition.
Tip: Do what you love…and love what you do!
If you are a graduate of Nutritional Sciences and would like to share your story, please let us know, contact Dr Jonathan Majewicz, Programme Manager for BSc Nutrition (email@example.com )