University of Queensland Master of Dietetics Studies graduate Caitlin Hall has twice the reason to celebrate.
She received her degree and was awarded valedictorian.
Her chosen study path was inspired by being diagnosed with Coeliac disease and developing a desire to find out more about the serious illness.
“To me it was intriguing that such a small protein – gluten – could cause such profound effects on my body,” Caitlin said.
“This sparked my interest in the science of food in preventing and treating different health conditions.
“After speaking with dietitians and health professionals, I wanted to learn more. I became really excited about helping other people who struggled with diet, health and disease.”
In the four-and-a-half years Caitlin studied at UQ, her string of achievements included a Bachelor of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, a published research paper, a cross-institutional exchange, a win at the Health Fusion Team Challenge and her first marathon.
“I was invited to work at the Centre for Sleep Research on a study examining the effects of shift work on glucose metabolism, appetite regulation and executive function,” Caitlin said.
“I also contributed to a systematic review investigating the effects of non-soy pulse and peanut consumption on cardio-metabolic risk factors.
“Both experiences were amazing and unique, igniting my passion for research.”
Caitlin pursued her interest in research, completing research scholarships alongside Associate Professor Nick Gilson from the Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health at UQ’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.
She worked as the lead research assistant in a study that highlighted the potential benefits of standing and treadmill desks on the allocation of attentional resources and the regulation of stress.
This resulted in her first publication in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
Caitlin spent her last semester on practicum placement in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
“I worked on a pilot study looking at the effects of television noise on food intake among patients with acquired brain injury,” she said.
“We found a significant increase in protein and energy intake when the television was turned off.”
Another research paper is currently in draft form as a result of this work.
Caitlin said she felt privileged to represent her cohort for the valedictorian award.
“It’s a reflection of everything I’ve done over the past four-and-a-half years, and what each and every one of my colleagues and peers has also accomplished,” she said.
After graduation, Caitlin plans to continue balancing her passion for dietetics and research.
“I will split my time between a part-time research position and working in private practice.”