This Liverpool Hope University student is helping to tackle dietary problems experienced by women during the menopause.
And Kathryn Ollier has been handed a lucrative grant to conduct her important research, too.
The 23-year-old is studying Nutrition at Hope, under the guidance of Dr Richard Webb, Lecturer in Clinical Nutrition, and is in the final stretch of her second year.
She’s been given the rare chance to spend the summer delving into an extensive research project involving thousands of participants, as she bids to unlock the reasons why some women suffer serious health problems when going through ‘the change’.
Kathryn has been handed a £500 research grant from The Nutrition Society.
She - along with Dr Webb and a collaborator at Oxford Brookes University - will present findings at the Nutrition Futures conference later this year.
Kathryn, Student Ambassador for The Nutrition Society at Hope and from Barnton, Cheshire, said: “This is a great opportunity for me, and it’s giving me analytical skills that I wouldn’t normally have developed as a second year student.
“Being able to sit in on the conversations Dr Webb and his colleagues are having, as they discuss their critical thinking, has been so interesting.
“I think it definitely gives me a CV-enhancing edge over some of my peers.”
The data being analysed comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by America’s Government-led Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s a major resource from a survey which recruits around 7,000 participants each year, and records anthropometric data, as well as taking blood samples and dietary information.
Dr Webb adds: “This is a really high quality large-scale dataset and for Kathryn’s study we’re interested in looking specifically at menopausal women.
“We know that when women go through the change they experience an increase in cardiovascular risk.
“This generally results from an increased prevalence of the ‘metabolic syndrome’, a clustering of conditions which include high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels and increased visceral fat.
“Part of the problem here is that the menopause causes a reduction in oestrogen. This can negatively impact upon body fat distribution which may in part be responsible for triggering elements of the metabolic syndrome and raising the risk of heart disease - which is clearly not good.
“What we’re interested in is how this might also be related to eating behaviours and if we gain this knowledge we can then start to think about dietary strategies to reduce risks.
“To date, there has been no research looking into these aspects using NHANES data and having such a large cohort at our disposal allows for stratification which could, ultimately, inform personalised nutrition approaches in the future."
Kathryn’s Nutrition Society grant is called the ‘Summer Studentship Project’, and as the name suggests she’ll be working on it ahead of her third year commencing.
She’s also considering studying for a Masters in the future, and adds: “I like the idea of a future career in research, so this project is hopefully a really good platform.”
To find out more about studying Nutrition at Hope, head here.