Paige Wuchner, Breanna Foster, Jessica Lieffers, Erin Mansell, Brooke Ackerman

Nourishing minds through research: The future of dietetics

Dr. Jessica Lieffers (PhD) leads NUTRITION 230 through the FYRE initiative at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

By Jason Belhumeur

In the heart of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, Dr. Jessica Lieffers (PhD), a seasoned associate professor and registered dietitian, is excited to be involved in a transformative journey for future dietitians, for the sixth year in a row. Through the NUTR 230 course at USask, nutrition students dive into the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) initiative, guiding them towards an understanding of data gathering and research in their field.

The FYRE initiative is campus wide, but within the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, it stands out for its distinctive focus on gathering and analyzing original survey research data. Lieffers’ students take on this research-driven-journey culminating in a captivating poster showcase. This showcase becomes a focal point for students, allowing them to engage with peers, faculty, and staff, while proudly sharing their research beyond the confines of the classroom. 

In the recent fall term, Lieffers organized 24 nutrition students, grouping them into six teams. Each team covered a wide range of popular hot topics chosen by students such as the use of greens powder supplements, advanced meal preparation, consumption of cow’s milk vs. plant-based beverages, eating with others, and fast-food consumption. All posters are available to browse on the USask Harvest website.

Another example of a popular discussion poster was on rising grocery store prices – how the surge in prices led to “sticker shock” at the grocery store. Topics like this received much attention, discussion, and engagement, fostering robust discussions and conversation.

The NUTR 230 FYRE poster showcase, held in early December, drew an enthusiastic crowd of more than 70 attendees. The room buzzed with energy as the students unveiled their high-quality work produced under Lieffers’ guidance.

“It is such a highlight of my work as a faculty member at USask to witness the skill and knowledge development gained by students through this process and how proud they are of their final posters when the course is complete,” she said.

Esther Ha, a second-year nutrition student, expanded on the benefits she received from working with Lieffers.

“Thanks to the support of Dr Lieffers, I even had the opportunity to be an abstract presenter at the 2023 Dietitians of Canada Conference in Montreal,” Ha said.

Beyond individual growth, the showcase becomes a hub for future dietitian colleagues. It facilitates connections among BSc Nutrition students and provides upper-year students with an invaluable opportunity to hone their engagement with nutrition research.

“The data gathered by first-year students is also valuable to upper-year students completing their nutrition program planning course because they able to see information gathered on the USask population and tailor their programs to the needs identified in the FYRE projects,” said third-year nutrition student Taya Sparks.

Jade Tameling, Kylie Mitzel, John Poppleton, Jose Manlapaz

Under Lieffers’ guidance, the FYRE initiative not only fosters academic development but also moulds a community of upcoming dietitians, arming them with the skills needed to navigate the ever-changing landscape of Dietetics and Nutrition.

March is Nutrition Month: Dietitians contribute significantly to community health through research endeavours, and Nutrition Month provides an ideal occasion to spotlight the remarkable efforts of our first-year nutrition students. These students have engaged in original research as a component of their NUTR 230: Professional Practice I course, showcasing their dedication to advancing nutritional knowledge.

If you are interested in finding reputable information about general healthy eating for Nutrition Month, please visit Dietitians of Canada’s website.