8/4/2022 Hannah Wirth

Alison BrandvoldCommunity-Academic Scholar:  Alison (Ali) Brandvold (she/her)

Project: Ali worked with Prof. Manabu Nakamura and Champaign County Christian Health Center (CCCHC) to assess patient health disparities that can be alleviated by the online, weight loss EMPOWER program and develop a plan to overcome logistic hurdles to start intervention. Learn more about the project.

Mentor reflections: Prof. Nakamura believes that Ali learned to work independently over the summer, with minimal instruction, to develop the next plan to achieve the project goal. "Alison came up with fantastic data in her work on the project that will help future planning," said Nakamura. "She knows the importance of her work for betterment of the community and doesn't do it for resume padding." 

Ashleigh Oliveira, a graduate student in the Nakamura lab, was impressed by Alison's ambition and her equally represented action on the project. She hopes that Alison gained some insight on the workings of research, how data is gathered, and how to present it meaningfully. "The third week meeting with Alison, I proposed that we could get some preliminary data and potentially collect survey data. Alison wanted to create the survey and collect the data," Oliveira said. "Alison is highly motivated and dependable. I could trust that she would do everything she committed to in a timely manner with excellent communication throughout the process. I felt like I was working with a well-seasoned colleague the entire summer."

Do you have a personal story or path that led to your interest in this research project?
I chose to pursue this CAS project after one of my family members underwent a gastric bypass surgery earlier this year. Seeing how the surgery affected them and their quality of life made me interested in making effective weight loss interventions more accessible for people with lower socioeconomic status.

How has participating in this program helped you toward your goals?
I started this summer with interest in studying clinical nutrition as a healthcare provider. The Community-Academic Scholars Program has helped me become even more passionate about nutrition and how it can be used as a powerful tool to improve people's health regardless of their socioeconomic background.

What was the most meaningful part of this experience? 
Being able to develop a relationship with Ashleigh Oliveira and Dr. Nakamura at the EMPOWER lab has been immensely rewarding for me this summer. I had never done undergraduate research before this, so I learned a great deal from them about how labs are run and how research is conducted. I also really loved how I was able to broaden my existing knowledge on nutrition and weight loss intervention. 

What advice do you have for future scholars or to those who are interested in applying for the program? 
Closely follow the timeline you make at the start of the summer. Myself, and most scholars I know, had issues with running out of time for data collection. The program goes way faster than you would expect.  Have conversations with your community partner and academic mentor as much as possible! Even if it's unrelated to your project, you can learn so much from them.