Texas Tech University

Nutritional Science Faculty, Students Win National Conference Awards

Cara Vandergriff

April 26, 2016


In addition to two faculty presentations, eight undergraduate and graduate students from Texas Tech won awards at the American Society for Nutrition’s conference.


A group of Nutritional Sciences faculty, postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students from Texas Tech University recently attended the 80th annual Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting conference in San Diego, hosted by the American Society for Nutrition in conjunction with Experimental Biology. The conference, an interdisciplinary meeting focused on bringing together various societies for lectures, oral and poster sessions, career services and exhibits, is the largest meeting held for nutrition research and is open to all universities with graduate-level nutrition programs.

Three of the four Texas Tech undergraduate students who attended the conference were awarded travel awards from the Texas Tech Center for Active Learning and Undergraduate Engagement for their presentations on their research. These students were London Allen, Sara Alhaj and Brianna George. Two students, George and Brandon Stewart, also were awarded Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Minority Access to Research Careers program travel awards for their presentations. Alhaj won the highest awards of all the undergraduate students, being elected to participate in the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Poster Competition and taking home a second place prize for her research on how breast cancer cells are affected by fat cells and nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. This presentation was co-authored by graduate student Arwa Aljawadi.


Of the nine graduate students who attended the conference, four received awards for their research presentations. Erin Yen was selected to participate in the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Poster Competition and was one of 12 finalists out of 500 national entries in the Graduate Student Research Award Oral Competition for her presentation on micro RNAs as novel mediators of the effects of omega 3 fatty acids in adipocytes and obesity. This presentation was also coauthored by two other graduate students, Mandana Pahlavani and Nadeeja Wijayatunga, who also won American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate/postdoctoral travel awards for their presentations. Graduate student Jie Liu was a finalist for the North America Chinese Society for Nutrition travel award.

One postdoctoral student, Abu Brenda Ariba Zarhari, was sponsored by the AGS Net to participate in the conference and hosted a discussion at the American Society for Nutrition International Forum on harnessing capacity building opportunities for young African nutritionists.

Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa
Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa

In addition, Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa hosted a United States Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) Project Director's research meeting, sponsored by ASN and funded by USDA.

The nutritional sciences department's research, which focuses on identifying dietary or genetic means to reduce obesity-associated inflammation as well as clinical and community interventions to improve health and reduce chronic disease, includes work done by undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students – many of whom presented their research at the conference.

Moustaid-Moussa said the number of Texas Tech students specializing in nutritional sciences along with the record-breaking number who won competitive awards at the conference speaks volumes about the quality of the nutritional sciences department and the research being done at Texas Tech.

“Having this many students attend Texas Tech to study nutritional sciences and receiving a record-breaking number of national awards is amazing,” Moustaid-Moussa said. “Many of these awards are highly competitive with very few students being selected, and the competition is very tough. This speaks of the quality of research we do and this gives great visibility to Texas Tech.”