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Dr. Hooshmand Interview
Recently I had the privilege to interview the successful Dr. Hooshmand, an undergraduate and graduate professor here at SDSU. Dr. Hooshmand has her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Nutrition as well as published many articles and presented her research at conferences around the world. I can honestly say, digging into Dr. Hooshmand’s background and experience at SDSU was inspiring! When I asked her about her research and time teaching, her fiery passion was undeniable. Anyone who has had the honor of having her as a professor has witnessed her love for nutrition. Personally, as an aspiring researcher and educator, it was motivating to speak to someone who has “made it.” The journey may be difficult and taxing, but Dr. Hooshmand has proven to me that it will all be worth it. Enjoy the interview below:
● Question 1: What drew Dr. Hooshmand to the subject of nutrition initially? She did not have a dying passion for nutrition originally, however, she did find it fascinating. Growing up in Iran, she was able to choose her undergrad and found nutrition to be suitable for her at the time. By her second year of college, she developed a strong interest in nutrition and knew she had chosen the correct path for herself when she began partaking in research with faculty members.
● Question 2: Was a career in nutrition always her goal for the future? No, but after her second year of undergrad it was. She truly believed there was nothing “cooler” to study at that time and “It still is so fascinating!!” Her backup plan was to be an artist, “I paint and dance.”
● Question 3: Did she always know she wanted to get her P.h.D.? She knew she wanted her P.h.D. her second year of undergrad after assisting in research with faculty members.
● Question 4: What made her interested in the area of bone health? When she started grad school she was assigned to a project by the faculty. Her advisor was working on bone and cartilage and had funding for that area of research. “After one year, it was something I did not want to change. Most people change areas after training in an area, but I stayed in it! There is not many people working in bone health and nutrition like there is with obesity, cancer, and inflammation.”
● Question 5: What is her favorite aspect of research? “The outcome that I see when I improve bone density and my subjects are so happy. Improving bone density when you are old is a big deal! Also, when I publish a study and I get emails from people that have read my study and they talk about how they appreciate the kind of research that I do, and putting perspective in what food to consume for their bone health. It makes me happy knowing someone who is in need of this information is reading it. It is so rewarding! But I love every part of the kind of research that I do. I do all human, animal, and cell culture. Cell is more mechanistic, human is more applied, but there are limitations on what research you can do with people.”
● Question 6: What is her least favorite aspect of research? “Struggling for funding. I get nervous when I can't get enough funding for research, which then puts my research on hold.” The process of funding is to first write a proposal then submit it to different agencies. “So many are submitted, maybe 20 per year that we submit, and only 1 of them get funded. Rate of funding is low so it is not easy to get research. But I enjoy writing my proposal.” Getting a rejection letter is always difficult.
● Question 7: What is the least favorite part of your job? “I love my job! It might sound cheesy to you! But Sunday nights I am excited that tomorrow is Monday and I get to go to work! I always have papers or presentations to work on or I am working with a student. There is nothing that makes me happier than my job. I feel like everyone should have a job like that! Sometimes I think I like research more than teaching, but then I get in the classroom and I am so happy! I wouldn't change it for anything! Seriously!”
● Question 8: What travels has her career brought her? “ALOT! Conferences and speaking that I do. Chile, France, UK, Canada, Hong Kong and more! All over the U.S. for conferences, 2-3 minimal each year. They don't pay for you to go, but as a faculty at a University we have a set amount of money to travel and we can apply for grants to travel. Even students can apply!”
● Question 9: What was her most challenging obstacle she has faced in her career/education? “Living far from my family. When you are 22 and leave your country and friends and family. I try to visit them in Canada or other countries when I can. I could not travel back and forth because as an Iranian student I only got one entry visa into the U.S. I feel like I was so young, I didn't know what to expect, it was so unknown for me. The first few months were hard. Aside from that, people have been really nice to me all throughout grad school, and my colleagues now are really like my family.”
● Question 10: What advice would she give to nutrition students? She encourages students to get to know about research in their undergrad. “As a person that is very aware of the field and to be a good RD, you HAVE to understand research and interpret it.”
● Question 11: Where does she see herself taking her career in the future? “Staying here in academics! I don’t think I would ever move locations, I love SDSU and San Diego.”
● Question 12: What advice does she have for those who are in the process of getting their degree/PhD? “Whatever training you are getting, you don’t have to stay in that area. You have to be open to the idea that you have learned how to learn and you can teach yourself! You can always start to go into a different area of research. Do not be afraid of that.”
● Question 13: What is an aspect of getting your PHD/research that was surprising to her? Something she wishes she had knew beforehand? “Your whole life is school during your PhD! Grad school is your life, you don’t have any extra time! All of it is devoted to education. After a few months I felt like I was so consumed with work and research, I didn't have time for anything else. It took a while to balance my life. The first thing to figure out is how to find that balance, learn to move things in a parallel, you can’t wait until the exam date. You have to study little by little throughout everyday! If you wait until the last minute, what if something else is going on? Move everything in parallel.”
I want to thank Dr. Hooshmand for her time and insight into her life as a nutrition professional. I would encourage anybody looking to explore research in this field to speak with her and learn from her guidance. I am so beyond thankful to have her as a professor and mentor.