Lynae HanksIt was an ambitious goal, but Lynae Hanks was up to the task. Typically, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition Sciences would graduate in five years because most students went straight from a bachelor’s degree to the doctoral program. The Brewton, Ala. native started the doctoral program in 2008 and finished it in three years.

“I was the first to enter the PhD program with a master’s degree,” said Hanks. “Dr. Jose Fernandez set the ambitious goal and I was able to accomplish it.”

She not only earned her master’s in the department but also completed her dietetic internship. She did a traineeship at the Clinical Research Unit, an independently-funded grant through the American Dietetic Association and the Cancer Prevention and Control Training Center. 

She is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow completing Interdisciplinary Training in Kidney-Related Research through a T32 Research Fellowship by the Nephrology Research and Training Center in the Department of Medicine. One of her mentors is Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D. an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences.

“My current focus is characterizing how disturbances in calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus metabolism manifest into early risk factors for chronic diseases across systems, particularly those pertaining to the bone-kidney nexus,” said Hanks.

Her doctoral work and postdoctoral fellow allow her the opportunity to work with various groups.

“Being involved in a multi-disciplined team, who continuously challenged common conjectures of others in the nutrition field and beyond, facilitated the practice of empirical scientific approach techniques,” said Hanks.

She said she tells students to allow for unexpected opportunities, be proactive, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and, above all, give it your best.

“Sometimes that opportunity may not permit being the best due to steep learning curves, time allowance, etc, but give 100 percent of whatever you have in every situation,” said Hanks. “Do not get so focused on going through the steps necessary to complete graduation that you lose sight of the future.  Look beyond and prepare for that is to come not just directly after graduation, but in pursuit of long-term goals.”