Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she didn’t know that she would end up jointly enrolled in both the Dietetic Internship and Ph.D. in Nutrition Sciences programs.
“I’d mentioned in my personal statement that my ultimate goal was to get a Ph.D., but I was not aware of a combined DI/Ph.D. program at UAB,” Schneider says. “I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call from Susan Miller, the Dietetic Internship program director. I came to visit UAB and absolutely loved it.”
Schneider completed her Dietetic Internship in June 2013 and became an RD in September 2013. Now she’s using her clinical training to bring a fresh perspective to the Ph.D. experience.
“My goal is to translate research into practice, thereby ensuring that dietitians provide evidence-based, quality care,” she says. “Since completing my Dietetic Internship, I have become the go-to RD on my research team.”
Schneider values the multidisciplinary atmosphere fostered by the UAB School of Health Professions. “The Department of Nutrition Sciences at UAB offers the unique experience to work among world-class researchers,” she says. “Being able to participate as part of a multi-disciplinary team is an important aspect of training, which the School of Health Professions provides.”
As a student in the Dietetic Internship program, for instance, Schneider had the opportunity to train alongside students from other UAB departments, such as Physical Therapy, Nursing, and Medicine.
“It was great for showing us how our disciplines overlap and why it is important to get these varying perspectives to create the most effective plan for a patient,” she says.
Schneider’s Ph.D. studies focus on the hormonal composition of breastmilk and its relationship to maternal and infant body composition. “I have always been interested in endocrinology and fascinated by the complexity of hormones and their actions in the body,” she says. “As I learned more about breastmilk, I realized how much we still don’t know about its potential effects on infant growth and body composition. From a clinical perspective, I think it is important to understand how maternal body composition and change in body composition during breastfeeding might influence these hormones in the milk.”
Schneider’s passion and work ethic recently earned her the Ireland Research Travel Scholarship, with which she will travel to the University of Oklahoma to train in the lab of David Fields, Ph.D.
“There are no investigators at UAB who examine hormonal composition in breast milk or who use dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to assess regional body composition in infants,” Schneider explains. “Instead of altering my project so I could get started right away, I applied for and was awarded the scholarship. I am grateful to have the opportunity to receive some training at another institution to complement what I am learning here at UAB and believe this will provide me with a unique set of skills to use as I embark on my career.”
The Ireland Research Travel Scholarship will enable Schneider to learn research methods that are crucial to conducting dissertation work in her area of interest. “This will also allow me to develop the appropriate protocols so that other investigators in the future at UAB will be able to use these methods and benefit from my training,” she says.
Schneider’s co-authored paper, “Association of late-night carbohydrate intake with glucose tolerance among pregnant African American women,”Association of late-night carbohydrate intake with glucose tolerance among pregnant African American women,” is published in Maternal and Child Nutrition. Another paper, "Associations of BML Gestational Weight Gain and Breastfeeding with Postpartum Weight Change," earned her one of two first place prizes awarded for nutrition at the 2015 UAB Graduate Student Research Days. Her next paper will examine the associations of gestational weight gain and breastfeeding with postpartum weight retention in a cohort of African American women.
After graduation, Schneider plans to work in a clinical setting while continuing to conduct research. Eventually, she would love to teach college-level courses. Whatever path she decides to take, she knows that she will be prepared.
“Having both degrees will offer me a lot of flexibility in my future career path, as well as make me a more competitive and unique job applicant,” she says. “Because of my clinical background, I tend to look at things differently than a more traditional Ph.D.The combination of research and clinical trainingwill help me move the field of nutrition and dietetics forward. It will help me to be a more well-rounded professional.”