Welcome to Friedman! An Academic Tour from Current Students

by Rachel Perez

Congratulations for being accepted into the Friedman School! As you will learn, the School has two distinct branches, (the Department of Nutrition Science and the Department of Food and Nutrition Policy ), seven different degree tracks, and an enthusiastic student body.   Friedman’s multidisciplinary approach encourages collaboration and allows students to capitalize on their peers’ broad range of expertise.  Excited yet? Here’s a preview to Friedman’s degree programs with perspectives from current students.

The Department of Nutrition Science houses three programs: Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition, the Frances Stern Dietetic Internship, and Nutrition Epidemiology.            In the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition (BMN) program, students focus on the biochemical, physiological, and molecular processes of nutrition as they gain skills for research or teaching in industry, government and academia.  Payal Batra, who is originally from India, was drawn to the BMN program for its expert faculty and extensive nutrition research.  Now a second-year PhD student, Batra’s work in an energy metabolism lab is giving her expertise in issues related to weight gain and obesity, which is her primary field of interest. Although she hopes to eventually return to India, she notes “The warm attitude of people at Friedman made my transition to this new country and culture very smooth.  The interactive environment and the diversity of faculty and students have made learning a joyous experience.”

An additional Nutrition Science program is the Frances Stern Dietetic Internship and Combined Masters Program, which is a combined degree with the Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center.  Students gain a master’s degree in nutrition, and complete clinical competencies necessary for a Registered Dietitian license.  A Registered Dietitian is a health care practitioner trained to use nutrition therapy for the treatment and prevention of disease.

The final program within the department is the Nutritional Epidemiology program, where students learn to design, implement, and analyze epidemiologic studies to answer nutrition research questions.  Vinh Tran, a first-year masters student, became interested in nutrition and epidemiology during his undergraduate studies when he worked for the Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Department at the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center for the Aging.  Tran says, “I’m enjoying the wide range of classes that I get to take.  From biochemistry to statistics, I’m getting a good foundation.”

Friedman’s second department, the Department of Food and Nutrition Policy, consists of four programs: Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Food Policy and Applied Nutrition, Humanitarian Assistance, and Nutrition Communication.

The Agriculture, Food and Environment (AFE) program looks at food production from ecological, political and social viewpoints. Chelsea Lewis, a second year AFE student, was attracted to the program after observing a rift between conservationists and social justice advocates in the environmental movement. “I am drawn to agriculture and food justice as a way to bridge that gap,” she says.  As she finishes her degree she looks forward to a career promoting sustainable agriculture in the Northeast.  Lewis has augmented her Friedman classes with courses at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Tufts’ Department of Urban Environmental Policy and Planning.  She hopes that skills such as marketing, GIS mapping, and grant writing will be useful in multiple job settings. “I’ve really tried to get a broad skill set while at Friedman.”

The Food Policy and Applied Nutrition (FPAN) program looks at food from policy and consumer perspectives.  For Katie Houk, a first-year master’s student, her interest in FPAN stems from working as a basic sanitation Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia. Katie reflects, “After returning home, I thought a graduate program in international nutrition would provide a good basis for continuing in development programs abroad with a focus on working with women and children.” She’s enjoyed FPAN thus far, and comments, “The econometrics and research skills we’re learning will really serve us in doing more structured thinking about issues we all seem to care about intuitively.”

The Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) program is a one-year master’s of art program offering three core classes: humanitarian issues, humanitarian aid, and nutrition in complex emergencies.  Additional electives allow students to further develop their specific interests in topics such as development aid and international law.

In the Nutrition Communications (Nut Comm) program, students practice translating nutrition science into information that is useful for the general public. Lindsay Peterson, a second-year master’s student, said that before coming to Friedman she was contemplating a career in writing or health sciences. The Nut Comm program has given her the opportunity to pursue both.  She comments, “I think the electives allow you to figure out what nutrition issues are most important to you, and the communications classes give you the tools to share your message.”  Now as she prepares to graduate, Peterson says, “The [program] gave me a chance to explore everything from consumer writing and public relations to patient education and grant preparation. I feel equipped to be successful in a range of areas, so at this point I am just looking for the right opportunity.”

As we end our tour, I hope you’ve gained insight into the Friedman academics and enjoyed the student viewpoints.  We are excited to see you soon!

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