- Course: PhD in public health nutrition
- PhD title: National dietary surveys in the WHO European Region: a review of provision, results and challenges
- Year of graduation: 2019
- Nationality: British
- Job title: Consultant
- Company: World Health Organisation
After graduating from her PhD at the University of Leeds, Holly worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow investigating diet and sustainability. She now works as a Consultant at the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe in Moscow.
Holly’s PhD was part-funded by a University of Leeds-based scholarship (LARS), and part-funded by WHO Europe. She was supervised by Professor Janet Cade.
Supporting World Health Organisation objectives
“I was motivated to carry out my research because it was directly linked to WHO aims and objectives, which I found very inspiring,” Holly said.
“I also realised that no one knew exactly what the state of play was in Europe regarding national dietary surveys, which I found surprising and disadvantageous to setting appropriate nutrition policy.”
She continued: “My broad aim was to provide an updated review of nationally representative dietary survey provision within the whole WHO European Region, across the lifecourse, with reference to disadvantaged groups, obesity and nutrients of concern.”
My PhD research was directly linked to WHO aims and objectives, which I found very inspiring.
From PhD to postdoctoral research and beyond
Holly explained her journey from PhD student to postdoctoral researcher, and how this led to her current role.
She said: “I did my PhD in Leeds because I was already based there as a part-time research assistant. I worked as a nutritionist at the ASDA head office in Leeds and as part of my continuing professional development, applied for and got a part-time research assistant job in the Nutritional Epidemiology Group (NEG) with Professor Janet Cade.”
“Since finishing my PhD I have worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for a short-term five-month project looking at diet and sustainability with Dr Darren Greenwood,” Holly continued.
“The project involved linking greenhouse gas emissions data to a large food database (myfood24) and testing this on a pilot sample. The aim of this project was to assess the feasibility of exploring the environmental impact of individual diets.”
She added: “I have just recently finished this project and started a new position as a Consultant working for the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe in Moscow.”
Holly said: “My supervisor, Professor Janet Cade, is a founding member of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Nutritional Epidemiology and so was very interested in research into the status of national dietary surveys across Europe. My postdoctoral supervisor, Dr. Darren Greenwood, is the WHO CC Director so was also interested.
“These surveys contribute data that are used in nutritional epidemiology. In my postdoctoral research I linked greenhouse gas emissions data to a large food database created by myfood24, a University spin-off company headed by Professor Cade.
“This was how I came to do my PhD. I did my post-doc in Leeds because I wanted to stay with the same fantastic team and continue working for the WHO CC with Janet and Darren.”
Holly continued: “Janet has been such an inspiration and she encouraged me to apply to do a PhD. At the time NEG was in the process of becoming a WHO Collaborating Centre (WHO CC) and they were willing to part-fund a PhD to look at topics that were priorities for them.
I owe my career to Professor Janet Cade, for being so supportive and believing in me, initially giving me the opportunity to join the group as a research assistant and then encouraging me and making huge efforts to enable me to do a PhD.
“She has always put opportunities my way, including speaking at conferences, publishing work, and being involved and ultimately doing an internship with WHO. This has directly led to me being in the position I am in now.”
I owe my career to Professor Janet Cade, for being so supportive and believing in me… encouraging me and making huge efforts to enable me to do a PhD.
Holly’s PhD research was desk-based, but, Holly explained, it involved extensive collaborations with people across Europe.
She said: “As I was mapping the provision of national dietary surveys and gathering as much survey data as possible, I liaised with nutrition experts and organisations carrying out these surveys across the 53 countries of the WHO European Region.”
Pursuing an internship
Being involved with WHO Europe enabled me to do an internship at the WHO European headquarters in Copenhagen, Holly explained.
She said: “This internship allowed me to learn about the policy aspects of nutrition and noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention. My post-doctoral research was also desk-based and involved similar skills of data gathering, management and analysis, literature searching and publication writing.”
“My time at Leeds has helped my career in more ways than I can describe,” Holly said.
“The experiences I have had whilst doing my PhD and postdoc have given me research skills, confidence in presenting and experience of national and international conferences, all of which have helped with and will continue to help with my future career.”
My time at Leeds has helped my career in more ways than I can describe… it has given me research skills and confidence.
Holly talked about her life at Leeds and explained what it’s like to be part of the postgraduate community on campus.
She said: “I enjoyed being in an office with other postgraduate researchers and we regularly caught up on an academic basis through weekly lunchtime seminars. These allowed us to showcase our work and learn what others in the group were doing, and to share ideas, knowledge and support.
“We also had monthly informal coffee mornings, and the occasional event or gathering outside of academia. I valued the postgraduate community and made some great friends.”
Holly added: “I actually live in York, so commuted to Leeds on the train. I loved living in York and working in Leeds, as it gives me the best of both worlds.”