IrSPEN Prize for Best Undergraduate Research Project 2018

IrSPEN Prize for Best Undergraduate Research Project 2018

IrSPEN Prize for Best Undergraduate Research Project in Human Nutrition and Dietetics TCD/DIT Joint Degree

Antje von der Schulenburg, BSc (Hons), was awarded the IrSPEN prize for Best Overall Research Project 2018 for her undergraduate study on vitamin D and inflammation in older adults.

Antje developed her passion for nutrition and scientific research while working in areas as diverse as teaching and market research and in positions in the tech companies Apple and Google. Spending time shadowing a Dietitian in The National Maternity Hospital Holles Street and completing a foundation year in nutritional sciences confirmed Dietetics was the right path for her.

She initially began studying Public Health Nutrition which fed her interest in health promotion and population health. With high academic performance, support from lecturers and undergoing an intense application and interview process, she was offered a place on the only undergraduate course in Nutrition and Dietetics in Ireland as a mature student.

Antje says she is extremely grateful for the opportunities the course in Human Nutrition and Dietetics have afforded her. “It was a challenging road to reaching my goal of becoming a Dietitian, but every minute was worth it and I have not looked back since. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, the practical placements and in particular elements of the course related to nutrition and metabolism, behaviour change and research. I would like to thank my outstandingly supportive lecturers and my class for making the four years so special and making me feel I have arrived at my calling. I also would like to thank in particular my project supervisors Prof Maria O’Sullivan and Dr Niamh Aspell for their guidance. I have learned so much from them and they really have sparked a passion for further research in me.”

Her final year project focused on the relationship between vitamin D status and inflammation in ageing adults. Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), she examined the correlation between serum vitamin D levels in an older population and levels of inflammatory markers. Her research identified a statistically significant relationship between serum vitamin D and inflammation, after adjusting for a series of confounders including waist circumference. However, interestingly, this relationship was only consistent in individuals with deficient vitamin D status (<30nmols/L). Whilst acknowledging that her study was cross-sectional in design and thus causality could not be determined, Antje concluded that her findings provide additional evidence for the potential role of vitamin D modulating inflammatory processes and the importance of public health strategies to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

Antje currently enjoys her work as a Community Dietitian in a dynamic team in Dublin West and South City, a role she started soon after graduating. She is running busy Dietetic clinics and is leading educational groups, covering areas such as renal disease, diabetes, weight management, dysphagia and preventing and treating malnutrition in the community. However, the research bug has bitten, and she would like to continue improving nutrition care by building up the evidence base behind nutrition interventions by pursuing further research. “I would like to thank IrSPEN wholeheartedly for the award. It is very special for me as it brought home what I have achieved over the course. I could not have done it without friends and family, especially my husband Konstantin. While he looked forward to an early retirement with me going back to full-time paid work, there may be another few years of student budgets – all in the name of science!