Rawan AlSarraf '27G

Preparing for a career in nutritional epidemiology
UNH doctoral candidate Rawan AlSarraf

Rawan AlSarraf ’27G is a doctoral candidate in the nutritional sciences Ph.D. program. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from Drexel University and a master’s degree in nutrition and metabolism from Boston University.

Here is an interesting fact about Rawan: she is also an Olympic weightlifter for Kuwait, her home country.

COLSA: How would you explain your discipline and/or research to a non-scientist?

Rawan AlSarraf: In short, nutrition is the study of how food affects our health. The field within nutrition that I am interested in is called nutrition epidemiology. This is the study of nutrition trends and health outcomes on a population level. My research interests involve how other factors (such as socioeconomic status, geography, accessibility, etc.) influence the food choices we make, subsequently influencing our health.

COLSA: Why is your research important?

Rawan: I think it's important to remember that nothing happens in a vacuum when it comes to the human body. There is so much more to nutrition than the balance of calories consumed versus calories used. Health is multifaceted, and the biochemical effect of the food we eat is only one of the many facets. We would be remiss to focus solely on the metabolism-side of nutrition without considering the human experience as a whole!

COLSA: What do you consider your biggest challenge?

Rawan: Reminding myself to be patient and that good research takes time.

UNH doctoral candidate Rawan AlSarraf

COLSA: What drives you?

Rawan: The spread of misinformation on media platforms. Nutrition information gets warped to produce a catchy headline so often, but it's much more nuanced than what we see on the surface. My overarching goal is to remind the public that nutrition lives in the gray area - nothing is inherently bad or good for you, it's dependent on the context.

COLSA: Why did you choose UNH?

Rawan: I chose UNH specifically to work with Dr. Maria Carlota Dao. Dr. Dao's research is fascinating to me and aligns with my research interests. The gorgeous campus, incredible staff and colleagues, and the plentiful resources to ensure our success as students are all added bonuses.

COLSA: What do you plan to do with your degree?

Rawan: I hope to pursue a career in nutrition epidemiology research.