2022 Early Career Research Award Winner
- Stephanie Nishi, from Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain), won the Early Career Research Award of 2022. Her pitch is entiteled "Hydration status, water intake and changes in cognitive performance in older adults: A prospective cohort".
Relive Stephanie Nishi's pitch and those of the other awesome finalists of #ECRA2022:
We have met Stephanie Nishi, the 2022 Early Career Researcher Award Winner at the 14th Hydration for Health scientific conference. Passionate, ambitious and friendly, we got to know Stephanie and her long-term goals in the world of scientific research.
Do you want to find out more about Stephanie Nishi? Check out the interview below.
We will start from the very beginning: When and how did your journey in research start?
My introduction to research began due to a lot of luck and plenty of perseverance. In my teens, I borrowed a book from my mom that talked about how lifestyle factors could impact a person’s quality of life from an anthropology, biology, and physiology perspective. When reading this book, one study in particular caught my attention and it happened to be conducted by an investigator who was based in Toronto, Canada where I was then living. At the time I was super shy, but their work interested me so much that I reached out and surprisingly received a reply! Eventually, this led to my first hands-on research volunteer experience with the world renown Dr. David Jenkins and Dr. Cyril Kendall at St. Michael´s Hospital and the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto.
In terms of your scientific career, what are your long-term aspirations or goals?
Concurrently while gaining research experience, I became a Registered Dietitian (RD) following completion of an accredited university degree and a clinical internship where I gained practical experiences and skills in clinical, industry, and community health practice settings. Experiences as a RD in conjunction with those in research have motivated me to continue contributing to scientific discovery and evidence-based practice to support the availability of current, valid, and relevant evidence for health care practice.
At present, I aspire to be able to support evidence-based practice and knowledge dissemination with the goal of informing clinical practice, public health policy, and nutrition guidelines through my research, teaching, and other endeavours. To do so, I strive to be inspired and inspiring, with the aim of creating and cultivating positive, productive environments. In the long-term I aspire to continue merging these interests in research, dietetics, and knowledge dissemination whether that be in academia, government, industry, a clinical setting, or beyond.
I aspire to be able to support evidence-based practice and knowledge dissemination with the goal of informing clinical practice, public health policy, and nutrition guidelines through my research, teaching, and other endeavours.
How did you feel participating in the Early Career Researcher Award competition? And what does winning the early career researcher award mean to you?
This was a wonderful experience! It offered the chance to share my own research, while also providing the opportunity to learn from other researchers and continue to broaden my knowledge and skills.
I was truly honoured to have been able to participate in this competition with fantastic fellow finalists and was surprised to ultimately be voted as the recipient of the Early Career Research Award.
This acknowledgement is very meaningful to me, especially given “imposter syndrome” can have a way of sneaking up. This recognition is reaffirming that the research I am doing is of interest and importance. I am also grateful to be able to represent and showcase research being conducted with the PREDIMED-Plus team, led by Prof. Jordi Salas-Salvadó, and the Human Nutrition Unit in the Dept. de Bioquimica i Biotecnologia at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain.
What was the experience of presenting your research in only 3 minutes like? Was it challenging mainly because of the time limit?
The 3-minute time limit was a challenge! Being enthusiastic about research, I found I wanted to keep sharing more (and more) about the work. When approaching this challenge, my goals were to engage the audience, communicate the main aspects of the research conducted, while also looking at the bigger picture. This was a good experience in getting to hone my skills in presenting complex concepts in a succinct and accessible way.
How enriching was the mentorship experience with the Hydration for Health scientific committee? Tell us about this experience and how it helped you prepare for the contest.
Very enriching! Mentorship from the Scientific Committee and the one-on-one coaching offered by a previous finalist was such a unique and valuable experience to be offered by a conference.
The expertise from the Scientific Committee (composed of Dr. Joan Gandy, Prof. Evan Johnson, and Dr. Widjaja Lukito) was a privilege to receive. Being able to have a conversation with these experts and present a test pitch to them prior to the conference and tweak the presentation based on their feedback was very helpful and informative.
Being partnered with a finalist from a previous year further created the feeling of a connected and supportive environment. Dr. Travis Anderson was the finalist alumni paired with me and I was so grateful for his familiarity with the competition process and encouragement.
Fundamentally, I believe mentorship plays a huge role in the aspiration of continuing to be inspired and hopefully one day inspiring. This mentorship experience was inspiring, it shed light on new perspectives and knowledge, and generated even more enthusiasm and anticipation for the conference
Mentorship from the Scientific Committee and the one-on-one coaching offered by a previous finalist was such a unique and valuable experience to be offered by a conference.
Being able to have a conversation with these experts and present a test pitch to them prior to the conference and tweak the presentation based on their feedback was very helpful and informative.
Regarding your pitch, how might research into hydration and cognitive function across different disciplines from nutrition to public health impact on clinical practice in the foreseeable future?
I am curious to see how current and upcoming research in the field of hydration and cognition, especially from different disciplines, may impact clinical practice and public health in the future. Currently, I feel many questions remain to be explored to help provide evidence to inform clinical practice and health guidelines.
As a dietitian evidence-based practice is so important to me, yet it is challenging when evidence to guide practice decisions is not available or limited. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia do not currently include recommendations related to water intake or hydration status, possibly due to limitations in the evidence currently available.
In my pitch I presented research, which to our knowledge is the first of its kind, of a multi-year longitudinal assessment of the association between hydration status and water intake with changes in cognitive performance in community-living older adults. The hope is that the findings will continue to spark future research, and in future with more research and robust evidence it may be appropriate to incorporate recommendations for water intake and hydration status in cognitive related nutrition and public health guidelines.
The hope is that the findings will continue to spark future research, and in future with more research and robust evidence it may be appropriate to incorporate recommendations for water intake and hydration status in cognitive related nutrition and public health guidelines.
And to conclude, can you share with us a piece of advice on how important would you say hydration is?
Encouraging a diet of nutrient- (and water-) dense foods and choosing water as a beverage is universally highlighted by various food guides around the world to maintain health and hence support a good quality of life. Yet, I feel nutritional sciences is still a relatively young field compared to other sciences and there is still so much potential to enhance our knowledge, improve accessibility, and consider the bigger picture (such as environmental and societal impacts) by continuing to explore how to optimize nutrition and hydration for health – which is both daunting and exciting!
Lastly, I would like to thank the conference organizers, the scientific committee, finalist alumni coaches, fellow finalists, my colleagues, and all attendees for supporting initiatives such as this, the continued development of researchers, and the conduct and dissemination of research (and for taking the time to read to the end of this interview 😊).
Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your experience with us and congratulations for winning the 2022 edition!
During the Early Career Researcher Award contest, candidates never fail to impress the scientific committee as well as the hydrationist community with high quality abstracts and presentations. This contest gives us the opportunity to witness the dedication of the new generation and how much knowledge and hard work they are willing to invest given a platform and an opportunity to do so.
Our goal when creating this contest was to support the future of hydration science and encouraging more interests in this field of study. Looking at the 2022 candidates makes us feel proud and confident about how promising the future looks for hydration research:
- Hydration status, water intake and changes in cognitive performance in older adults: A prospective cohort
Stephanie Nishi. Universitat Rovira i Virgili - Spain
- Changes in female sex hormones and copeptin on body water regulation and fluid intake in naturally cycling females
Mitchell Zaplatosch. University of North Carolina at Greensboro - USA
- A systematic review and meta-analysis to establish how many older people are dehydrated in community and long-term care settings
Ellice Parkinson. University of East Anglia, Norwich - UK
- Sex and Habitual Water Intake are Related to Dimensions of Mood
Kevin Miller. University of Wyoming - USA
- Tap Water Consumption and Perceptions in US Latinx Adults
Abigail Colburn. Arizona State University - US