Now with three majors, offering three possible career routes, it’s time to talk about the Bachelor of Nutrition Science.
We had a chat with Dr Matt Sharman, who is the lead academic in nutrition science, as well as the senior lecturer and course coordinator here at the University of Tasmania.
Public Health Nutrition, Dietetic Pathway, or Functional Foods and Health. If you don’t know which one to choose, Dr Sharman says that the Public Health Nutrition specialisation is a good starting point for students and offers the broadest opportunities. “It’s a good option if you’re not quite sure how you see your career panning out just yet and want to keep your options open”.
“The Dietetics program is designed for a subset of students who already know they want to go on to be a formal dietician and do postgraduate study”. So if your dream job is to be a dietician in a clinic, you’ll be picking this specialisation.
If you’re interested in the science of food, the analytical components of foods and the effects these have on the human body, it sounds like Functional Foods and Health is going to be your choice of the three majors!
Dr Sharman indicated that Tasmania’s track record of poor community nutrition and the associated links to chronic disease, make it an important place to study nutrition science. This is significant from both a community welfare perspective and the wealth of experiential opportunities available to students here.
While the Dietetic Pathway focuses more on biochemistry specialist units, preparing students for clinical settings, Public Health Nutrition and Dietetic Pathway students will embark on similar professional experience placements within the community.
We’re really lucky in Tasmania that we have access to a lot of industry contacts around the state who are working with disadvantaged populations. We have the Life Without Barriers organisation out near Scottsdale, we’ve sent students to Eat Well Tasmania, the Northern Suburbs Community Centre, the Ashleigh Youth Detention Centre and nursing homes. We have the opportunity where students are not locked into a certain experience, but rather we can tailor a student’s experience based on their career interests, with placements all over the state.
A key part of the Public Health specialisation and the professional experience placements is learning how to effectively communicate and better educate local communities through increasing awareness and access to healthy food options, and creating strategies for long-term healthy lifestyle changes.
On placements, we have students developing educational materials modelled off theories they’ve learnt in class. At Eat Well Tasmania, some of our students organised community dinner parties as a way of connecting with targeted populations, showing them how to make improved and sustainable nutrition choices. This year our placements were virtual due to the pandemic, but we are hoping we can go back to our hands-on placements again next year.
Functional Foods and Health
The Functional Foods and Health major is also quite unique as it’s delivered in collaboration with the School of Pharmacy.
“In this pathway you are taught how to analyse and measure the active components in particular foods, how to identify if they have an actual physiological effect in the body. You’ll also go through the laws in Australia about whether or not something can be labeled as a functional food or nutraceutical.”
Working with the School of Pharmacy, it’s not about getting pharmaceutical qualifications, but rather a comprehensive understanding of chemical analytics and testing, to better identify nutrients and their physiological effect.
Following this path way you could get into food science and work with the industries developing these functional foods, you could be working in research and identifying the particular components that go into these foods and the health effect on the consumer. For example, you could be working with cherries and looking to see if they can help prevent heart disease or hypertension.
The main aim of all the varying majors in this degree is to optimise human health through food, and the various ways this can be achieved through clinical outreach, public policy and community prevention strategies, and food science.
Dr Sharman also highlighted a loophole in your enrolment if you wanted to double-major and do two of the majors. “Simply forego your elective units from the first year and fill them with your second major choices. This way if you can’t decide between two majors, you won’t have to!”
If you would like to talk to Dr. Matt Sharman further about the three study options available as part of the Bachelor of Nutrition Science, he is more than happy to answer any questions you might have directly about the course.