McNair Scholar Esther Olasoji

Name: Esther Olasoji
Age: 20
Year: Junior
Major: Food science and human nutrition/Microbiology and cell science dual major

Her Campus: What research are you currently conducting as a McNair Scholar?
Esther Olasoji:
“As a McNair Scholar, I am currently conducting research in the animal sciences department under Dr. Adegbola Adesogan in the Ruminant Nutrition Lab. As an undergraduate researcher in that lab, my current project involves investigating the antimicrobial effects of tropical spice extracts on pathogenic E. coli and a spoilage yeast. It is actually a funny setup because I major in human nutrition and microbiology, but I do research in a completely different department. However, I believe that all three impact agriculture, a passion of mine.”

HC: How has the McNair Scholars Program prepared you for graduate school application?
EO: “The McNair Scholars Program has truly made me feel much more secure in what I want to do with my life. I am currently pre-MD/PhD, which means I am pursuing programs that offer combined MD and PhD programs to become a physician scientist. The idea of conducting research while pursuing medicine has always been a dream of mine, even though before joining McNair, I did not know that such a program existed. McNair has given me a lot of insight into what it takes to get into graduate school and successfully complete it. The program provided GRE prep, which allowed me to take the GRE by the end of my sophomore year, which is definitely one less stressor I need to worry about during my junior year. The program has also given me ample opportunities to present my research, which has given me experience that will benefit my graduate school application. It also provides many workshops that cover the different aspects of grad school applications and the entire process. All in all, the McNair Scholars Program has played probably the most significant role in my undergraduate career.”

HC: What progress do you wish to see in the research toward fighting childhood obesity?
EO: “Though I am not currently researching childhood obesity, it is definitely an element of my studies that needs to be discussed more often. I hope to see more research involving diet intervention plans and their outcomes. Oftentimes, when people discuss childhood obesity, they simply state that it is a problem that needs to be fixed, yet rarely do people have a novel idea or innovative research to backup their ideas. When it comes to fighting childhood obesity, researchers and policymakers need to look into all of the aspects that affect a child’s diet, including family life, school life, extracurricular activities and so on. Implementing changes in a school’s lunch plan may be useless if we are not making changes to the food that they receive at home or at other places they frequent often.”

HC: What have you learned from your peer adviser on your path toward a PhD?
EO: “My peer adviser is currently Candice Ulmer, and she’s great! One of the best things she has taught me is how to stay grounded as I move forward. I am one of those people that takes on a lot of things at once, but she is always there to give me a smile and ask, ‘How are things?’ to snap me back into reality.”

HC: What opportunities are you most thankful to this program for offering you?
EO: “Though the McNair Scholars Program has offered me countless fantastic resources, I think most of all I am thankful for the family it has provided me with. I was originally born in Nigeria, and my immediate family (my father, mother, older brother and I) have moved together for as long as I can remember. We have always been inseparable. When I came to the university and had to be away from my family, it was difficult finding a niche that I could call home here in Gainesville. Luckily, I found that niche through the McNair Scholars Program. The director, Dr. Samesha Barnes, and our program assistant, Ms. Ronda Vinson, are caring yet stern and are always looking out for the best interest of their students. My cohort includes some of the best people I’ve met here at UF, and I can’t imagine what I would be without them.”

Photo Courtesy of Esther Olasoji