A Proud Student

I had the privilege of being in San Diego last week, at the Experimental Biology Conference 2012. The conference is basically a gathering of 15,000 related to the fields of biology and nutrition.

The conference was really amazing, listening in on groundbreaking nutrition research made me want to be a part of all the exciting things that were happening. The conference center was HUGE, and basically I saw all of my nutrition professors at some point in time. But, the reason I am writing this blog entry is because I wanted to recognize Dr. Haas, a professor that has truly molded me in so many different ways.

I first met Dr. Haas halfway through junior year when I was trying to figure out an honors thesis topic. I knew that I wanted to do it in global health, but data on measures of global health are very difficult to find (not to mention extremely broad, and I wasn’t sure how to narrow down what aspect of global health I was actually interested in). I met with many different professors, all of whom gave me good advice, but nothing tangible to work with. However, they all seemed to think I should talk to Dr. Haas, so I decided to shoot him an email.

He responded literally right away, inviting me to come speak with him. I showed up at his door and gave him the same talk I gave the previous professors I had talked to, expecting not to get anything at all. But Dr. Haas was different. He, right there, offered to let me use his data set of which he had just finished collecting data from a tea estate in India of an iron intervention trial. He never even questioned my GPA and did not look at my transcript. He just trusted my passion for wanting to learn more.

This was my entry into the world of international nutrition, and through working with him on my thesis, it has become an area of research that I want to pursue in the future. Dr. Haas met with me once (sometimes twice) a week throughout all of senior year, giving me as much of his time and energy as he would a PhD student. This always amazed me, that the Director of the Human Biology Program, former Director of the Nutrition program, and a professor with an endowed professorship, would be willing to give me, a senior without much to show, so much. But that is Dr. Haas, a strong mentor, who, through his belief in his students, drives them to work even harder. I can tell you that many times, when this thesis was so difficult to do, thinking of Dr. Haas’s support for me was what got me going. It is rare to find such a professor, anywhere. He even drove me to Albany two weeks ago to be there for me as I received an award, three hours there and three hours back, taking up basically a whole day’s worth of work, and undertaking this task only a few days after returning from an exhausting trip to India.

So, at Experimental Biology, when Dr. Haas received the Kellogg Prize, you could imagine how proud I was. It’s odd to say that, since Dr. Haas is my mentor, but that is truly what I felt, so much so that I was tearing up.

The Kellogg Prize is a crowning achievement in the International Nutrition Community. One person is chosen to receive it each year, and this year, it was Dr. Haas. When he was introduced, the Chair of the International Nutrition Council asked the audience who had studied under Dr. Haas as a PhD, Master’s, or undergraduate, and over a quarter of the room raised their hands. Dr. Haas has obviously impacted a great many people, and it is not just research that he was honored for that night. He was recognized for his dedication to forming the next generation of researchers, all who have benefited from Dr. Haas’s love and care.

As I near graduation and think about my future, I can already see Dr. Haas’s role. I have fallen in love with the applicability of international nutrition research, and it is an area that I will, for certain, pursue. And I am just, so grateful, so thankful, of having had exposure to such an extraordinary person and professor. There are no words to describe how special Dr. Haas has become to me, and it is my hope that all undergraduates will be able to experience someone like that during their time here, far above Cayuga’s waters.