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A student passionate about health and wellness finds many hands-on learning and research opportunities

Emily Riddle is becoming a health and wellness expert with help from opportunities in the College of Health and Human Development and at Penn State.

Emily enjoys many sports and outdoor activities including mountain climbing, skiing, backpacking, and golfing. She originally came to Penn State as a golf student-athlete. After arriving at Penn State, however, she says she “realized how many opportunities there are at Penn State” and she decided that she wanted to focus on academics. So, she applied for admission to the Schreyer Honors College and was admitted.

Now, by majoring in Nutrition, Emily is getting a better handle on research and improving health. She especially likes the opportunity she has to learn more about the “cycle of energy” and “how bodies grow and age and how nutrition is so involved in all aspects of life,” she says.

In an independent study experience supervised by Dr. Kris Clark, assistant professor of nutritional sciences, Emily worked one-on-one with student-athletes on campus, helping to assess how much food they eat and offering nutrition-related suggestions that might improve their athletic performance. She says this experience gave her a great opportunity to enhance her communication skills, especially in regards to how to convey healthy nutrition ideas to people.

Emily is taking advantage of the close ties among academic units in the College of Health and Human Development, and she was a lab assistant in several research labs in the Department of Kinesiology. “I had no idea that nutrition could be bridged with kinesiology and exercise science so closely,” she says.

In Dr. David Conroy’s lab, she helped design and conduct experiments to further the understanding of how emotions and psychology can affect motivations for physical activity. She also will work as an assistant in Dr. Nancy Williams’ and Dr. Mary Jane De Souza’s lab, where researchers study bone health and the reproductive system.

“Research is so exciting,” she says. “You get a chance to answer a question that nobody else has asked, and find an answer.”

Emily is involved in several organizations that let her make a difference in the lives of her peers and community members. As a HealthWorks peer mentor, she creates and implements health promotion campaigns for college students. Emily worked primarily to develop ways to get her peers motivated to be more physically active.

She also volunteers with Meals on Wheels and is a member of the Community Food Security Club, through which she helped community organizations such as local schools learn more about gardening, farming, and the basics of food and agriculture. These activities, she says, let her “see what it’s like to practice nutrition out in the field.”

“Penn State is a wonderful place,” Emily says. She knows that, through her involvement in service activities and research at Penn State, she will be prepared for what comes next in her career.