Meet Feon Cheng and Kimberly Cox-York. They’re part of the team of nutrition experts who teach in Adelphi’s online MS in Nutrition program. They have a passion for teaching and, like their students, strive to build a healthier world through nutrition science.

In these two spotlight interviews, Cheng and Cox-York each talk about how they got into the nutrition field and what excites them about their work. They also share advice for future students on how to make the most of Adelphi’s graduate nutrition program.

Feon Cheng

Feon Cheng, PhD, MPH, RDN, CHTS-CP, is a passionate nutrition researcher and educator. She received her PhD in Nutritional Science at the Pennsylvania State University, her MPH in Community Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her BS in Nutritional Science at the California State University, Los Angeles. Her research interests include nutritional epidemiology, nutrition education, program planning and evaluation, and research methods. She has worked in research, public health and clinical settings. Dr. Cheng is an active member in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She served as a program reviewer for the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics and as a member of both the Council on Future Practice and the Dietetics Practice Audit Task Force.

Please tell us about your journey to become a nutrition educator. What brought you to the field?
I have always been passionate about food and nutrition! After becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist, I worked as a clinical dietitian in a local hospital. While I loved my in-patient experience, I was very interested in preventing patients from getting sick in the first place. With my manager’s support, I was able to work as a nutrition educator and provide out-patient counseling, which I loved!

You have an MPH in addition to a PhD in nutritional science. How has having experience in public health influenced your work in nutrition?
It allowed me to see health and nutrition from a broader perspective. I learned how the health system works as a whole and was able to identify opportunities to prevent the onset of illnesses.

What excites you most about your work?
Improving the health of our population through evidence-based nutrition!

Looking towards the future, what are some of the most important topics in nutrition today? What will people need to learn to face what is to come?
By 2030, an estimated 50% of US adults will have obesity, which is associated with a host of adverse health outcomes. Understanding the importance of this issue, our program dedicated an entire course to this topic. It’s also very important to understand that issues like obesity don’t exist in isolation — they intersect with all kinds of factors, from personal health issues to differences in cultural and community health.

Let’s talk about the Adelphi Master of Science in Nutrition. What courses do you teach at Adelphi?
I teach:

  • Nutrition in the Life Cycle, which includes topics such as nutrition requirements and dietary recommendations for each stage of the lifespan.
  • Nutrition Education and Community, which includes topics like cultural competency in nutritional education and interpersonal communication; integrating clinical and experimental evidence in nutrition education; and communication for health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Nutrition and Obesity, which includes topics such as understanding the prevalence, pathophysiology, and health consequences of overweight or obesity; determining possible etiology and risk factors; and prevention and medical nutrition therapy for those who are overweight or obese.

These courses help students become competent nutritionists who can work in various settings.

Where do your students end up working after they graduate?
We have students working in different nutrition settings, from clinical settings to starting their own businesses.

What would be one thing you’d tell someone who is deciding whether to pursue their master’s degree in nutrition?
Our online MS in Nutrition offers a cutting-edge curriculum that focuses on important competencies and topics so students will be well-prepared for working in the nutrition field after graduation. Our students gain communication skills that will help them approach their work with empathy and understanding, in addition to the core nutrition expertise that employers today need.

Is there anything else you’d like prospective students to know?
We love working with our students and can’t wait to work with you!

Kimberly Cox-York

Kimberly Cox-York received her MS in Nutrition from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and her PhD at Colorado State University (CSU). After a postdoctoral fellowship at The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, she joined the faculty in the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at CSU in Fort Collins. Dr. Cox-York’s research background is in estrogen metabolism and regulation of adipose tissue and the gut microbiome. In the last few years, she has gravitated toward education in research ethics and she now serves as the Responsible Conduct of Research Coordinator and Research Integrity Officer for CSU. She has a 16-year-old daughter and a cat, and enjoys hiking, camping, yoga, cooking and learning to play the mandolin.

Tell us about your journey to become a nutrition educator. What brought you to the field?
I started out in biochemistry. At the time I was completing my undergraduate degree, there was evidence for a role of aluminum in Parkinson’s Disease. I was interested in this idea and wanted to study it in graduate school. When my partner was transferred to Hawai’i with the Coast Guard, the only person studying aluminum was in the nutrition department. I got my MS in Nutrition there at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. For several years I worked as a scientist for a biotechnology start-up and then in the pharmaceutical industry.

When I was ready to complete my PhD, we were moving back to Colorado and I had developed a passion for studying metabolism. Since I had a background in nutrition, I identified an advisor in that department at Colorado State University who studied sex differences in metabolism. I had only ever done research and my plan was never to teach but after my postdoc, I returned to the nutrition department at CSU and started working with graduate students. That is where I found I had a passion for teaching.

What excites you most about your work?
I get most excited about watching students progress. I enjoy learning about their passions and then seeing them pursue those passions.

Can you tell us about your interest in research ethics? What does research ethics mean to the field of nutrition?
I became interested in research ethics through my work as a researcher and my interactions with graduate students.

Having been in the field a long time, I experienced many approaches to research, and they weren’t always as ethical as I expected when I entered the field. The longer I was in it, the stronger my desire to help improve it.

I participated in an ethics infusion program and developed a course in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) for our Nutrition department

Research ethics is incredibly important in the nutrition field. Everyone must eat, so there is significant scrutiny on nutrition research. Food policy and recommendations are driven by nutrition research. If that work isn’t done with integrity, there can be serious consequences for all aspects of food and nutrition, and ultimately human health and trust in science.

What do you think would surprise people the most about the research you do?
I think people would be most surprised that gut microbiota metabolize estrogen.

How do you see the field changing in the next five years?
In the next five years, I see more focus on food systems — working toward solutions that improve health for both people and the planet.

Let’s talk about the Adelphi Master of Science in Nutrition. What courses do you teach at Adelphi?
Over the past several years I have taught Nutrition and Diabetes, Nutrition and Heart Disease, Recent Advances in Micronutrients and Recent Advances in Macronutrients.

Beyond learning relevant skills, what would you say are the benefits a student would get from a nutrition master’s program?
Any graduate education should improve critical thinking. This is important regardless of how students apply their degree. Students will learn how to interpret and apply nutrition research findings and how to convey these findings to a lay population. A nutrition master’s program will also allow students to explore various career options they might not have otherwise considered.

What are some of your favorite discussions to have with your students?
I really enjoy discussing the cultural differences in nutrition and food. I like to hear about the backgrounds of the students and how they observe nutrition in their communities.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d like to give to future MS in Nutrition students?
I would say to approach your degree with an open mind. Be available to question long-held beliefs, receptive to other approaches and always willing to learn something new.

Is there anything else you’d like prospective students to know?
The MS in Nutrition program is a small, diverse group. Students come from different backgrounds with varying academic and professional experience. This makes for a rich learning environment.

About the Adelphi MS in Nutrition

The Adelphi MS in Nutrition is designed to support busy professionals in health or health-related fields. Whether you want to work directly with clients and patients or want to lead change through research or policy development, this fully online graduate program gives you the evidence-based knowledge you need, without overwhelming your schedule.

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