American Society For Nutrition

Interview with Postdoctoral Member, Victoria Vieira Potter

Interview with Postdoctoral Member, Victoria Vieira Potter

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
A Conversation with Young Professional Interest Group Vice Chair Dr. Victoria Vieira Potter

Dr. Victoria Vieira Potter sees nutrition as a unique field of research--one where findings “must be translatable to the public,” because, as she noted in her recent interview with us, “everyone becomes interested in nutrition as one point in their life or another.  Sooner or later we are all affected by it.”  Her own interest in nutrition began early, growing out of a desire to better care for herself as a high school athlete.  From there, Dr. Vieira Potter became fascinated with the broad impact of nutrition sciences on issues ranging from teenagers facing body image crises to the growing obesity epidemic.  “Nutrition gave me a way to explore science and to undertake discovery, while also feeling like I have an impact on those larger sociocultural issues.  As clichÉ as it sounds, I wanted to make a difference. I saw nutrition as a way I could do so,” she said.

Dr. Vieira Potter now brings that positive outlook to her work as the Vice Chair of ASN's new Young Professional Interest Group, which is designed to help address the needs of postdocs like herself as well as other promising young members of the organization.  She is also the Postdoctoral Representative on ASN's Nutrition Sciences Council. In addition to her work with ASN, Dr. Vieira Potter is a Fellow at Tufts University in Boston.  Her recent conversation with us encompasses her own experience with ASN as well as a first look at the organization's newest interest group.

Interviewer: How did you first get involved with ASN?

Dr. Vieira Potter: I attended my first Experimental Biology meeting in 2003.  My former mentor, Dr. Anthony Tagliaferro, a researcher at the University of New Hampshire, was a huge advocate for ASN.  He felt that attending meetings is a very important aspect of professional development for graduate students.  He suggested that I join ASN and attend that first meeting, which I was very lucky to do.  It ended up being a wonderful experience, interacting with other scientists and sharing my data.  When I started my doctorate work at the University of Illinois, I was also encouraged by Dr. Sharon Donovan, who was the Director of Nutritional Sciences there.
I became involved in the organization in more of a leadership position when I applied for and won a travel award through ASN.  I was later contacted by the Nutrition Science Council (NSC) to attend their planning meeting in 2009 in Washington, D.C.  While there, they called on me as one of the young people attending to help Robin Minor, who was beginning to form the Postdoc/Young Professionals Interest Group.  I contacted Robin and am now Vice Chair of the Young Professional Interest Group.

Interviewer: What about membership has been most helpful to you, particularly from the perspective of a postdoctoral member?

Dr. Vieira Potter: Membership is extremely valuable because the progression of science really depends on data sharing and networking with other researchers.  As I've grown as a nutritionist and as a scientist, I have learned how important it is to talk with your peers on a regular basis.  The advancement of nutrition science in particular is dependent on interaction between individuals with diverse areas of expertise.  ASN and the annual Experimental Biology meeting offer the perfect opportunity for that type of interaction.  Membership is also very important because it allows members to stay up-to-date on diverse issues and progress made within the field through peer-reviewed publications and through the online newsletters. 

Additionally, ASN does an excellent job of facilitating the growth throughout the different stages of professional development, which is so important.  A great example of that is the Student Interest Group, which offers graduate students opportunities to become more involved with ASN through activities at the meetings and through the travel awards and discounts that offer students the opportunity to attend conferences like Experimental Biology that they would not normally be able to afford.

As a postdoctoral member, I think that ASN has really drawn ahead of other organizations that often overlook this group.  For most organizations, the emphasis is placed on senior scientists and professors and on graduate students.  ASN, however, is working to make sure we are also offering opportunities our young professionals.  As Vice Chair of the new Young Professional Interest Group, I hope we will be able to address the specific needs of postdocs as well as other young professionals, such as medical residents or those entering industry.

r: What initiatives is the Young Professional Interest Group undertaking to achieve that goal?

Dr. Vieira Potter: Our group has really placed an emphasis on the networking opportunities that are so important to ASN's postdoctoral contingency.  The first networking event we organized has been hugely successful, and we hope to make that annual.  We've also been utilizing online networking such as LinkedIn to further facilitate connections among our young professionals throughout the year.  I hope that as the group continues to grow, ASN will be an example for other professional organizations to realize that, as such a heterogeneous, transient group, young professionals have specific needs.