Gatepost Interview: Joycelyn Faraj – Assistant professor of food and nutrition

Caroline Gordon / THE GATEPOST

What is your educational and professional background? 

I went to UMass Amherst, where I got a bachelor’s in microbiology and a bachelor’s in human nutrition. I chose microbiology because I am fascinated by how the body’s immune system works. I then did my master’s in nutritional science and I did the dietetics requirements. Then, I became a dietician. I also got my Ph.D. in public health, focusing on nutrition and mental health among women. My specialty is technically called “nutritional psychiatry” – the intersection between food and mental health. After my Ph.D., I was hired to create and manage a clinical nutrition program at a substance use center called Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut. I was there for a couple of years and many of the patients that I would see were individuals recovering from chemical substances. After that, I was able to jump into academia, which I think is my true calling. 

How did you come to FSU?

This is the only place I applied to. For academia, many jobs that are research focused will require that in addition to someone having their Ph.D., to also have a lot of post-doctoral research experience. I, on the other hand, went from Ph.D. to clinical hands-on experience. This was a good match for that because FSU offers a dietetics program and that really does require someone who has the experience out in the real world to be able to come here and teach dietetics from that point of view. 

What is your job like? 

I love the interaction with the students. I love being able to see when things click. This is my second semester here, so I am a newbie when it comes to teaching. Last semester was a lot of trial and error. Everything that I did, whether it worked or not, I was able to improve upon for this semester. My job here is a lot of preparing the courses and making sure I include as many different activities, so that things make sense to students so they go from the working memory to the long-term memory. I want students to be able to apply what they learned to real life. 

What are your proudest career accomplishments? 

I am really proud of an award I won at The American Society for Nutrition for “Best research poster for nutrition and epidemiology.” That was when I was looking at inflammation, vitamin B6, and depression among women. 

What are some of your hobbies? 

When I used to have more time, I would enjoy making jewelry, painting and crochet. I am a huge fan of soccer and volleyball. I used to play in different clubs. Nowadays, I don’t have much time, but when I do, I play with my toddler. When she goes to bed, I do something more easygoing like making crochet. If I could, I would love to go back to playing volleyball. I do Zumba on the weekends. 

What made you interested in studying nutrition? 

I love to cook, but I also love medicine. This is the perfect intersection between food and medicine. I grew up in Honduras. Had I stayed there, I would have gone to medical school. I was keen that I wanted to come to the United States to study nutrition. 

What advice do you have for FSU students?

Life is not all just work. I know that the semesters can be stressful, but it’s during those stressful times when it’s important to make time for you, time to de-stress and do activities you enjoy. Do not underestimate sleep and nutrition. Also, if you are not sleeping, you are not creating the memories of the things that you learned. 

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