Sophie Dean is an undergraduate student majoring in Public Health Science and English. She joined the major in Fall 2015, and in April 2016 was awarded the 2016 Library Award for Undergraduate Research. Her paper “The Detrimental Effects of Dietary Supplements” was written in the context of her course Introduction to Environmental Health (MIEH 300). You can find her article here: http://drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/17420

What class/classes have had an impact on you? Why?

I’d have to say my Environmental Health class (Introduction to Environmental Health), because it was just really eye opening and we got to do a lot of hands on field trips, talk to a lot of professionals in the field, and see what they do in their careers. It was really nice to get a feel of what you would actually do in your job.

[This class opened my eyes to] environmental justice, grass roots movements. We talked about sustainable farming in low-income communities, seeing how that works was really cool.

What professor has been most influential to you?

My Environmental professor, Dr. Payne-Sturges, because she is the one who suggested I submit [my paper] for the award. I had no idea that it existed. I feel grateful of her for thinking of me.

What was your research about? What did you learn from it?

In my paper, I examine the detrimental effects of dietary supplements. I did some research on the policies that exist that regulate what goes in them, the dosage, and other aspects, and there actually isn’t that much regulation. That’s what my paper was focused on: there is a lack of regulation and we really don’t know too much about what goes on in it. I also looked at records of emergency rooms and data of people who had adverse health effects to the dietary supplements in general. That was the bulk of my research.

I learned that there really aren’t regulations about dietary supplements, so you have to be careful with reading the ingredients, taking into account that not all companies disclose that information. It is important to keep that in mind when you are thinking of taking them.

Where does your interest for public health come from?

My mom is a physician who works for the FDA. Through her work I have been exposed to a lot of inspirational people, and she really loves what she does, so I was inspired by her to pursue public health. I think it is important to relate these health concepts to the general public; so not just being a doctor and specialize in your own field, but making it well known and making sure everyone has the opportunity to access this knowledge.

If you won a large grant, what would you like to research?

That’s a big question! I think I would like to do research in something similar to this, like public health policy, because I think there is a lot of research to be done and make sure that the public can understand all these labels, and other things that have a big effect on their health. I would say that something related to this policy and regulation, because I feel that the public doesn’t know much. For example, GMO foods are hot right now, doing research in that area would be interesting. I want to make it understandable to the lay public.

What are your plans for the future? How is the major helping you prepare for that?

I have been thinking about what to do after graduation a lot lately. I am also an English major, and I know I want to go to graduate school, but I haven’t decided what I want to pursue. I’d like it to be something that combines my two interests, like science writing or communications. I will probably do something in that field, where I will be able to combine my interest in English with public health. I think the major gives me a good background for graduate school, because in this holistic curriculum. You don’t just focus on physics or the other hard sciences. It is more about how to do outreach, community, and environmental health. I like how it is a more holistic view of public health in general.

What hobbies do you have?

I like to read a lot, and I used to be a cross-country runner, so I like to run sometimes. Other hobbies… I’m not sure watching TV is a hobby, or hanging out.

Any recommendations on books or TV?

I love everything by Virginia Woolf, she’s my favorite author, and I love The Office, that’s my favorite TV show.