The 2018 Irish Postgraduate Conference, hosted by the Nutrition Society Irish Section, highlighted new emerging research from postgraduate students. The conference was well attended, with 96 delegates attending from across Ireland as well Newcastle, Reading and Surrey.  The students presenting Original Communications (OCs) were grateful to have the support of their supervisors and senior academics as well as peers.  

The first day focused on nutritional science with a wide range of abstract OC presentations.  The first symposium concentrated on public health nutrition with research findings on unhealthier dietary patterns in pupils from comprehensive school compared to those attending grammar school, and a reported association between higher intakes of saturated fat and lower intakes of fruit and vegetables in children aged 5-12 years old with lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Further presentations brought attention to the difference between ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’ certain foods and explained how both are not correlated in dysfunctional eating behaviours. Other emerging research considered body fat percentage as a greater indicator of metabolic health than the conventionally used Body Mass Index, although body fat percentage cut offs are yet to be fully defined. This is a potentially novel development for future healthcare professionals regarding weight management and health.

The final symposium primarily looked at metabolomics and discussed the role of MTHFR genotypes in blood pressure modulation and how altering B vitamin intake may benefit certain individuals. Presentations considered the evidence supporting the use of riboflavin to lower blood pressure in those who have the MTHFR C677T polymorphism. This ongoing research highlights the potential to mitigate deleterious cardiometabolic abnormalities through early identification and adequate treatment protocols.  A novel abstract identified the variability between vitamin D metabolites interspecies recognising the difficulty in transferring information from animal model findings to humans regarding vitamin D.

The first day concluded with an insightful meditation session by local yoga teacher Orla Wallace. The stress reduction technique was well received by students to aid relaxation during their studies, and after an intense day of presentations. The successful day was followed by the conference dinner, allowing delegates the chance to network, ask questions to fellow speakers and reflect on the day’s events.

The second day featured a series of lectures on career development which started with an uplifting talk from Dr Brian Green, senior lecturer in Molecular Nutrition at Queens University Belfast.  Dr Green emphasised that careers are highly individual with numerous opportunities which are important to maximise. Dr Marianne Walsh, from National Dairy Council, highlighted the breadth of nutrition career roles, including research, consultancy, policy and academic. Dr Hannah Dearie, from the health and social wellbeing improvement team at the Public Health Agency, gave an excellent overview of her career experience and how to manage several jobs at once. Dr Danielle McCarthy, representing Live It Up Ventures, concluded the careers lectures and reiterated the breadth of nutritional jobs available within industry and consultancy.  

A question and answer session was then opened with the careers panel. Dr Brian Green suggested that a PhD provides you with time management and organisational skills, which should feature prominently in a CV. Dr Marianne Walsh explained the benefits of being affiliated with a registered body, whether it is the AfN or HCPC. The final Keynote speaker, Dr Michael O’Rourke, postdoctoral fellow from Cancer Research UK, gave a lecture entitled ‘Thesis tricks and viva tips’ - an apt topic for the conference audience, who were all too eager for this information. The local organisers brought the conference to a close, thanking the lecturers and the delegates for their participation which made for an engaging and insightful two days.

Image: Danielle Logan and Leigh-Ann welcome delegates