Seeking creative ways to answer the unknown scientific questions
Elieke Demmer is a Ph.D. candidate in the UC Davis Graduate Group of Nutritional Biology, with an emphasis in biotechnology and a minor in immunology. Demmer has always had a passion for helping others lead healthier and happier lives; prior to pursuing a graduate degree she was a registered dietitian.
What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?
My research examines the effect of dairy fat on inflammation. Every time we eat there is a transient inflammatory response, with the intensity depending on the nutrient composition of the meal. Saturated fat has had a bad reputation for the last few decades; however, not all saturated fatty acids are created equal. While milk has a high saturated fat content, it is a complex total mixture of macro- and micronutrients, which when analyzed individually have shown favorable or neutral effects on the outcome of cardiovascular disease. The inflammatory response after eating dairy foods is more than the sum of its parts, and little is known about the effect of whole dairy foods (such as cheese). Lowering the inflammatory response observed after eating is an attractive target for attenuating chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. My research is focused on the response after consuming various high-fat meals in overweight or obese men and women who are already at a greater risk for the development of chronic diseases.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
I absolutely love that my field of research is applicable to everyone, because everybody eats. I originally went into the nutrition field because I wanted to make a difference and help others lead healthier and happier lives. I still stand behind this wholeheartedly but want to be part of something bigger than myself that also allows me to use the skills I have acquired over the last few years as a registered dietitian and doctoral student. While I have enjoyed my experiences working at the lab bench, I want my data to reach the public and healthcare professionals, where it can actually elicit change. Ideally my future career will allow me to remain in the research world, where I can still find creative ways to answer the unknown scientific questions, but also work with a variety of teams in a corporate setting to get this information translated and out to the public.
How will the Business Development Fellows program help you to change the world?
As a Ph.D. student I have been trained to think critically, define a problem, come up with creative solutions, design and execute clinical research trials, teach classes and present scientific data to peers or experts in the field of nutrition. However, I have not had much exposure to core business skills that I believe are essential to my future success in translating these important scientific findings to the public or government agencies, where these data can make a huge impact. I am excited to have this opportunity as a Businesses Development Fellow to gain invaluable skills that will help me get one step closer toward my goal while working together with—and learning from—MBA students, networking with investors and entrepreneurs, and gain fundamental business skills from hands-on as well as classroom experiences.