Amazing Students

Lauren Coheley

Photo of Lauren Coheley.
Lauren Coheley. (Photos by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Lauren Coheley, who will become a Double Dawg with a Ph.D. in foods and nutrition next spring, found her home in Dawson Hall when she first step foot on campus. Now she’s on a clear path to become a professor, pass along her knowledge and mentor others.

Brookhaven, Georgia

High school: 
Saint Pius X Catholic High School

Current employment: 
Graduate research assistant in the UGA Bone and Body Composition Lab

Family ties to UGA: 
We are a Bulldawg family! I got my undergraduate degree in dietetics from UGA. My young brother graduated with his undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting from UGA and my little sister graduated with her undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders from UGA.

Expected graduation: 
Spring 2020

Degree objective: 
Ph.D. in foods and nutrition

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships: 
In 2012, I graduated with my BSFCS in Dietetics and went on to complete my dietetic internship at Emory University Hospitals. I obtained my Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credentials and also became a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). After working as a clinical dietitian for two years I decided to come back “home” to Athens to pursue my Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition. I am starting my fifth year of my Ph.D. and will defend my dissertation in October.

In 2018, I published a research paper in Osteoporosis International titled “Egg Consumption and Mid-Radius Cortical Bone Outcomes in Healthy Children.” This paper helped fund a $550,000 two-phase product. Currently, I am a co-investigator on a double-blind placebo controlled trial investigating the effects of egg consumption on pediatric bone development and cognitive function (SCENE [Skeletal and Cognitive Effects of Nutrition from Eggs] Study). This is an  interdisciplinary study in collaboration with UGA’s Department of Kinesiology, Department of Human Development and Family Science, and Department of Food Science. For this study children consume 10 food products per week for a duration of nine months. Participants come into the lab on three different testing sessions in which they have their bones scanned by Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA) and Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (pQCT), play a series of cognitive games using the NIH ToolBox on an IPad, and have their blood drawn. We are wrapping up participant recruitment and hope to have all nine-month testing done by next March.

In 2017, I received funding from the Graduate School (IIRG grant) to conduct a cross-sectional research study investigating the role of dietary inflammation on bone development in healthy children. This study was published in 2019 in the journal of Osteoporosis International and is titled, “Dietary inflammatory index and cortical bone outcomes in healthy adolescent children.” I have also had the opportunity to present my research at several conferences including Experimental Biology, the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, and the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual conferences.

In addition to my research, I have had the unique honor to serve as the Instruction on Record for Introduction to the College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS 2000). This 200+ study class acclimates freshman and transfer students to our college. I received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the UGA Office of Instruction in 2018. I look forward to teaching the Introduction to Foods and Nutrition next spring. I have also received the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

I have also had the opportunity to enhance my leadership skills while serving as a Ph.D. student. I served as the President of the Northeast Georgia Dietetics Association and received the Emerging Leader in Dietetics Award from the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2018. Additionally, I had the opportunity to represent my college as the President of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences Alumni Association.

I am honored to have received several travel awards and scholarships during my time as a UGA student. I am a recipient of a graduate student travel fund from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS). Additionally, I have received the Patsyjane O’Malley Memorial Scholarship from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I have received the Glenn and Helen Burton Feeding the Hungry Scholarship, the Katz Family Gift, the Sharon Boone Hamner Foods and Nutrition Scholarship, the Ruth Rowan Morrison Graduate Endowment in Nutrition Students, and the June and Bill Flatt Nutrition Excellence Graduate Scholarship from FACS.

I chose to attend UGA because … 
The choice to attend UGA for both undergrad and graduate school was simple. UGA offered me so many opportunities to not only obtain a high-quality education but also to grow as a leader, teacher and scientist.

When I stepped foot into Dawson Hall on my first day of UGA orientation I knew I was home. Family is in our college’s name and we truly live by it. Every day I feel supported and blessed to be a part of a college and university that truly wants to see each and every student succeed.

My favorite things to do on campus are … 
Well, during football season, nothing can beat a Saturday in Athens and time in between the hedges. Although football season does not last all year, I love walking down to Sanford Stadium and reminiscing on memories made and Bulldawg wins.

When I am not in the lab I love walking through the UGA Trial Gardens and seeing the freshly bloomed flowers. I call my walk to the garden my “Vitamin D break.”

One of my other favorite things to do on campus is to teach my own students my guest lecture for different nutrition classes. Nothing beats seeing students grow and learn and it’s always a perk when they laugh at my corny jokes.

Photo of Lauren CoheleyWhen I have free time, I like … 
… to play with my dog Sadie. I got Sadie in 2014 when I was visiting Athens. At the time that I got her, I had no clue that my path would lead me back to Athens. Sadie and I love visiting my parents’ lake house on Lake Oconee. This season, Sadie is rocking a hot pink mermaid life jacket. It makes my heart happy.

I also love to do yoga. I started yoga as a way to destress from graduate school and have fallen in love with not only the physical practice but also the mental practice. I am going to yoga teacher training this summer and am so excited to teach not only in an academic setting but also in a yoga studio!

The craziest thing I’ve done is … 
Oh goodness, I think maybe you’d call me a little safe. At the time, I think giving up my full-time job to become a student again was pretty crazy 😉

I also have run three full marathons, which looking back on seems pretty crazy.

In 2015, I went on a medical mission trip to Kenya. This trip was a great opportunity to not only help others but develop connections with people from a different culture. I grew so much as a person during this trip and hope to go on another mission trip soon.

My favorite place to study is … 
By far my favorite place to do work and study is at my parents’ lake house. I love sitting on the deck with my dog Sadie and looking out at the water as I work. Nothing is more peaceful and more beautiful than that.

My favorite professor is … 
There is no way that I can choose only one professor!

I am extremely grateful for my research advisor, Richard Lewis. If it wasn’t for him and his guidance I would not be where I am today. I am also extremely blessed to have an awesome Ph.D. committee including Emma Laing and Lynn Bailey from Foods and Nutrition, Assaf Oshri from Human Development and Family Science and Ellen Evans from the Department of Kinesiology. These individuals have supported me unconditionally throughout my time as a Ph.D. student and I am grateful for the opportunities to learn and grow under them.

Although she is now retired, I am also very grateful for Joan Fischer who assisted me while applying for my dietetic internship.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with … 
Both of my Mom’s parents passed away before I was born and my Dad’s father died when I was very young. I would love the opportunity to spend time with them.

I also would love to spend time with my family. With busy schedules it is rare for my immediate family and extended family to be together. All moments with them are special and very cherished.

If I knew I could not fail, I would … 
This is a hard question! I think I would take more chances and not be afraid to make mistakes.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to … 
… establish a scholarship for students pursuing advanced degrees.

Additionally, I would love to take some time and travel! The older I have gotten the more I value experiences of non-material gifts and I would love to take the time to see the world and make memories with the ones I love.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it? 
Not only am I passionate about nutrition education and research, I am also extremely passionate about mentoring future dietitians and nutrition scientists. During my undergraduate and graduate years, I had many people pour into me and help guide me to where I currently am. I truly feel that I would not be where I am today without the mentors who poured themselves into me. I have loved the opportunity to give back to others by serving in different leadership capacities through the Northeast Georgia Dietetics Association and FACS. Additionally, I have had the unique opportunity to mentor undergraduate nutrition students working on my research study. I look forward to being a professor one day and continuing to help teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students.

After graduation, I plan to … 
… sleep (just kidding — that’s a joke)!

After graduating, I hope to obtain a postdoc position where I can continue to grow and learn as a nutrition research scientist. Then, I hope to work my way up the academic ladder until I have the experiences necessary to become the dean of a college.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be … 
Well, walking across Sanford Stadium in 2012 with my undergraduate degree is high up there. I am looking forward to doing the same in Stegeman in May 2020. Also, seeing my little brother and sister graduate with their respective degrees was an amazing memory. They are two of the smartest people I know (and don’t know how much their big sister looks up to them; love you guys!).

Also, FACS has an annual homecoming tailgate. I will never forget when my parents and siblings came to the tailgate. For the first time, my family got to meet my Athens family. It was a special moment.