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Student spotlight: Pia Gomez
Since its inception, the Family Resiliency Center has been dedicated to developing undergraduate students by including them in research projects. One of those students, senior Pia Gomez, an Animal Science major, has been involved with the STRONG Kids research project since her sophomore year.
Born in Peru and moving to Illinois with her family when she was eight, Gomez has always had a passion for nutrition, and reinforced that passion while taking Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) 494. “Being in both of these classes (HDFS 494 and Animal Science 223) really opened my eyes to nutrition. It was pretty interesting because in 223 I was learning the basic of nutrition such as how nutrient and mineral deficiencies work, while in 494 I was learning more the overall effects that nutrition can have on a child in the long run,” Gomez said. She registered for HDFS 494 because of its excellent reputation for professional development, as well as allowing her a chance to get hands-on research experience. Along with advancing technical research skills, 494 helps students develop practical professional skills, such as etiquette at business functions and interview sklls.
For Gomez, STRONG Kids and HDFS 494 allowed her to do research for her own study, which has been most beneficial to her, teaching how to collect bio metric data and work in a collaborative environment as well as using different statistical tests. Her research, which was showcased at the University of Illinois Undergraduate Research Symposium, focuses on the correlation between family and the environment with regards to nutrition. A two-year study, Gomez goes into a family’s home and measures the height and weight of both child and mother every few months.
Her favorite experience with the study is watching the growth of newborns. She specifically remembers a family that recognized her from her first visit two years later. “There is just something amazing about the connection that happens with the families since it is such a personal project,” Gomez says.
Gomez is also active on campus with Illini Service Dogs where she has been training the dogs for two years. She also volunteers at the University Wildlife Clinic where she treats the animals that are brought in. Gomez plans to attend Veterinary School after graduation in May. “HDFS 494 has helped me realize my passion for working with and helping others, especially within the health field.”