Alumni Features Nutrition

Nutrition and health sciences program helps alum get into medical school

Trent Henderson, ’22, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and health sciences this spring and started medical school at Des Moines University in Iowa this fall.

Trent Henderson, ’22, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and health sciences this spring and started medical school at Des Moines University in Iowa this fall.

What inspired you to study nutrition and health sciences?

During my first quarter at Oregon State, I took Nutrition 225 and enjoyed the intersection of science, culture, policy, agriculture and foods.

Nutritional science, in particular, interested me as a relatively new field based on biochemistry and physiology. There are still many unknowns that make nutrition interesting.

What are you most proud of from your time in the CPHHS?

Experience-wise, it’s becoming involved with research. I have been involved with a project over the last year, advised by Professor Maret Traber, a world-known expert in vitamin E, at the Linus Pauling Institute. I had the opportunity to present a poster presentation on campus, and we will hopefully publish our study in an academic journal soon.

Personally, I am proud of juggling work and school. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked 12-hour night shifts at a hospital as a certified nursing assistant while taking classes full time.

Have you received any scholarships during your time here?

Yes, I received a LIFE Scholar grant from the Center for Healthy Aging Research that allowed me to put extensive hours into a research project.

I first heard about the program from a wonderful professor and mentor, Maret Traber. After taking her course, I became intrigued with her lab’s research on vitamin E and inquired about potential involvement.

I knew working with her as my program mentor was the perfect chance to combine a real-world research question about E deficiency and muscle wasting with a longitudinal learning opportunity.

Can you describe the experience of being a LIFE Scholar?

Being a LIFE Scholar was a multi-stage journey for me. It started with practicing lab techniques and getting acquainted with basic data analysis. Later, we delved into running actual samples and worked with a large data file to process and visualize changes.

During this time, I also presented my work at an on-campus poster symposium. The presentation experience was fantastic – being able to explain findings at a level that was easy to understand is a skill in and of itself.

After graduation, I continued analyzing the data and working on a manuscript during my days off, which was beyond the program.

The LIFE Scholar program exceeded my expectations, and I learned more than I ever thought I would.

What would you tell students who are curious about the LIFE Scholars program?

I would highly recommend the LIFE Scholars program to any student interested in aging and eager to develop their research skills. Working directly with faculty in the field offers a more comprehensive and longitudinal experience than any class could provide. It can be an excellent steppingstone for pursuing advanced degrees involving research.

How might your experience studying nutrition influence your work in medicine?

I find myself gravitating toward fields where nutrition and lifestyle play a role in prevention or treatment. The field of cardiology also has piqued my interest due to the intriguing physiology of the heart and the fascinating tools used. The connection between diet and cardiac health also fascinates me.

What are the most memorable lessons you’ve learned as a student?

Life is a balance. It’s important to study hard and learn to apply the content, but it is also essential to connect with others – to build your support network or learn from others’ perspectives.

Equally important – there are a lot of opportunities out there and it’s up to you to take the first step. Sometimes this means getting out of your comfort zone.

What will you miss the most about the COH, OSU or Corvallis?

With the COH, I’ll miss learning about applying science to the human experience. I’ll also miss the faculty and peers who bring various experiences and backgrounds.

With OSU and Corvallis, I’ll miss the campus, the McDonald-Dunn Forest, and the sense of community as a student. The Valley Rock Gym and biking everywhere are high on the list, too.

This summer, before starting medical school, Henderson worked as a certified nursing assistant in the hospital in his hometown Bend, Oregon.

What does health and well-being mean to you?

To me, health and well-being mean reaching your potential physically, mentally and socially while being content with where you’re at.

Do you have any advice for incoming students?

Figure out what you like and can see yourself doing in the future. Sometimes this means taking a class or following through with an activity that you are unfamiliar with or may not enjoy. Being able to decide what you want to do confidently and having a variety of experiences or skills under your belt is priceless.

For me, an example of this was taking statistics during the summer of 2020. Programming in R Studio was challenging for me, especially given the world events at the time, but I ended up using it in my research in 2022. In hindsight, I learned I didn’t want to become a biostatistician, but it did become a skill I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Make the most of your time, but don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Trent’s research with his mentor Maret Traber and collaborators led to the following publication: Chronic Vitamin E Deficiency Dysregulates Purine, Phospholipid, and Amino Acid Metabolism in Aging Zebrafish Skeletal Muscle.