Kaylea Flanagan, Center for Population Health

Kaylea Flanagan stands in front of her poster at the annual UMass Lowell Student Research Symposium.

Just one year into her studies toward a master’s degree in public health in dietetics, Kaylea Flanagan found herself presenting to thousands of attendees at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual conference in Boston. Flanagan was eager to share her research, receive feedback and network with professionals in her field from across the country. She’s grateful for the faculty in the Center for Population Health (CPH) who mentored her and encouraged her to submit an abstract for presentation so early in her education.

Flanagan proudly presented her findings about the influence of diet on psychological well-being, more specifically, depressive disorder in the Boston Puerto Rican population. As a student member of CPH, Flanagan gained access to a wealth of resources and expertise from faculty members like Katherine Tucker, Prof. in the Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Department and Director of the Center for Population Health. Tucker has been studying the health of the Boston Puerto Rican population for years, and with her guidance and accessibility to data and research participants, Flanagan was able to contribute to the further understanding of health outcomes of this population.

Flanagan is continuing to expand upon her research as she is focusing on the consumption of carotenoids, organic pigments found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, and their relation to depression and peripheral arterial disease. While working on her own research and supporting a variety of other CPH projects, Flanagan has gained hands-on experience conducting statistical analyses and literature reviews, preparing presentations, and writing manuscripts.

“My favorite part about being a student member of the CPH is always having an opportunity to be involved. New research questions are constantly arising and there are a number of ways to participate within the team and connect with those from diverse professional backgrounds and expertise,” says Flanagan.

CPH faculty and students come from an array of departments including Public Health, Nutrition, Dietetics, and Physical Therapy and Kinesiology. In fact, Flanagan is one of those members with a diverse education background. Though Flanagan is now an aspiring nutritional epidemiologist, she says she came upon her track in a nontraditional sense. Flanagan earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UMass Lowell, but she was always interested in health psychology and learning about how psychological states impact health behaviors and outcomes.

Having transitioned her focus and now progressing in her field, Flanagan recognizes that her psychology background has offered her a unique perspective on research topics and a strategic approach toward research questions with participants in mind. “I feel that being part of the CPH has immensely contributed to my professional development and opened my eyes to the value of interconnection among professions,” says Flanagan.