Andreea Zurbau, Nutritional Sciences

Student Name: Andreea Zurbau
Department: Nutritional Sciences
Research Title: Co-administration of three complimentary therapies (viscous fiber, whole grain, and ginseng herb) for comprehensive cardiovascular disease risk reduction in type 2 diabetes
Supervisor: Dr. Vladimir Vuksan

Short description of your research: I am coordinating a 6-month randomized controlled trial investigating a combination therapy of viscous fiber, whole grain and ginseng extracts on cardiovascular disease risk reduction in individuals living with type 2 diabetes. My doctoral thesis draws attention to the challenges in managing cardiovascular disease with conventional therapy alone and may highlight complimentary strategies for improved diabetes control.

Why did you choose this Department: The Department of Nutritional Sciences is unique because it is situated in the Faculty of Medicine. The University of Toronto is one of the few academic institutions that emphasizes nutrition interventions as a therapeutic approach for chronic disease prevention and management. This is directly in line with the foundation of my career in dietetics and is one of the many reasons I am proud to be a graduate student here. The professors within this Department are also some of the leading nutrition scientists in the world, frequently identifying new relationships between food and disease risk factors.

How was your experience looking for a research opportunity? It was challenging. At the time, I believed it was because I had entered graduated school at a time when research funding was cut nationwide. Later I came to realize that there were many funding opportunities that I had overlooked. I wish I asked more questions to the Department and took chances in applying for all the scholarships available to me prior to my acceptance into the Department.

When did you start your research experience: I began my research experience in the third year of my undergraduate program as a Summer Research Student. My career goal was to become a dietitian, and I knew that it would be impossible to practice an evidence-based approach without having hands-on experience with research. I entered my Master of Science in 2014 and reclassified to the doctoral stream in 2015.

Why did you choose this supervisor: I chose Dr. Vladimir Vuksan because I admire his approach on studying dietary components as part of nutrition therapy. He believes in the pleasure of eating and complementing a chosen diet with supplements shown to improve health parameters while maintaining the pleasure of eating. I particularly respect approach to type 2 diabetes management as a complex multifactorial disease through investigating comprehensive therapies that consider more than blood sugar control. 

What’s your experience with research: I enjoy research. It provides endless opportunities to challenge yourself and your critical thinking skillset while still having flexibility in some of your day-to-day activities.

How’s the social experience with research:
There are many opportunities to participate in social activities. Our student council is particularly great at organizing social events at least monthly. The graduate classes are also much smaller and are a great setting to connect with new peers.

Future career plans: This is left to be determined. My graduate experience is always highlighting new paths and encouraging to develop my aspirations.

Quote: Always do your best. Regardless of what task you are completing, complete it to the best of your abilities. Whether you are photocopying, doing tedious blood analyses or commenting on a manuscript, always give it your all. You never know where a project may lead you but you should know that it is unlikely you will get there if you don’t appreciate the work.