2023 FERN fellows

Read the FERN fact sheet on healthy checkout ordinances

The close of summer also marks the end of GFRP’s second year of the Fellowship for Exploring Research in Nutrition (FERN), a 9-week research internship for undergraduate students interested in food policy research. Over the course of the summer, the fellows built foundational research skills, attended professional development workshops, participated in GFRP team activities, assisted on ongoing research projects, and learned about current topics and methods in nutrition policy research. They also collaborated on a project to research and create a fact sheet on healthy checkout ordinances. The whole team thanks Checkna, Te’Aja, and Aaliyah for their work and contributions this summer and wishes them all the best this school year and in their future endeavors!

FERN logo 2023

Read more about the 2023 FERN fellows and their summer experiences below:

FERN fellows 2023, photographed outdoors
From left: Aaliyah Saunders, Checkna Diawara, and Te’Aja McCoy. By Jon Gardiner for UNC-Chapel Hill
Checkna Diawara headshot

Checkna Diawara

Rising fourth-year at the UNC-Chapel Hill

Major: Nutrition (Health and Society)

Summer research project: Checkna worked with Lindsey Smith Taillie, Anna Grummon, and Sarah Frank on a project examining the relationship between environmental nudges and healthy food choices.  

Favorite FERN workshops: “My favorite workshops included the PhD panels on nutrition and health behavior, the cover letter workshop, and the graduate school workshop. The PhD panels really opened my eyes to the different paths people have taken to work in nutrition and on public health projects. The cover letter and graduate school workshops helped me gain a sense of what I could do right after I graduate and how I could best prepare myself for that time, when it comes.”

Coming up next: “I’m really looking forward to helping Dr. Taillie and her team on their environmental nudges project this fall. I’m also exploring my post-graduate options, including working with the Food and Agriculture Organization and different fellowships for recent graduates.”

Te'Aja McCoy headshot

Te’Aja McCoy

Rising third-year at UNC-Chapel Hill

Major: Political Science

Summer research project: Te’Aja worked on the South Africa project with Alex Ross and Shu Wen Ng

Favorite FERN workshops: “My favorite FERN workshop was the Grad school workshop, as it helped a lot with my current law school applications. The most interesting thing I learned about this summer was how policies such as the healthy checkout ordinance directly impacted low-income communities.”

Coming up next: “After graduation, I plan on attending law school with plans to practice advocacy and public health law.”

Aaliyah Saunders headshot

Aaliyah Saunders

Rising fourth-year at NC State University

Major: Applied Nutrition Science

Summer research project: Aaliyah worked with Marissa Hall on research that uses eye-tracking technology to observe how individuals perceived various types of front of package food labels. She also worked with Aline D’Angelo Campos finding literature to give broader social context on pandemic effects on diet quality. “The most thought-provoking thing I learned this summer was how predatory food companies are with their promotional techniques for high-sodium/-sugar/-fat foods and drinks.”

Favorite FERN workshops: “My favorite workshops this summer were the Networking and STATA 101 workshops. Networking was never something I felt I was very strong at, but the workshop helped me understand how I can go about making connections within the field in a way that is bound to be the best responses. I also enjoyed the STATA workshop as it opened my eyes to programming and how helpful that skill can be in various fields.”

Coming up next: “I plan on taking a gap year to work and gain more experience before applying to grad school.”

Students interested in summer 2024 fellowships should check the FERN information page for application information in late 2023.