For Aline D’Angelo Campos and Gabriela Vatavuk-Serrati, academic pursuits have evolved from personal experiences. The two doctoral students recently joined UNC’s Global Food Research Program (GFRP).
Aline and Gabriela both grew up in Brazil, a GFRP country of focus because it has experienced “nutrition transition.” This term describes dietary shifts toward more ultra-processed foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt while low in fiber and nutrition density.
“Ultra-processed foods were really present in my childhood, and I had a really difficult relationship with food for a long time in my life,” said Aline (left), a graduate research assistant at GFRP and doctoral student in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Health Behavior.
“I developed a great interest in food and nutrition in my personal life and then became very interested in the policy side of food.”
— ALINE D’ANGELO CAMOS
“I just [had] a lot of body issues, and a lot of extreme dieting and then putting the weight back on. So I had to unlearn that,” Aline said. “I developed a great interest in food and nutrition in my personal life and then became very interested in the policy side of food.”
Gabriela (right), a doctoral student in Nutrition at the Gillings School, danced ballet throughout her childhood. “I had to learn about nutrition early on: balancing having enough energy while being lean, because that’s the ideal body type for ballet,” she said. She noted that nutritional information in Brazil hasn’t been readily available, a particularly acute issue for vulnerable populations.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity. Receiving this very good education and working with incredible researchers is really a dream come true.”
— GABRIELA VATAVUK-SERRATI
Aline’s research focuses include food policy for the prevention of obesity and diet-related diseases in Latin America. In one project, she’s exploring how the design of food packaging nutrition labels impacts consumer buying decisions. The researchers are utilizing Lola’s Grocery, a virtual shopping experience for testing the impacts of policies and interventions on purchasing behavior.
“Focusing in on Latin America was something that I was really interested in, and everything [GFRP] was doing in terms of research was perfect for me,” said Aline, who earned a master’s degree in public policy in May from Duke University.
“I was already in North Carolina, so I was already aware of UNC,” she said. “I knew how good this program is.”
Gabriela earned a master’s degree in public health in May from Columbia University in New York. Her research pursuits at GFRP include several projects related to sugar content, sugar sales, and food supply.
“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” Gabriela said. “Receiving this very good education and working with incredible researchers is really a dream come true.”
A project of the Carolina Population Center, GFRP is composed of faculty, researchers, and students who work with partners around the world to evaluate food and nutrition policies, and develop research related to combating obesity. Learn more about GFRP’s work here.
Laura Stassi, owner of Stassi Creative LLC, is an award-winning writer and podcaster who focuses on health and wellness.