The College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources unveiled its newly renovated Nutritional Science Laboratory this semester, a facility designed to develop future nutrition professionals' knowledge of our food systems and how nutrition can be used to prevent and help manage preventable chronic diseases. This is important because low food literacy is associated with diet-related chronic diseases, and preventable chronic disease continues to be Nevada’s leading cause of death.
“At least half of the typical American food budget is spent on food that's prepared away from home,” Nutrition Instructor Maureen Molini said. “The collateral damage is that we have less engagement with our food. We don't prepare it, much less understand where it comes from. Being in the lab helps our students get that exposure and learn about our food systems and about our food, itself.”
In the lab, students explore topics such as the scientific method; nutrition’s role in health, chronic-disease prevention, and fitness and sports; and issues impacting the food industry and public safety.
“The lab experience enables students to explain what our food is, where it comes from, why we eat it, why it's nutritionally significant,” Molini said.
The facility features eight powered lab stations, as well as high-definition video monitors and improved climate control. The changes foster a hands-on and collaborative environment in which students engage with nutrition in an exciting and effective way.
“The space now better meets the needs and desires of students for hands-on experiences,” Molini said. “Students are looking for experiential learning. They want to do it themselves. This enhances the educational experience.”
Highlights of what is available to students in the updated space include:
- Measuring equipment, such as a height board and food and body fat scales.
- Nutritional science equipment, including lower-temperature convection ovens for determining the water activity of food; and appliances, such as hot plates, blenders and microwaves.
- Fresh, perishable supplies and more.
The recent changes to the lab were led by Department of Nutrition Chair Jamie Benedict and build on work begun in 2008 by her predecessor, now-Experiment Station Director Chris Pritsos.
“The original project’s goal was to provide a first-class laboratory experience for students interested in learning about the science of nutrition,” Pritsos said. “The current remodel takes the laboratory experience to the next level and allows us to continue to provide our students with state-of-the-art experiences.”