Scholarship feeds CSU student’s appetite for health and nutrition research

Colorado State University graduate student Dustin Lee has a taste for healthy eating.

He recently received a $5,000 scholarship from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation to help fund his graduate-level work on cardiovascular disease.

“There is this confusion about what’s good and not good for you,” Lee said. “The media often misinterprets the facts, and I want people to be informed about nutrition.”

unnamedLee is in the master’s program in CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, doing research under Assistant Professor Christopher Gentile on how obesity and Type 2 diabetes can cause cardiovascular disease. He works in the Integrative Cardiovascular Physiology Lab, which Gentile directs. The lab focuses mostly on basic science, a transition from Lee’s dietetics background.

“He learned a number of research skills very quickly and has become a leader in the lab,” said Gentile, his thesis adviser.

Lee’s master’s project is the study of how FuZhuan tea affects cardiovascular health in mice. He also works as a teaching assistant for FSHN Professor Mary Harris’ medical nutrition therapy and nutritional counseling classes in the Patricia A. McKlem Medical Nutrition Therapy Lab.

“As my teaching assistant, I have found Dustin to be a bright star; he is extremely capable and conscientious,” Harris wrote in her recommendation letter.

Studied in Hawaii

Lee grew up in Lakewood and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“I wanted to get out of state, and what better place than Hawaii?” Lee said.

Lee also did a year-long internship in Louisiana, where he studied the three components needed to become a registered dietitian — clinical, community nutrition and food service. In addition, he worked for two years in acute care as a clinical dietitian at the Medical Center of Aurora.

Lee was awarded the Commission on Dietetic Registration Diversity Scholarship in August.

“Dustin has demonstrated tremendous potential to achieve his short- and long-term career goals as a leader in nutrition and dietetics,” Harris said. “He demonstrates maturity beyond his years, a high level of motivation and exceptional interpersonal skills.”

Lee would like to earn his doctorate in nutrition science and continue research and teaching.

“Wanting to teach evolved from working in acute care,” he said. “This is where the challenge of translating nutrition research and facts to patients presented itself. I would like to continue to educate and present information that really makes sense to someone when they hear it or see it.

Lee was also the recipient of the Shrake Culler Scholarship from the College of Health and Human Sciences. The Shrake Culler Scholarship was established by the Cullers as a tribute to their education at Colorado State. By 1935, Charles and Genevieve had worked their way through Colorado A&M, he pumping gas and she working at a boarding home. The scholarship supports graduate students in Food Science and Human Nutrition and Design and Merchandising.