IrSPEN Prize for Best Research Project 2016

martinmirspenoriginal(BSc Human Nutrition and Dietetics Joint degree DIT/TCD)

Martin Murphy, BSc. was awarded the prize for best research project 2016 for his undergraduate study on vitamin D and cognition in older adults.

Martin originally graduated with a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from University College Dublin, and following his studies, was accepted onto Abbott Laboratories Professional Development Program during which he held a number of roles both in Ireland and in Southern California. Whilst recognising this as an excellent experience, Martin realised he wanted a more patient-oriented role which engineering couldn’t offer him. Additionally, he developed an interest in nutrition and after spending time shadowing a dietitian in St. Luke’s, Kilkenny and consulting a private dietitian, he decided dietetics was for him. Martin was accepted to the 4-year undergraduate course in Human Nutrition and Dietetics in TCD/DIT and thoroughly enjoyed his studies and practice placements. His main interests when entering dietetics was in sports nutrition, weight management and health promotion, however following placements his interests expanded to the areas of surgery, liver disease, diabetes, and cardiac care.

Martin’s undergraduate research project was based on the relationship between vitamin D status and cognition in ageing adults. Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), he examined the correlation between serum vitamin D levels in an older population and their performance in various cognitive tests. His research identified a statistically significant relationship between serum vitamin D and cognitive performance on several tests. However interestingly, this relationship was only consistent in individuals with severely deficient vitamin D status (<25nmols/L). Whilst acknowledging that his study was cross-sectional in design and thus causality could not be determined, Martin concluded that his findings provide additional evidence that everyone with serum vitamin D levels less than 25nmol/L should discuss regular Vitamin D supplementation with their GP.

Soon after graduating, Martin was offered a temporary contract role in South Tipperary General Hospital as a basic grade Dietitian. Since starting, he has covered a broad range of areas including stroke, geriatrics, general medicine, surgery and ICU. Martin is thoroughly enjoying his work so far and ‘very happy to have landed on (his) feet in such a friendly department’. In the future, he hopes to continue in the same manner, gaining experience in many different areas and is eager to explore all the specialities he can.

When asked if he would like to voice any additional thoughts, Martin kindly added;

‘First I would like to thank IrSPEN for the award. I would like to thank all the other students in my year. Their constant high standards and work ethic pushed us all to be better dietetic students. I have no doubt they will all make excellent dietitians. I would like to say thanks to Prof Maria O’Sullivan, Niamh Aspell and my project buddy Karla Smuts for all their help with my final year project. To Prof Dan McCartney for his interest in my education and helping me get some valuable research work in the Coombe maternity hospital and to all the DIT dietetic staff for the hard work they put into the course over the four years.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Ciara, who supported me through four more years of college. We are expecting our first child next March so she’s had her fill of diet sheets, First 1000 Days books and papers on maternal nutrition from my days in the Coombe. It’s a serious downside to having a dietetic husband. Especially when I’m making her a healthy fish stew but her cravings are telling her its Ben&Jerries for dinner or nothing!’

We are delighted to see such passion and enthusiasm from this recent graduate, and look forward to what he will achieve in the future.