UOW PhD student Eden Barrett. Photo: Paul Jones

PhD student recognised for outstanding leadership by National Council of Women

PhD student recognised for outstanding leadership by National Council of Women

Dietitian Eden Barrett working to improve public health through whole grain research

A PhD student whose research focuses on how diet can reduce the burden of disease was today (Thursday 23 January) recognised as a leader in her field in the National Council of Women’s NSW Australia Day Awards.

Eden Barrett, who is undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (Health Sciences) in the University of Wollongong’s School of Medicine, received the Young Australian Women Students of Achievement award during a ceremony at NSW Parliament in Sydney.

It was an honour for Eden, who said she was thrilled to be recognised for her research and for her leadership among her fellow PhD students.

“It’s really exciting,” said Eden, who was sponsored by Jane and Barry Baker AM. “The PhD journey is long and can be hard, so it feels really good to get the recognition.”

The annual National Council of Women Australia Day Awards recognise talented young women from a range of fields and backgrounds.

Eden’s research is in dietetics and public health, focusing primarily on the link between whole grain intake and heart health. In particular, she is exploring the role of cereal fibre and perception among the general public about the benefits and nutrition of whole grain.

Although she has always been interested in health and nutrition, Eden was inspired to pursue her PhD after undertaking her Honours thesis, as part of her Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics, investigating the prevalence of cereal fibre in the Australian diet.

She loved the research aspect of the degree, and decided to take it further with a PhD. 

As part of her research, Eden has been examining large datasets that provide an insight into the nutritional behaviours of populations in Australia and the United Kingdom, and using those statistics to create a picture about the intake of whole grains. 

“I’m really interested in how we can promote whole grain and high-fibre grain foods, and the perceptions consumers have of these foods,” said Eden, who was supervised in her research by Professor Eleanor Beck and Professor Marijka Batterham.

“I am passionate about understanding why Australians choose the foods they do, and how policy and promotion can encourage and assist people to make better choices.

“If we are going to target the burden of disease, looking at the cardiovascular system is one of the most impactful ways we can do that because it is so connected. Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest health issues, particularly in the Western world, and it is very dependent on diet.”

UOW PhD student Eden Barrett and Professor Eleanor Beck. Photo: Paul Jones

Eden Barrett with her primary supervisor Professor Eleanor Beck. Photo: Paul Jones

As part of her degree, Eden spent nine months studying with Professor Sumantra Ray at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, on an Endeavour Scholarship. It was “the best experience of my life”, she said, and provided her with incredible opportunities to build upon her research at one of the world’s most prestigious and oldest universities. 

Professor Eleanor Beck, Eden’s primary supervisor for her PhD journey, said she was delighted to see her recognised in the Australia Day Awards.

“Eden is self-motivated, driven and works incredibly hard. She is an excellent ambassador for young researchers and dietitians. I am so proud to see her receive this award and be honoured for her contribution,” Professor Beck said.

“I can’t wait to see her make a difference in the world as a young researcher improving the public health of our nation.”