UC Berkeley Public Health Nutrition

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Jessamyn Wead, Summer Internship in Cambodia

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This past summer, I had the privilege of working at the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA) in Cambodia on a research project exploring the culture around indigenous plants people in Cambodia use as medicine and food. The aim of the project was to investigate how these plants are used, what they are used for and how people believe these impact human health and nutrition.

With an award from the Research and Innovation Fellowship in Agriculture (RIFA) from UC Davis, I was able to conduct this research focusing on five different villages in the northwest province of Siem Reap. I designed a three-part questionnaire and worked with local students at RUA to conduct interviews with healers and villagers in their native language of Khmer. I had the opportunity to witness the preparations of medicinal plant remedies and trek through the jungle to locate and harvest plants for food and medicinal use. Following the data collection and translation, I began synthesizing the findings for a research paper which I am currently finalizing for my degree in Public Health Nutrition.

I ended the summer by attending the 4th annual International Conference on Food Safety and Food Security put on by the Asia Food Safety and Security Association in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This was an incredible opportunity to connect with researchers from all over the world who are working on groundbreaking projects in nutrition, food and agriculture.

My summer internship not only allowed me to apply many of the skills I gained from my first year of grad school, it also provided hands-on training in managing an international research project. Perhaps even more profound, it allowed me the opportunity to connect with a community of people and a culture that is different from my own. In these times, we need leaders who understand and demonstrate diplomacy and cultural competency. As I look towards beginning a new career following my graduation in the Spring, I know I will drawn upon the invaluable skills and experiences I gained throughout my summer in Cambodia.

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