Research

Big dreams lead to atomic posting

A University of Queensland researcher has been recruited by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to lead projects combating malnutrition through nuclear nutrition techniques.

Dr Alexia Murphy will work as a nutrition specialist with the United Nations agency on its program encouraging the use of nuclear technology to improve nutrition in areas including infant and young child feeding, maternal and adolescent nutrition and prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

Dr Murphy said several techniques used by nutrition researchers involved a safe nuclear component.

“We use measurements such as stable isotope dilution, total body potassium and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry to accurately assess body composition,” she said.

“The IAEA promotes the safe use of these techniques to help achieve the sustainable development goals of ‘zero hunger’ and ‘good health and wellbeing’.

Projects focus on breastfeeding promotion, obesity prevention and reduction of micronutrient deficiencies.

Dr Murphy’s three-year posting to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna will involve coordinating projects in low-middle income countries.

It follows 16 years at the Children’s Nutrition Research Centre where she began work as a research assistant.

“I worked my way up to laboratory manager and was then convinced to do my PhD,” Dr Murphy said.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to establish myself as an independent researcher, particularly by centre director Professor Peter Davies.

“I’ve always wanted to use my body composition and nutrition skills to improve malnutrition in low- middle income countries, so this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Dr Murphy was named a World Cancer Research Fund International Academy Fellow in 2014.

She co-founded the International Paediatric Oncology Nutrition Group, which has more than 170 members from 36 countries.

Dr Murphy, who will start her role in August 2016, said her advice to young researchers was simple.

“Be proactive, chase opportunities, and always dream big.”

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