Student Spotlight: Janine Comrie

Janine Comrie

July 18, 2022

Janine Comrie is a doctoral student in nutrition from south Florida. She attended Yale University as an undergraduate and now studies how gut bacteria transform nutrients.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

I study how bacteria residing in the gut transform nutrients in the diet, specifically focusing on dietary fat. Gut bacteria convert dietary components into a vast array of molecules that affect human health. Therefore, gut bacteria play crucial roles in processing nutrients and in mediating the effects of various nutrients on health. I seek to define the role of gut bacteria in the health effects of dietary fats because this would suggest how certain foods may affect different people in different ways, based on the unique bacterial communities found within those people. 

What are the larger implications of this research?

My research will reveal how gut bacteria play roles in the effects of dietary fats on the health of their mammalian host. Given the significant influence of dietary fats on inflammation and metabolic health in humans, my research findings could suggest novel bacteria-centric strategies for mitigating or protecting against prevalent chronic inflammatory diseases and metabolic disorders. Information provided by my research is also relevant to supporting personalized nutrition initiatives, which seek to tailor dietary recommendations to individual people based on their unique characteristics, such as the unique composition of their gut bacterial community.

What did you learn from presenting at the Black Excellence Research Symposium?

The Black Excellence Research Symposium gave me a great opportunity to practice presenting my research to an audience that extends beyond my own field. The three-minute lightning talk format was a particularly valuable exercise because it forced me to describe my research and its significance in a very concise way. The presentation therefore taught me how to distill my research down to its most fundamental objectives and its most important implications. This is an important skill that I can use in future presentations, publications, and job interviews.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the experience of presenting at this symposium?

I loved the general sense of mutual support and encouragement that imbued the whole research symposium. Following my talk, the students and faculty who attended provided encouraging feedback and showed genuine interest in the work I presented, heightening my sense of belonging and being supported as I conduct research at Cornell. It was also exciting to see all the amazing, diverse work other graduate students are pursuing at Cornell. I felt grateful to be a part of such a strong and dynamic research community.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

Not only do I study food-related topics in the lab; I also love everything food-related outside of lab. Cooking, baking, grocery shopping, and perusing the farmers market are all opportunities for me to de-stress and focus on nourishing my body (and my taste buds). Aside from all things food-related, I love exploring nature parks, visiting art galleries, and attending music concerts on campus (orchestra concerts, string quartet concerts, and the like). I hope to start playing my violin again sometime soon!

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I chose to pursue my degree at Cornell because it has a strong field of nutritional sciences with faculty members investigating a wide array of contemporary and forward-thinking nutrition topics. I also liked how Cornell has students and faculty studying nutrition from the molecular scale to the international scale, with these diverse researchers frequently interacting, fostering an atmosphere of interdisciplinary collaboration. In addition to academic reasons, I also fell in love with Ithaca from the moment I arrived! I am grateful that I can pursue my Ph.D. in such a beautiful place.