Student Spotlight: Jianxin Huo

Jianxin Huo

November 30, 2020

Jianxin Huo is a master of public health student with a concentration in food systems and health from Foshan, China. After earning her B.S. in nutritional sciences at Cornell, she decided to pursue further study to continue learning about food systems through the lens of public health.

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

My course of study focuses on understanding how different components in food systems, from field to table, can affect the health of both humans and the environment. In particular, I’m interested in learning about public health nutrition and how we can better develop food and nutrition programs in local communities for people to make healthier and more sustainable food choices.

What are the larger implications of this research?

The MPH program encourages us to look at the food system through the “one health” lens — all system components are interconnected. For instance, it is not enough to tell people what to eat to be healthy; we also want to ensure that the foods are safe to eat and people have access to healthy food. This leads to broader considerations of sustainable agriculture, environmental/animal health, food safety, food justice, social supports, etc. All these factors have to be addressed simultaneously to improve our health outcomes.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

Through my undergraduate study, I became more interested in public health nutrition rather than merely clinical dietetics. I was fascinated by the concepts of social determinants of health and I see the power of public health in leading systemic changes by being at the center of multidisciplinary collaborations. During my summer internship at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Warren County, NY, after my junior year, I enjoyed working with my field mentor, who has an MPH degree, on developing community-based nutrition programs. This valuable mentorship has further inspired me to choose public health.

How has the pandemic influenced the focus of your studies?

Given my background interest in nutrition, I saw the importance of a balanced diet in supporting our immune system in the face of the deadly virus. However, the pandemic has posed many challenges to food production, distribution, and access. Therefore, I felt the urge to expedite my preparation in building a stronger food system that is resilient to the pandemic as well as future challenges. I’m currently interested in topics on virtual nutrition lessons, home gardening, and food delivery services.

How has the pandemic changed your involvement at Cornell? What are you doing to impact the campus and community as a public health student?

Since July, I have been involved in the ongoing COVID behavioral surveillance project led by our MPH faculty. We surveyed individuals around campus to understand the utilization of mask-wearing and physical distancing practices. Our data were used to inform Cornell’s COVID prevention responses.

What kind of impact would you like your research to make on the world?

I really like the phrase “think globally, act locally” because I believe local communities make up our world’s foundation. As a Chinese student, I see large gaps in food and nutrition program development in China. Therefore, I hope to bring my Cornell experience to serve my home country after graduation. Meanwhile, I would also like to promote conversations and collaborations between local and global leaders across the world to build sustainable food systems for all.

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

In my free time, I enjoy exploring nature trails in Ithaca, taking photographs, figure skating, cooking, and playing the piano.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?         

The most rewarding experience through the four years of undergraduate study is that I found my home at Cornell. I have built deep connections to Cornell faculty and staff who have supported me all along, especially during the pandemic. Academically, I knew Cornell is a leader in food and nutrition research — that’s why I chose Cornell for my undergrad! The unique offering of the food systems concentration in the MPH program allows me to build on my passion for nutrition while broadening my perspectives in public health. Besides, Ithaca is such a beautiful place to stay!