Lakshmi A. Dave

Research Officer at the Riddet Institute, Massey University in Palmerston North

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You have a unique perspective, and if you pursue it you'll find Science-based solutions to some of the most pressing global issues.

What do you do?

I use the principles of physiology to understand which combinations of food systems will be able to feed the world's growing population in both an ecologically-sustainable and culturally-appropriate manner. I also study the hidden doctor in our gut (little peptides) that silently help us maintain our overall health on a day to day basis. In my role at the Riddet Institute, I also work with two indigenous STEM academies of India and New Zealand, to encourage indigenous children and youth to take up Science as a long-term career!

Why did you choose this field?

I grew up in a tiny township in Western India. We would have peacocks frolicking in the backyard of every house in the town... It was a pristine place with abundant biodiversity of flora and fauna. Growing up, I noticed that every cultural celebration or festival had specific associated foods that were linked back to either a particular season, plant or an element of the earth system. This made me want to understand human nutrition from the point of view of planetary health. I then chose to pursue a Bachelor's degree in foods and nutrition, and a Master's in food technology with a focus on biochemistry and nutrition. I went on to do my Ph.D. in gut physiology. I now use my knowledge to understand which diets are all three of the following: (i) nutritionally-adequate, (ii) culturally-appropriate and (iii) have the least environmental impact.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

More than my scientific achievements, when I pause and think of the work that I do as a Science Communicator for the indigenous peoples of India and New Zealand, it gives my work a sense of purpose. I wish I could let the younger me know that we all have the ability to lift each-other up! That the only real meaning of any goal is when it helps motivate someone other than yourself too.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in STEM as my work can help combat the effects of climate change, and it can help people make the right dietary choices. I love motivating children to look at Science as a fun-filled field, as a tool to understand the mysteries of life!

Best advice for next generation?

My work with a girls' school in India has taught me that girls are extremely perceptive! I would like to tell girls everywhere to pursue their brainwaves! You have a unique perspective, and if you pursue it you'll find Science-based solutions to some of the most pressing global issues.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

My favourite quote is a part of a Sanskrit Shloka on womanhood. Translated into English, it would be "She is the life of all universe".

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