CSUS faculty pursues her passion working with international communities on nutrition issues
CSUS faculty Dr. Kimberly Chung shares about how she transitioned from food science to participatory research to address international agricultural and nutrition issues.
Kimberly Chung, an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability, began to pursue a career in food science when she found her passion in addressing issues of global nutrition. This passion has sparked a lifelong career of engaging in participatory research where she and her students work with communities around the world to research and address agricultural and nutrition issues.
In her work, Dr. Chung has also been a strong advocate and pillar of support for students in the department.
In the following interview, Dr. Chung shares about her career path, her role models who have helped shape the scholar she is today, and her advice for current graduate students. Responses have been lightly edited.
What year did you join MSU?
Educational Background (undergraduate and graduate program):
B.S. Food Science, University of California Davis
M.S. Food Science and Nutrition, Cornell University
M.A. Applied Economics, Food Research Institute, Stanford University
Ph.D. Applied Economics, Food Research Institute, Stanford University
Los Altos, California
Field of study or area of interest:
Agriculture-nutrition linkages; Community food systems; Participatory methodologies
Why did you choose to pursue your area of interest or field of study?
I just couldn’t get my head around devoting my life creating a better chip or a chewier box brownie. It seemed like there had to be something more meaningful to life.
My first love has always been nutrition science and I felt really passionate about undernutrition in other countries. At one point during my MS degree, I decided that I couldn’t work in a lab anymore—it was too lonely and tedious. I had always dreamed of switching to study global nutrition, but I was afraid of what my parents would say. So I didn’t tell my parents and I applied to the program I really wanted at Stanford.
What is one exciting thing you’re currently working on?
The most exciting thing I’ve done lately has been to work with Adam Lyman on his MS project in Zambia. It is THE most meaningful, deep experience in participatory research that I have been associated with in my life. Adam is a mechanical engineer, and he applied a highly participatory design model to his wok in developing a utility cart for rural village life in Zambia. His fieldwork was so exciting and super inspiring. At the same time, the intellectual work regarding participatory processes in the context of international development is fascinating. It’s the stuff that makes you smile because it’s just endlessly exciting. We’re writing the work up as papers now and it’s one thing that has kept me going during the pandemic. It doesn’t get much better than that.
What’s the best part about your job?
So many things. 1) The fact that we can be curious about anything we want. That’s an amazing gift in life. 2) The fact that we work in an interdisciplinary environment, and we are not bound by what a single discipline considers to be relevant. 3) The students. We have the best students. They are curious and caring beings and each one of them is different. I really appreciate them…all of them.
What is one of the most impactful things you’ve done as a scholar at MSU?
I believe in each one of our students. Every one of them.
Who is an influential or inspiring person in your life or career?
Frank Fear, Professor Emeritus in our department and former associate dean of CANR. Frank is largely responsible for the transdisciplinary and caring ethos that developed in this department. He was one of the strongest voices to encourage us to find our own intellectual voice and to create something different. Without Frank this department would not be what we are now. No question.
Another person is Frances Kaneene. Frances has been a huge influence on my soul. I frequently find myself wondering WWFD? (What would Frances do?)
When you’re not working, what do you do?
Tennis (I’m not very good). Bonfires in the backyard. Hang with friends. Follow Spartan basketball. Travel. And food. I love food and I love to bake.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Before doing any work sit down in the morning and write a list of gratitude’s. No item is too small.
Do you have any thoughts or advice to share with students?
Get a buddy and make standing appointments to write together in small sessions. Accountability works (and is less lonely).