Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Rebecca Kanter

image1_1Name: Rebecca Kanter ’05
Major while at UR: Biochemistry and Health & Society
Occupation: Researcher at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP)
Education (UR and additional): B.S. Biochemistry, B.A. Health & Society, Take 5 in “Understanding Latin American Culture, Identity, and Values;” PhD in International Health & Human Nutrition
Current city/country of residence: Guatemala City/Guatemala
Community activities: Media officer (volunteer) for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF)

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

So many reasons. But learning that University of Rochester’s motto was MELIORA sealed the deal for me to apply early decision.

When and how did you choose your major?

I entered UR interested in bioethics, but because I knew that wasn’t available I settled on Biochemistry. My sophomore year I took Professor Brown’s classic HLS 116 (then Introduction to Community Medicine). After instantly learning about socioeconomic disparities in health, I knew I wanted to major in Health & Society. And soon after that, I knew I also wanted to continue with Biochemistry because it is the basis of human nutrition.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

As a student, I was involved with Varsity Field Hockey, Club Ice Hockey, and UR Cinema Group. My passion is field hockey and it continued to give tremendous balance to my life—especially while doing a double degree (B.S. Biochemistry & B.A. Health & Society) at UR. There is nothing like having fun playing your favorite sport outside, on a beautiful surface, in beautiful crisp fall weather or night-time flurries. The early morning practices were physically tough but were life lessons. Trekking to the ice rink shin-deep snow in the early morning was also priceless. All activities provided me with an eclectic group of friends and awesome teammates.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Hands-down the critical thinking skills I took away from UR have been most useful to me since graduation. To have been constantly surrounded by peers, professors, and friends with intangible critical thinking skills (and ways of teaching these skills) was a true privilege.  Soon after graduation, I entered into a PhD program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It was here that I realized that the critical thinking skills I gained from nearly all my classes at UR was such a privilege and of essential use in public health.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Right now, I work as a (public health nutrition) researcher in Guatemala City at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP)—whose founding director was coincidentally a UR Medical School Alum, Dr. Nevin Scrimshaw. Why did I choose this career? I told you its founding director was a UR Medical School Alum, right…?. But seriously, since taking HLS 116, I more or less knew I wanted to do public health nutrition research in Latin America.

What advice do you have for current students?

Follow your heart, try not to stress about the future (whether it is tomorrow or two years from now or decades from now), and always remember: MELIORA.