Meet Professor Sarah McNaughton

18 Sep 2023

Professor Sarah McNaughton is the new Professor and Discipline Lead for Nutrition and Dietetics for UQ's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

UQ alum Professor McNaughton will return to UQ to continue her impressive career in nutrition and dietetics in January 2024.

What do you hope to bring to the role?
Food plays such critical role in our life, with poor nutrition the leading cause of burden of disease, and so we need a strong and vibrant workforce to solve current and future nutrition issues in Australia and worldwide. I am highly committed to building capacity and contribute to the training of the next generation of professionals in food, nutrition and dietetics. I bring to the role an understanding of the national and international nutrition and dietetics sector, and hope to build collaborations and partnerships within the School, Faculty and University, and beyond, to build evidence for strategies and programs vital for the prevention, management and treatment of a range of health conditions across key life stages.

What are your key research interests?
My research program has focused on strengthening the evidence-base for public health nutrition strategies and interventions focusing on epidemiological and population health methods and approaches. My work involves developing novel methods for measuring and interpreting population dietary patterns, understanding the role of foods, eating patterns and dietary patterns in health and wellbeing, and understanding food and nutrition literacy as a determinant of eating behaviours to inform interventions to assist people to adopt healthy and sustainable dietary patterns. I am currently developing new research in food literacy and have a particular interest in translation of evidence into guidelines and nutrition communication messages.

Can you share your key career highlights?
In 2021 I was invited to Chair The National Health and Medical Research Council Expert Committee for the review of the Australian Dietary Guidelines. I was very honoured to be invited to take on this role, given the significance of the guidelines for public health nutrition policy in Australia.

What aspects do you enjoy most about your work?
I like the variety of the tasks and topics I get to work on, and that I get to learn new things. I like working with smart, creative people. Nutrition sciences encompasses biological, social, cultural and environmental dimensions allowing a diversity of research questions and ideas to be examined. Ultimately I enjoy using my time to focus on work that has impact. Nutrition provides such an enormous opportunity to impact society and community in the long term and there is so much work to be done.

What drew you towards nutrition and dietetics?
I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science after high school as I had enjoyed science at school but initially I had no idea what I was going to do with that degree. In first year I worked out I was interested in biomedical sciences, but it wasn't until I was exposed to some fairly questionable marketing of supplements that I started to become interested in nutrition, as I could see that there was a lot of marketing hype but the science of biochemistry and physiology appealed to me. After investigating this further, I found postgraduate nutrition and dietetics training and focused all my studies towards that goal.

As a UQ alum what is your favourite UQ memory?

Spending time in the beautiful Great Court and surrounding campus in the sunshine between lectures and practical classes!

Looking back to the day you first set foot on campus, is there anything you wish to tell that person now?

It will all work out! Trust yourself, back yourself and have more fun along the way.