Sarah Berry – Science is my favorite hobby

Author: Leticia Nani Silva

Dr. Sarah Berry is a reader in nutritional sciences at King’s College London. Her work focuses on precision nutrition and the influence of food matrix and dietary components on postprandial metabolism and cardiovascular health. In this interview we talk to Dr. Berry about both her career in nutritional sciences and her passion for the subject. Furthermore, we discuss recent advancements in the world of research and its potential expansion over time. 

Dr. Berry, as a young woman, was not interested in science. Her passion came when she decided to pursue a BSc in Physiology. She found incredible interest in the modifiable factors that could make humans healthier. Pursuing this interest, she then completed a MSc in Nutrition at King’s College London and followed this career path onto a PhD.

“I never had an ambition or a clear career path that I was going to follow. I was just taking the turn that I was interested in at the time, and my family was very supportive of that. I believe that if you take this approach in any job, you are going to succeed and never actually work a day in your life,” says Dr. Berry.

“I see science as my hobby. I am extremely fortunate that every day I get to wake up and do what I love most. My advice to the future generation is to just enjoy what you do. I always tell my kids that being a scientist is like being a detective: every day, you unravel pieces of information and make new discoveries. It’s fascinating!

“Today, researchers rarely sit in their labs with their white coats conducting experiments. Nowadays, being a researcher means that you are also a writer, a communicator, a project manager, etc. You therefore need to have a breadth of skills to get the most out of the science and be flexible in your career path.” 

How has the field of nutrition changed over the years?

“Having been in the field of nutrition for 20 years, a lot has changed in the way we collect data and how we undertake research due to technology and wearable devices. Today, we are able to aggregate lots of data from thousands of patients remotely (i.e. at home, on the way to work, at work, etc.). We don’t have to take the traditional approaches that we used to. Previously, we were able to do large scale studies with lower precision, and smaller scale studies with higher precision. With the modern advancements, we can get the best of both worlds.  

“We are now in this exciting era where everyone wants to look better, feel younger and live longer. We all want to know these secrets. With the ability to carry out research in the field of citizen science, we are able to advance our understanding of how to help people live longer and healthier.”

Dr. Berry goes on to comment on the importance of collaboration within the field of nutrition, “Now that we are able to gather all this information on thousands of metabolites using multi-omics techniques, we need to collaborate with experts to translate this data into something meaningful. We aim to combine AI and machine-learning with nutrition research in order to produce real world results and advice for those who need it the most.

“However, it is also important to communicate such information in the most effective way and make sure it is translated correctly. Everyone has an opinion about nutrition, whether it is professional or personal. We are up against the popular nutrition media. Therefore, we need to make our messages as clear as possible and emphasize the importance of a balanced diet and moderation while going up against the websites and influencers that focus solely on the ‘magic pill or magic diet’.” 

How do you think the pandemic have changed nutritional research?

“We have been able to conduct studies using novel remote technologies. With the PREDICT study and the COVID Symptom Study App, for example, we have been able to create more opportunities for research whilst our randomised controlled trials were put on hold. These have generated new leads and new opportunities for differentiated methods of investigation.” 

Have you faced any challenges being a women in science?

“Every stage in one’s career has challenges whether you are a young or a senior researcher. However, when one door closes, another will surely open. Being a woman in science has never been the determining factor in my career. I have always looked at being a great scientist, regardless of my sex. Great science is about curiosity more than anything.”

Frontiers is a signatory of the United Nations Publishers COMPACT. This interview has been published in support of United Nations Sustainable Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.