Natalie VandenAkker: Fred Griffee Memorial Award

The Fred Griffee Memorial Award recognizes an outstanding graduate student associated with the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station. Candidates are evaluated by their research ability, character, and scholarship.

Portrait of Natalie VandenAkkerNatalie VandenAkker is the recipient of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture’s Fred Griffee Memorial Award. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in human nutrition. Her advisor is Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, professor of clinical nutrition in the School of Food and Agriculture.

VandenAkker exemplifies excellence in research, teaching, leadership and public service. Her research has been presented at prestigious national and international conferences where she received student research awards.

In addition to her thesis research, VandenAkker worked on a project that included an intensive National Science Foundation program that explored commercialization of the research. She has served as a member of UMaine’s graduate student government and the School of Food and Agriculture in numerous capacities.

VandenAkker also has excelled in the classroom, where she taught courses in biology, food science, and human nutrition, and has trained undergraduate students to use sophisticated laboratory equipment. Her advisor, Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, describes her among the top one percent of graduate students she has encountered.

How do you envision your research might someday change the world? How will your experience at UMaine help you?

From my studies and personal experience, I have come to live by two quotes: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said by Hippocrates; and the second by Thomas A. Edison, “The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

I strongly believe in the already well-established direct correlation between the foods we eat and one’s overall health. Food is powerful, and so is the human body itself. With two powerful forces working together; rather than in opposition, healing can occur.

My goal is to be the doctor who recommends food/nutrients to prevent and/or reverse chronic disease rather than a drug that only hinders it and usually masks symptoms.

The Fred Griffee Memorial Award will allow me to continue to serve others through scientific research at the University of Maine that can be leveraged to benefit all communities in a time when it’s needed most.