#IAmNYAS: Michael I. McBurney
Learn how the Vice President of Science, Communications & Advocacy for DSM is working to make a difference in the world, when he's not renovating houses.
Academy Member Michael I. McBurney, PhD, FACN, of Kinnelon, NJ, is the Vice President of Science, Communications & Advocacy for DSM Nutritional Products as well as an Adjunct Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. Michael's "life goal" is to make a difference and he is achieving this through his work in the fields of nutrition and health. Read on to hear more about Michael's perspective on nutrition and food policy, communicating his work to the public, and the importance of mentorship.
Can you tell us about the path that led you to nutrition and food policy?
Professionally, I chose to study nutrition and to work in the field of nutrition and health. My approach is to ask questions and try to find answers that will improve the nutrition (and health) of people and animals. Hopefully, our efforts as scientists will lead to insights and practices, maybe even policies, which will benefit people, communities, and societies.
You blog a lot - what's one of your favorite posts?
This is a difficult question as I am usually enamored with every blog once it is posted! With over 900 blog posts at DSM's TalkingNutrition blog, it is our readers who have the final say (vote) on best blog post. And using that yardstick, the vote usually goes to those by my co-blogger, Julia K Bird! However, as a recent example, it is personally satisfying to have a platform to discuss nutrition research: "Why Conduct Nutrition RCTs without Nutrition Assessment?"
What is one of the biggest challenges you're facing right now?
Consumer confusion about the nutritional quality and safety of foods. Over 70% of our food purchases are for processed foods. Our health is most often challenged because we eat too much and/or we routinely eat the same few foods. Without a diverse diet, moderate portions, and adherence to recommended number of servings from each food group, it is very difficult to consume recommended quantities (RDAs) of vitamins and minerals. Food enrichment and fortification has increased the amount of micronutrients (nutrient density) of our diet. A multivitamin-mineral supplement can provide additional insurance that we meet RDAs. Yet, there is a misperception about the healthfulness of fortified foods and multivitamin-mineral supplements. Because of our food choices and sedentary lifestyle, obesity co-exists with undernutrition (inadequate intake of essential nutrients).
What's a fun fact about you that might surprise your friends or colleagues?
I have renovated parts of several homes, building walls, installing electrical systems, drywalling and painting - all meeting local codes and passing inspection.
What role have mentors had in your career?
Many, many individuals have guided me by sharing values, modeling desirable behaviors, and teaching me skills. As a professor, I have had the opportunity to mentor and learn from my students. Within my current position, I am in a formal mentoring program and enjoy sharing experiences with the two mentees assigned to me. Being involved in a mentoring relationship is one of the most satisfying experiences.
If you're like Michael and would like to use your expertise to inspire the next generation of STEM innovators, apply to be a mentor for our programs in The Global STEM Alliance.