From passion to profession … PhD student Neha Rathi shares her story

Our next blog is from Neha Rathi, a PhD student from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences.

Her research primarily focuses on improving the diets of adolescent Indians.

Neha has been invited to share her research journey.

Find out more about Neha’s research journey in this video.

Neha Rathi

The Snapshots of My Life…

I was raised in the mesmerising little city of Kolkata in India, simmering with culture and seasoned with traditions served with a dash of the contemporary and a hint of the ultramodern. My childhood memories of my mother cooking ignited within me a culinary passion which, to a great extent, is responsible for where I stand today. At an early age I resolved to be a part of the great culinary endeavour, meandering wherever this enduring passion beckoned me, culminating at acquiring my Bachelor degree in Food and Nutrition at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

Being at the top of the university presented me with the opportunity to acquire a Master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai. I undertook research investigating the prevalence of overweight and obesity among Indian infants, while simultaneously participating in internships in the food industry and in nutrition rehabilitation centres. This 2-year course was a rewarding experience, handing me a job as a Food Marketing Officer in a reputable food company, post-graduation.

Despite the lucrative offer and the job appeal I ended up desiring something more, yearning for a more meaningful challenge. And what could be more challenging than to mould malleable minds towards food that facilitates healthy living while tantalising one’s taste buds?

I thought “Why not teach?

I accepted the post of a Home Economics Educator in an Indian secondary school. Certainly, the most exciting part of this three-year teaching experience was that I got to conduct cookery lessons which my students and I enjoyed immensely!

However, like all great relationships, that too came to an end. A stagnant nutrition curriculum, lack of school canteen policies, and the unhealthy eating patterns of my students disheartened me.  It got me thinking “What can I do to improve this situation?”

It was time for a change. I headed south, head on, on my way to Melbourne!

Why Melbourne?

Why indeed?  If not Melbourne, then where?

Right here, in the heart of the food capital of Australia, in the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), at Deakin University lay the means to further my cause, to embark on an adventure! I worked really hard to receive the prestigious Victoria India Doctoral Scholarship. From there, there was no looking back.

There still remained the question of becoming a very square peg in a very round hole. But today it is a privilege for me to declare myself a resident of this magnifique metropolis and to be a part of the kaleidoscopic culture this city provides!

My research at Deakin

Since my sole aim was to find ways of improving the eating habits of Indian adolescents, I was interesting in examining the food and nutrition landscape in Indian secondary schools. This formed the crux of my PhD research. Under the guidance of Professor Tony Worsley and Associate Professor Lynn Riddell, I have, so far, published four research articles in international journals, which focus on factors influencing the dietary behaviour of Indian adolescents, food environment and policies in Indian secondary schools and food and nutrition education.

My PhD further afforded me the opportunity to travel overseas, showcasing my research findings to an international audience. Since I intend to submit my thesis for examination next month, I can undeniably say that my association with Deakin University has truly been memorable and gratifying, and is an association that I will cherish forever.

What next?

Who knows what the future holds – the myriads of possibilities, the innumerable challenges waiting to be served on my platter! All I know is that I’m waiting, polished and sharp, ready to dig in, anytime, anywhere…

Bon appétit!


Neha Rathi – PhD student

Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin University


Category list: Student Blogs


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