This is not just an empty expression – it’s true, as evidenced by the amazing variety of majors we offer as well as the testimonies of our graduates.
Board certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in trauma and reconstruction, Athens Orthopedic Clinic, chief of orthopedic surgery, Athens Regional Medical Center
Education: Stanford, B.A., Clinical Psychology, 1994; UGA, M.S., Foods and Nutrition, 1999; Medical College of Georgia, M.D., 2004; Residency, Medical College of Georgia, Orthopedic Surgery, 2009; Fellowship, St. Louis University, Orthopedic Trauma, 2010
Chip Ogburn was living sort of a dream life for himself in a Colorado ski resort.
He was in his early 20s, a recent Stanford graduate, working odd jobs and enjoying the view and amenities of the idyllic valley nicknamed Ski Town USA.
But something was missing.
“We had a really good friend who was just about to turn 40 and had saved up enough money to buy his first condo,” Ogburn recalled. “I remember thinking ‘I don’t want to be 40 years old and buying my very first condo.’ That was not what I wanted out of life.”
At the time, Ogburn was managing a health food store, which meshed nicely with a lifelong interest in fitness and nutrition. Feeling a pull toward higher education, he eventually discovered Dr. Rick Lewis’ lab within the FACS department of foods and nutrition, moved back to his native Georgia and completed the program in 1999.
After attending medical school and an orthopedic residency in Augusta, followed by a trauma fellowship in St. Louis, Ogburn and his wife Kjirsten moved back to Athens in 2010, where he now works as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in trauma and reconstruction with Athens Orthopedic Clinic, performing an average of 25 surgeries a week.
Tell us a little about some of the jobs you had in Colorado.
“I worked every facet of the service industry. Waiting and busing tables, cook line – I can cook a mean crepe – tending bar, bar manager, painting, construction. I worked in a grocery store deli for probably a year. You name it, I’ve done it.”
How would you describe your experience as a graduate student with Dr. Lewis?
“More than anything he was just a great life mentor in terms of how to try and balance your activities. I think that’s what health and wellness is about mostly: not just the determination and the food you eat, but the balance you bring to your life. The years I spent with him were wonderful.”
How did the grad school process prepare you for your career?
“From an academic standpoint, pushing through the stress of thesis work and grant proposals is harder than doing anything else really in terms of studies and testing and all that. It’s a significant trial to put yourself through. Going through that academically prepares you to do anything you want to do … if you can push through a thesis in that amount of time, you can pretty much tackle anything.”
How do you describe your job?
“I mostly fix broken stuff as a trauma guy and take care of all kinds of urgent problems: lots of infections, lots of urgent fracture work, car wrecks, hip fractures, you name it.”
Any misconceptions about the life of a trauma surgeon?
“Most people think trauma (is) you just show up and whatever comes in the door you just kind of fly by the seat of your pants. The reality is I spend a significant amount of time preparing for all these cases we do and the forethought is what brings success to the actual surgery, not whether you’ve got good hands or the right tools or you’re good on the fly.”
What is one of the highlights of your work?
“You do have those handful of patients who are so grateful and gracious and it seems like the timing is just right (that) when you’re kind of getting beat down and you’re getting tired and you have the salt of the earth that’s not being too kind to you, that you’ll find that one person who says just the right thing to kind of brighten up your day and make you feel better. That helps.”
Ph.D., 2015, Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics
Gangopadhyay came to Athens from India, where he worked for the National Sample Survey Organization, the world’s largest sample survey operation.
While dealing with a vast pool of socioeconomic and demographic data, the seeds for a dissertation on poverty measurements in the U.S. were sown.
Gangopadhyay’s dissertation proposes an alternative methodology for measurement of poverty. Currently, the U.S. uses an income-based methodology that many consider to be lacking.
“Academics and policy makers have longed for a better measure of poverty that more fully captures people’s circumstances,” said Nielsen, Gangopadhyay’s major professor.
Gangopadhyay’s did exactly that, Nielsen said, incorporating different types of measurements such as hardships involving food, housing, education, for example, that potentially could have significant policy ramifications if adopted.
Since graduation, he has moved back to India and has taken a position within the NSSO.
“He’s technically very sound, so his understanding of data and how to extract the appropriate information out of very large, complex data sets is more advanced than anyone I’ve seen before,” Nielsen said. “What comes through with Dipesh is he has both personal and professional experiences that brought him to a place where he can write about poverty measurement better than anyone I’ve read.”
Ph.D., 2014, Foods and Nutrition
Miller, now a post-doctoral research associate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was originally attracted to FACS largely because of the research of the late Dr. Clifton Baile, a widely respected researcher who headed up the UGA Obesity Initiative.
Miller received her master’s degree in nutrition from UNC-Greensboro and was interested in continuing her research of menopause. Miller’s dissertation looked at the prevalence and effects of fatty liver disease.
At the EPA, she studies the effects of air pollution on obesity and metabolic disease and performs basic molecular research.
She credited the department’s multidisciplinary approach and the freedom she was granted to perform exploratory research for preparing her for her current position.
“They gave me my own space and opportunity to find myself as a researcher,” Miller said of Baile and other mentors. “I had the freedom and independence to take ownership of my research.”
Ph.D., 2015, Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics
Scott, a native of Chicago, enrolled at UGA having received her undergraduate degree in agricultural business and applied economics from Ohio State and her MBA from Benedictine University.
Scott’s research on the relationship between obesity and food access was born out of a personal interest in addressing issues within the African-American community.
Around the time she began researching graduate programs that addressed some of these health-related issues, several parents of friends of hers began dying of chronic illnesses.
“I wanted to figure out what that relationship was (between diet and health) and how our behavior as consumers affected our health,” she said. “It was purely personal. I was fed up with seeing so many young people of color in my neighborhood falling ill.”
The FHCE department, she said, turned out to be the perfect home for her to conduct this research. During the course of her studies, Scott said she decided to “live my research.”
“I came up with this motto: ‘Don’t write about it, be about it,’ ” she said.
As a result, Scott drastically altered her own diet, becoming a vegan and developing different habits as a consumer, which had a profound effect on her parents’ lifestyles as well.
Since defending her dissertation, she has accepted a position as a prevention effectiveness fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, working with the National Center for Environmental Health conducting research on the effectiveness of food safety interventions in restaurants.
“Being a researcher is a lot like being in sales,” Scott said. “You have to believe in what you’re doing because that’s how you end up connecting with other people.”
Ph.D. candidate, Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors, 2017
It’s often the so-called little things that factor into big decisions like where to attend graduate school.
When Apurba Banerjee inquired about the doctoral program in the FACS department of textiles, merchandising and interiors during her days as a grad student at Colorado State University, she got immediate responses from the department head.
After a quick visit to the college website, she found a professor, Dr. Suraj Sharma, whose research interests and background closely matched her own. Soon after being accepted, she was able to secure an assistantship as well as pursue her passion of teaching.
Banerjee hasn’t regretted it, becoming an integral part of Sharma’s lab, which conducts research aimed at creating environmentally friendly bioplastics made from algae that ultimately may reduce the world’s consumption of crude oil, one of the key ingredients of traditional plastics.
This research has a variety of potential applications, including biomedical devices such as sutures and cardiovascular patches through a process called electrospinning.
“Textiles is more about how it can complement human life and make it better,” Banerjee said. “The whole of the college of FACS is basically that: trying to understand how we can make things better.”
Ph.D. candidate, Human Development and Family Science, 2017
Carlson, whose research involves childhood and inter-familial sexual abuse, has an interest in both clinical work as well as continued research on the academic side. At FACS, he is able to pursue both.
“Parent-child abuse isn’t new, but it’s under-studied and I think a lot of studies show that it’s drastically under-reported,” he said. “It’s an area where there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Carlson’s passion for clinical work was born during his days at the University of Kentucky, where he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
He has continued that work through his involvement as a marriage and family therapist with the ASPIRE Clinic, a resource within FACS that provides holistic counseling and education services to the UGA and Athens community.
“I’ve found that I was more effective with clients who had seen traumatic scenarios and had lived through them, but it was still something that was impairing their life,” he said. “That process of repairing that trauma was really where I felt there was a home for me.”
On the research end, Carlson said investigating childhood trauma and attempting to find early intervention points remains a chief pursuit.
He said he tells his peers who are shopping for Ph.D. programs to give FACS a serious look.
“I tell them basically everyone here is a master in their field,” he said. “We have amazing things on the qualitative end and amazing things on the quantitative end. If you want to get into something, there’s a likelihood that someone’s doing it or has already done it and is really good at it, and you can come here and pursue it.”