Sylvia Crowder, PhD, Food Science and Human Nutrition
Cancer Scholars for Translational and Applied Research (C★STAR ) 2017 Cohort

Where are you working now?

I am a T-32 Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL.

Are you still in cancer research?

Yes!! I currently work on a variety of projects across different cancer types examining the role of diet, physical activity, symptoms, and financial burden on quality of life in pediatric and adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors. Of particular interest are the studies I am conducting in AYA cancer survivors. I am working alongside my primary mentor, Dr. Marilyn Stern at the University of South Florida, to conduct a mindfulness study in AYA patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), and we are also conducting an exploratory qualitative study examining body image and appearance related concerns after treatment in AYA patients. Furthermore, I am writing an R03 to submit to the National Cancer Institute to develop an AYA diet and physical activity, real-time, intervention utilizing Fitbits and health coaching. In addition to the AYA studies, I have been working alongside my secondary mentor, Dr. Heather Jim at Moffitt Cancer Center, to conduct research in the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-Cell therapy and melanoma populations, and have been expanding my skillset in metagenomics.

Did your experience as a student in a CCIL training program help you achieve your career goals?

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Cancer Center at Illinois C*STAR training program. One of the most beneficial parts of the program was the ability to foster multi-disciplinary collaborations. My PhD advisor, Dr. Anna Arthur, is a clinician-scientist, and we were able to partner with Kalika Sarma, MD, an oncology physician at Carle, to design a clinical research study that was feasible and innovative. We published four studies together utilizing the data from when I was in the C*STAR training program, and one of the studies was highlighted as the cover image for the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The C*STAR experience prepared me to land a competitive post-doc at Moffitt Cancer Center, where I am pursuing my passion for cancer research.

What do you miss most about the University of Illinois?

What I miss most about UIUC is the Bevier Hall Student Café cookies! I miss having a fully functional café one floor down from the lab. It was great for those mid-day snack breaks (and coffee!).

What advice would you give to students in CCIL programs now, or those applying?

Find something you are passionate about and pursue it. When I was an undergraduate, my grandma passed away from cancer and it really hit home. I switched my major from biology to dietetics because I wanted to study the effects of diet on cancer-related outcomes. At the beginning of my doctoral program, I knew very little about research, but I knew I was passionate about studying cancer-related outcomes. From there…. I read, and read, and read some more! I suppose that would be my second piece of advice “keep reading”, it is the best way to spark ideas for new study topics (and sometimes a good way to learn what not to do). Finally, don’t be discouraged when you don’t know the answers…..if we already knew what the answers were, we wouldn’t be researching it. That is what makes research so great, contributing to the larger body of information!

— Compiled by the CCIL Communications Team