Shelby Keys, RD, CPT
Human Nutrition and Metabolism Research
Boston University, Boston, MA
Tell us about yourself, education, your background, and your current interests.
I am a Boston-based Dietitian who provides nutrition coaching and personal training to individuals. Because I love fitness just as much as I love nutrition, I decided to combine my two passions! Since beginning my journey as an RD, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, primarily clinical and corporate wellness, but sports nutrition has been my favorite thus far. I recently got involved in nutrition research and have been highly enjoying that experience as well.
I received my Bachelor’s in Nutrition and Dietetics from Syracuse University and completed my Dietetic Internship through Simmons College. I am now pursuing my Master’s in Human Nutrition and Metabolism Research at Boston University’s Graduate Medical School. In addition to teaching fitness classes, personal training, working, and school, I love spending time at my local CrossFit gym, being outdoors with my dog, and blogging about exploring the local food scene here in Boston!
How did you become interested in nutrition?
I played three sports in high school and was always picking up the latest health magazine, interested in how different foods fueled me during and around my exercises. When I went to college, I originally started out in Communications, wanting to write for a health magazine. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that an advisor suggested I look in to Dietetics solely for more job opportunities. I took a leap of faith and ended up loving my classes and experiences and haven’t looked back since. Being an RD has allowed me to not only write but get involved in so many more aspects of nutrition, such as counseling, and now research.
You have been involved in research. Tell us about that experience and something you learned.
I just got started in research at Boston’s Medical Center. Many of the studies I am currently working on look at nutrition discrepancies across ethnicities as well as nutrition outcomes post bariatric surgeries. I am enjoying the opportunity to learn more about the research process, expand my current skill set, as well as broaden my knowledge on nutrition policies, research techniques, and ways to analyze data.
What other experiences have you had in nutrition?
Right after I completed the Dietetic Internship program and obtained my RD, I felt confident jumping right into a private practice counseling setting, working with another RD at a health club. I helped teach weight loss classes and consulted with the clients on a wide range of topics from weight loss, to diabetic management, pediatric health, and sports nutrition.
During that time I also went to work for a corporate wellness company teaching cooking seminars and organizing wellness challenges and seminars. Now, as a full-time student, I still dabble in some counseling as well as work with a clinical RD as a Graduate assistant researcher.
I also own the blog paleoprincessrd... and no it’s not all paleo focused! I tried eating paleo for a client and for my own knowledge and when my little “experiment” was over, the name just stuck. I enjoy blogging about healthy eating in general, healthier versions of recipes, the local food scene, new food products, and sometimes educational posts on new research in nutrition.
What are your professional goals? Once you become a registered dietitian, what kind of work do you want to do?
After I complete my Master’s degree, I plan to pursue a PhD in Nutrition Epidemiology/Epigenetics. I am highly fascinated with DNA methylation. I think it is so cool how the transcriptional potential of genes can be completely altered and how DNA methylation patterns can be modulated by exercise and diet. I specifically want to explore further how nutrient metabolism can effect DNA methylation. After completing my education, I ultimately would like to work in an academic setting as a Professor and researcher. While I have enjoyed counseling, I would like to be the one to help contribute to nutrition guidelines and recommendations based on the research I have done.
Is there anything else you would like to share with other students?
Explore as many opportunities that come your way! You might think you enjoy one area of dietetics and then find that you enjoy another area more. That is the beautiful thing about this field is that the opportunities are endless. There are so many areas of specialization, so I encourage students to really seek out a variety of experiences, get out of their comfort zone, reach out to mentors, and get involved in as much as they can. During my internship year, I made it a point to contact one RD a week in areas I was interested in to learn more about how they got to where they are, what they like about their job, the challenges, their words of wisdom, etc. It taught me so much and allowed me to better align my goals with an action plan. Through some of those conversations, I also formed great networking connections and further uncovered what I am really passionate about. Finally, my last recommendation is to continue to grow with the field, stay on top of current news/trends, and never stop learning!