Ph.D. candidate Prabhdeep Sandha is a third-generation postgraduate
Many families have long-standing traditions. A recipe here. A unique celebration there.
For University of Mississippi doctoral student Prabhdeep Sandha, one such family tradition has been earning advanced and terminal degrees.
Sandha, who will receive her Ph.D. in nutrition and hospitality management with an emphasis in nutrition policy in May, is a third-generation postgraduate. A native of Jalandhar, Punjab, India, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana, Punjab, India. Before applying and being accepted into UM, Sandha briefly worked as a clinical and consultant dietitian.
“I looked at the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management’s website and found a very unique emphasis (nutrition policy) in nutrition that was well aligned with my goals,” said Sandha, who also completed an interdisciplinary graduate minor in applied statistics. “I emailed my adviser, who responded promptly and asked me to apply to the graduate school.”
During her time at Ole Miss, Sandha has been a teaching assistant and graduate instructor for NHM, and graduate assistant for the Institute of Child Nutrition. In addition to publishing numerous abstracts at the national level, she has received three national-level research awards from national organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Research Dietetic Practice Group Graduate Student Research Award, 2018) and the School Nutrition Association (Stitt Award for travel to present research, 2019; Best Research Poster Award for the entire conference, 2019).
Selected a class marshal of the Graduate School, Sandha was mentored by David Holben, professor and Gillespie Distinguished Scholar in NHM and director of the Office of Food and Nutrition Security at UM, and Yunhee Chang, associate professor and graduate program director of NHM.
“Dr. Holben (Sandha’s adviser) has taught me so much about nutrition and nutrition policy and supported me in presenting at various national conferences,” she said. “Apart from nutrition, he has helped me refine my communication skills. His words: ‘Work smart and work hard’ are something that I will always remember.”
Chang, one of Sandha’s dissertation committee members, encouraged her to join the graduate minor in applied statistics.
“She has shown me and others in her classes how to think about nutrition in a very different way,” Sandha said. “I have learned a lot of statistics from her. She is a very kind and gentle and at the same time a very knowledgeable professor.”
Sandha said her ICN experience is one of the best things that ever happened to her.
“ICN is a nationally renowned institute and the only one of its kind in the U.S.,” she said. “The institute and people working inside were highly professional, nationally recognized. After working there for almost three years, I have had the experience of working in a real-time office, applying theoretical concepts in practice.”
As a graduate assistant, Sandha believes she gained a higher level of skills than conventional research assistants and teaching assistants, she said.
“ICN has supported me in presenting in some national conferences,” she said. “Above all, people working there had a heart of gold. There is so much positivity in there. I have learned a lot and at the same time, that place became my happy place.”
Beyond the standard challenges all doctoral students face (i.e., comprehensive exams, presenting a prospectus and defending it, meeting deadlines), Sandha said the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a very unusual and unexpected challenge.
“I was not expecting everything to shift to online,” she said. “Staying on my timeline, when I’m trying to finalize my data and defend my dissertation, has been especially challenging.”
Following graduation, Sandha will join the faculty at Metropolitan State University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, as an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition. She will teach courses related to community nutrition, nutrition policy, research and statistics.
Sandha’s fondest Ole Miss memory is when her roommates, Sukhmani Pal and Rachel Haggard, gave her a surprise birthday party.
“They all planned small and big surprises for me,” she said. “We have celebrated all festivals together and hung out on weekends with our other friends. Ole Miss has given me the opportunity of meeting some of the best people. They were friends, but now they’re my family.”
By Edwin Smith/University Marketing & Communications