Headshot of Natalie Peterson “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,” are the words from Hippocrates that drive the work of Chapman undergraduate Natalie Paterson.

Paterson researches the health outcomes of children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Her team uses an international database from the ​ImproveCareNow (ICN)​ network and collaborates with Dr. Kenneth Grant, MD, Head of Pediatric Gastroenterology, at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

Last summer, Paterson participated in SURF – the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship – which is overseen by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. The highly competitive SURF program is awarded to students who that present themselves as promising research candidates.

Natalie Peterson writing out equations on a white board

“My SURF research aimed to connect the potency of functional foods (folic acid) with that of modern technology (the drug azathioprine) to create a harmony that personalizes children’s treatment plan and allows them to sustainably manage their disease,” said Paterson.

Paterson was also granted the Undergraduate Research/Creative Scholarly grant by the CUE which allowed her to travel to Chicago, and attend an IBD conference held by the Improve Care Now network; she called this conference “vital.”

“It was a major turning point, and portrayed to me how powerful it is combining the expertise of physicians, nurses, dietitians, psychologists, researchers, and patients to create a perfect synergy of knowledge and achieve a common goal,” said Paterson.

At first, Paterson and her team struggled to analyze and relate variable parameters. However, they were soon able to receive assistance from Erik Linstead, the director of the Chapman Computational and Data Sciences division, who decoded the data-set for them.

Peterson and her faculty mentor look at a computer screen together

Paterson works on her research with faculty mentor, Dr. John Miklavcic.

“It was truly refreshing to see how the Chapman community supports each other to create a positive impact on both the local and wider community,” Paterson said.

In addition to conducting her own research, Paterson helps connect other Chapman students to undergraduate research opportunities through her role as a student ambassador at the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. Through the ambassador program, she has shared her experiences with students and encouraged them to get involved.

When asked about what advice she would give to Chapman students who are thinking about engaging in research, Paterson suggests, “Just do it! It is easier than you think. Chapman is here to support your growth but you must be proactive in getting involved and representing yourself so that you can access the opportunities for success you deserve.”

Are you interested in becoming a SURF fellow, or applying for scholarship and grant opportunities? Stop by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence or email us at cue@chapman.edu!