Postdoc Earns Prestigious NIH Award to Study Health Disparities

September 17, 2018

Jaapna Dhillon had no idea that studying how almonds affect health would win her a huge advantage in securing a tenure-track position.

But Dhillon just became UC Merced’s first postdoctoral researcher to receive a Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The K99/R00 is a highly prestigious award given to promising individuals at the early stages in their research careers,” Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Sam Traina said. “The point of the award is to get researchers into faculty positions sooner, giving them a better chance at succeeding.”

Dhillon, who earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition Science at Purdue University, is a researcher in School of Natural Sciences Professor Rudy Ortiz’s lab, where she and others have been looking at the effects of almond consumption on health and pre-ingestive controls of nutrition.

Dhillon credits the campus’s diverse ethnic make-up and mentorship as key components of her success.

“It was the demographics of the student population combined with the research support I received at UC Merced that got me this award,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do research like this — focused specifically on minority populations — anywhere else.”