Ellie Goen ’25 comes from a family deeply rooted in the medical field and Texas A&M University, with both parents being proud Aggies. Her father, an emergency physician, and her mother, a nurse, taught her she could shape her own future with determination and effort.

Goen, hesitant about following in her parents’ footsteps, was unsure about pursuing a medical career or attending Texas A&M. However, her perspective changed during college tours when she discovered that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences might offer the perfect fit for her.

While exploring potential majors, Goen unexpectedly found herself interested in nutrition.

“I had never considered majoring in nutrition, but something about it resonated with me,” Goen explained. “The heavy emphasis on science in the curriculum intrigued me, despite the challenge I knew it would present. Nutrition intersects with every aspect of our lives, and while I wasn’t certain about my career path, I recognized that it would provide a solid foundation for whatever I chose to pursue.”

A woman in a red dress stands with her arms folded. Next to her is an anatomy and virtual dissection table.
Ellie Goen ’25 has found a path for medicine thanks to opportunities within the Department of Nutrition, such as the anatomy and virtual dissection table pictured here. (Michael Miller/Texas A&M AgriLife)

Checking emails and career paths

With her newfound focus on nutrition, Goen centered her high school senior thesis on the topic and becoming a dietitian, a common career path for students within the Department of Nutrition. While this project solidified her interest in nutrition, the idea of pursuing the department’s Didactic Program and a career as a dietitian didn’t captivate her.

Toward the end of Goen’s first semester at Texas A&M, she began to question her major, feeling disconnected from the desire to become a dietitian.

“I contemplated changing my major, but the department advisors urged me to stick with it, assuring me there were numerous career avenues I had yet to explore,” Goen recounted.

A few months later, she stumbled upon an undergraduate research opportunity that intrigued her in an unexpected place: her email inbox. She received a message from Heidi Vanden Brink, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition who conducts research on endocrinology and the impact of nutrition on polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS. This was a subject that grabbed Goen’s attention, and seizing the opportunity, she applied for the undergraduate research position.

Now, after four semesters of research, Goen has found her calling in nutrition.

“Continuing my studies in nutrition was undoubtedly the best decision I’ve ever made,” Goen said. “Through my research and coursework, I’ve found a passion for endocrinology. Even if I ultimately decide not to pursue medical school to become an endocrinologist, my experiences as a nutrition major have given me a solid foundation for success.”

Finding a niche in nutrition

Goen is one of many students in the Department of Nutrition who have discovered their calling for a wide range of health care-related careers. Within the department, students aspire to pursue diverse paths, including becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist, as well as medicine, dentistry, nursing, physician assistantship, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy and various other health professions including graduate school for biomedical research.

A woman in a red dress leans against a table and has one hand touching the table.
Ellie Goen ’25 plans to pursue a career in endocrinology after her experiences in the Department of Nutrition. (Michael Miller/Texas A&M AgriLife)

“Nutrition has a substantial influence on health and disease,” said David Threadgill, Ph.D., head of the Department of Nutrition. “It permeates every facet of life, and our department is dedicated to equipping students to successfully compete for admission to professional and graduate schools, as well as dietetic internships.”

The department offers both a human health track and a dietetics track, each providing essential coursework for students interested in health care professions.

In addition to its distinctive curriculum, the department prides itself on intimate class sizes and attentive advising, both of which played pivotal roles in Goen’s journey toward discovering her passion for endocrinology.

Threadgill said while nutrition is often synonymous with dietetics, the department has expanded its scope to offer a comprehensive approach, empowering students to excel in any health-related career.

“I’ve noticed that many common premed majors tend to have large student cohorts, resulting in less personalized instruction and guidance,” Goen said. “I appreciate that within the nutrition program, I don’t feel like just another face in the crowd. I can easily schedule regular meetings with my advisor and the faculty, particularly Dr. Vanden Brink who has provided me with invaluable mentorship. This is a testament to the department’s commitment to helping each student find their niche in the field of nutrition like I have.”

“Students like Ellie exemplify how a degree in nutrition can unlock a plethora of medical opportunities,” Threadgill said.

Find your future in health

The Department of Nutrition offers a wide range of opportunity for students interested in a career within the health professions. Discover your niche via the department’s robust undergraduate degree programs.

Two hands are interacting with a digital medical table
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