Please tell us about yourself

Dr Kiran Ahuja is a Senior Research Fellow in the University’s School of Health Sciences. She has been with UTAS since 2001 and has been a research-intensive member of staff since completing her PhD at University of Tasmania in 2006.

Dr Ahuja has several different roles at the University.

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Tell us about your work

One part of her work is contributing to research investigating the effects of various foods and spices on heart disease and diabetes risk factors.

‘Regular chilli intake may help with controlling blood glucose and insulin levels in people who are pre-diabetic. We are now expanding this research to understand the mechanisms by which chilli controls for glucose.’

Dr Ahuja also contributes to a range of fascinating projects outside the area of nutrition, through the application of her biostatistical skills.

‘I am currently also involved in a data linkage project and working with a paediatric respiratory physician. It’s a very interesting project…  looking for links between babies’ birth information – things like weight, length, mother’s smoking behaviour – and their lung function at 6–8 years of age. By linking data gathered at different times we can test for birth factors and their impacts on health in later life.’

What did you study? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?

I did my BSc (Nutrition) from Maharaja Sayajirao, University of Baroda, India and Masters in Biomedical Sciences from Tasmania University. I also did a Masters in Clinical Trials from  London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK.

‘I love statistics, or what I call “playing with numbers”. At the moment, I provide statistical support for projects in medicine, health science, nursing and computing. I help with the number crunching, which allows the researchers to understand the data, to see patterns in the data, and then interpret the results.

The other major part of Dr Ahuja’s role is the coordination of the Graduate Certificate in Research for all PhD and Master’s candidates at UTAS. In this role she gets to meet every new candidate at the University.

What do you love about your work?

‘Research training is my passion. I want to teach people to conduct ethically, scientifically, and morally valid research. It’s satisfying to prepare the new generation of researchers.’

In addition to her research and research training at UTAS, Dr Ahuja has been actively involved in the Nutrition Society of Australia over the past decade. She is Honorary Secretary of the NSA and member of the executive team. This group of scientists, academics and people from industry are involved in sharing nutrition science and research in Australia, promoting the field, with a goal to increase and communicate the scientific value and relevance of nutrition science.