Biology major Inna Dumova (class of 2012) knows just how much of a difference one professor can make in a student’s life.
When Dumova enrolled at NSU, her goals were to work toward a spot in medical school and pursue a career in osteopathic medicine. Then her interest in fitness and sports nutrition developed from a pastime to a passion. She participated in related research, and soon her academic path and career goals took a different direction.
Now a senior, Dumova plans to focus on research and earn a doctoral degree in physiology and nutrition with a focus on chronic-disease prevention—a decision influenced by what she learned in the classroom and under the mentorship of Jose Antonio, Ph.D., assistant professor at NSU.
Dumova’s growing curiosity and enthusiasm for sports nutrition led her to Antonio’s classroom. Not long after, she volunteered to work as a teaching assistant in his anatomy and physiology classroom. Last year, he nominated her for the position of student representative on the board of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), a professional organization founded by Antonio in 2003.
Antonio provided guidance and direction as Dumova, a member of NSU’s Undergraduate Honors Program, conducted research and presented a poster at the 2011 Undergraduate Student Symposium. Her research project focused on the effects of traditional weight training versus a cross-training strength and conditioning program on various measures of physical performance.
“His mentorship has been tremendous,” said Dumova, who also is a member of the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society and NSU’s Pre-Medical Society. “Dr. Antonio has given me great guidance in the direction of my career and about how to write and present research. He helped me understand the differences between the Ph.D. degree and the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, which I was going to pursue before I knew much about the Ph.D. field.”
For Antonio, mentoring students comes naturally. He is passionate about the discipline of sports nutrition and sees opportunities for students who share that enthusiasm. As a faculty member and an expert in the field, Antonio shares his knowledge with students as well as a vast network of professional contacts.
“Inna is an Honors student and she’s very driven and motivated,” he said. “She is interested in improving people’s health. To me, the most important thing is enthusiasm. When I have students who have enthusiasm, I mentor them without even thinking about it. It’s just what I do. It’s important to mentor students so that they avoid common and silly mistakes.”
In addition to teaching at the college, Antonio is the author or editor of several books and the editor-in-chief of Inside Fitness magazine as well as the online magazine Sports Nutrition Insider.
He writes articles for academic and consumer-oriented publications,
Under his leadership, the International Society of Sports Nutrition will host its ninth annual conference and expo in June 2012 in Clearwater Beach, Florida. As the student representative until 2014, Dumova will help organize the conference and benefit from the networking opportunity.
“Dr. Antonio has really been great at encouraging me to do more things outside of the school, such as attending the ISSN conference, reviewing various publications, and writing about the topics that interest me,” she said.
“Through Dr. Antonio, I have met some of the greatest leaders in sports nutrition and physiology, including himself. I feel like I have become part of the fitness nutrition community.”
“The sky is the limit,” Antonio said of how far a student like Dumova can go in the field, with careers paths that include teaching, research, or consulting work.
Dumova, who emigrated to the U.S. from Russia when she was 14 years old, plans to study for her doctorate at Baylor University under the advisement of Darryn S. Willoughby, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the school’s Exercise and Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory.
“I want to focus on how nutrition affects pathology, primarily the chronic ailments and the neurophysiology that is affected by conditions such as chronic inflammation. I am interested in research to help prevent chronic degenerative illnesses, such as arthritis, diabetes, obesity, attention-deficit disorder, cardiac diseases, and many others,” Dumova said.
“I tell students to pursue what you love,” Antonio said. “Often, students will tell me they love one thing but they are pursuing something else because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do, or that’s what their parents want them to do. Sometimes I’ll see a light go off when they have a crazy interest in some subject. So maybe I can push them in that direction.
“Inna had a Plan A,” Antonio said. “If you ask a student the right questions, it helps the student realize that sometimes Plan B should be the plan of action.”