"I hadn’t heard from Carla in a while," says Mimi Hui, Director of the University of Alberta’s English Language Program. "Then, one morning, she’s in the news on the University of Alberta homepage."
"The Faculty of ALES’ newest Campus Alberta Innovation Program (CAIP) Chair is discovering there’s a lot more than what meets the eye when it comes to body weight," read the June 24 article by UAlberta’s Kate Black, titled "New CAIP Chair tips scales against obesity."
It continues: “Carla Prado, CAIP Chair for Nutrition, Food and Health, researches the interaction between abnormal body composition — ratios of muscle and fat tissues — and overall health. Prado is particularly interested in sarcopenic obesity — bodies with a high amounts of fat tissue and low amounts of muscle mass.”
You can read the rest of the story here, but the prologue begins years ago, says Mimi: “Ten years ago I attended the Canada Education Fair held in 3 cities in Brazil. I met Carla and her husband there and invited them to come to U of A. Both took courses in ELP to prepare for their graduate programs.”
It takes someone with the foresight and unshakeable confidence of Mimi to think she could attract scholars from sunny Goiânia, Brazil (average annual temperature of 24° C) to Edmonton, Canada (average annual temperature 4°C), and to be correct, at that.
"This is a dream come true for me. I love this place," says the new Research Chair of her current academic home. To learn more about her trajectory across ten years and 80 degrees of latitude, we approached her with a few questions and were very fortunate to get such enthusiastic responses from the very busy and brilliant Dr. Prado.
What convinced you to move from sunny Brazil to chilly Edmonton?
I was close to finishing my undergraduate program in Brazil and had decided to go abroad to pursue a graduate degree. In the midst of my search for an appropriate program, I heard about the University of Alberta during a Canadian Education Fair in my city of Goiânia. U of A was being represented by the Faculty of Extension, and I had the opportunity to hear more about the city of Edmonton, the ESL program and even get enough information (pamphlets, booklets) about graduate programs at the UofA.
I did some research on my own and I realized that although Edmonton was undoubtedly a cold city, the U of A was one of the top 100 Universities in the world and they had an distinguished program in my area of interest (Human Nutrition). No matter where one chooses to go, there will always be pros and cons and the priority for me was truly academic excellence. I was fortunate enough to find out later that the chilly weather in Edmonton would never imbalance the joy of living in a lively city and studying in a world-renowned University.
Why was it important for you to become more proficient in English?
English is the most useful and universal language in the world. Personally, as someone who was aspiring to be a scientist, proficiency was essential as English is also the language of science and technology. Approximately 80% of scientific journals are published in English. Furthermore, proficiency is also needed for proper and efficient communication, networking and career advancement within the scientific community.
How would you describe your experience in the U of A English Language program?
I will be forever thankful for the Faculty of Extension outreach program in Brazil. As I mentioned above, it was through them that I heard about U of A, particularly through Mimi Hui. When we (my husband and I) arrived at UofA, she personally welcomed us and helped us navigate the system truly going above and beyond what we expected. We felt that the English program here is not about numbers and getting as many international students as they can, but about quality education and personal concern with student’s well-being and experiences. Also importantly, the English Program was the opened door for the pursuit of my graduate position here at the UofA.
How did you become interested in Health & Nutrition, and in particular abnormal body composition?
I have always been interested in the relationship between nutrition and health. Nutrition is the key to prevent most diseases. What we eat is one of the key determinants of body composition (i.e. amounts of fat and lean tissues in our body) and abnormal body composition impact physical function, quality of life, hospitalization and even survival. My ultimate goal is to establish a highly translational research agenda in the area of body composition use in the clinical setting.
Why did you decide to pursue your research at the University of Alberta?
The U of A is a Top Five Canadian University and one of the Top 100 in the world. I have always been a champion for this University. My career path shows how the opportunities were always there for me as an international student; I took advantage of several professional development programs through the University Teaching Services, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, the International Center and the career centre, to name a few. These, combined with the excellent mentorship I had throughout my training program here, have set the stage for my career success so it is only logical that I have the outmost respect and admiration for my University, and I bring as a comparison set my experience living in four different countries.
Research-wise, I have access to state-of-the art technologies (some of them available in only a handful of centers in the world), access to clinical populations, opportunity to collaborate with experts in diverse research areas and, also importantly, a very collegial and professional environment to pursue my research career.
What do you hope will happen as a result of your research?
I hope that body composition will become an essential component of nutritional assessment being used for treatment decisions, survival outcomes and quality of life within the health care system.
We offer our sincerest congratulations and best wishes to Carla for continued success, and applaud the many international students like her whose dedication to research excellence bring them to our university!