Achieving the Dream to Be a Competent Nutritionist

Photo 1. Rio Jati Kusuma

"Today must be better than yesterday; if today is just the same as yesterday, how bad the person is." Such sentence has strongly inspired Rio Jati Kusuma. Rio is a lecturer in the Department of Health Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. He has robust determination to improve his capabilities as an educator and nutritionist. It has encouraged him to keep improving and deepening his knowledge in molecular nutrition. It is a study of how nutrients affect organisms at the molecular level. "I put my interest in this science as it is still new in Indonesia and there are still few experts involved in this field," said Rio.

Rio looked for the information about the scholarship to pursue his master’s degree abroad. He knew the USAID-PRESTASI scholarship program when taking the TOEF ITP test. He gave his best to apply the scholarship.

He met challenges like encountering the error of the mailing system, sold out ticket to Jakarta, and many more. Those things made him almost down yet he endured the process. Finally, USAID-PRESTASI invited him to participate in the interview and announced his award as one of the scholar. Through USAID-PRESTASI, he took Interdepartmental Nutrition faculty at University of Nebraska-Licoln (UNL), USA.

Rio nurtured his study in the US by doing some activities. He established a journal club with his friends to discuss the latest topic of nutrition studies. It is one of his way to increase his knowledge related to the molecular nutrition.

He took an e-learning program via email in Phi Upsilon Omicron as Science student community in the US and initiated a long distance learning program with his colleagues in Indonesia.

His last research work in UNL was under supervision of Janos Zempleni, the professor of molecular nutrition, who had intensively directed him before he arrived in the US. Through his hard work and persistence, he managed to finish his study less than two years. He published two international scientific papers based on his research during his study.

Photo 2. Rio is presenting one of his research findings.

After completing his studies in the US, Rio applied the knowledge and experience he gained in his field of work. Molecular techniques as well as the science of nutrigenomics – the study of foods and food constituents on gene expression – that he studied are developed for local food use and disease management through a nutrigenomic approach.

Rio has full support from his insttituion. Rio is now a permanent lecturer – after previously he worked as a teaching assistant – and given the opportunity to teach courses in accordance with his areas of expertise such as macro / micro nutritional metabolism, biochemistry, nutritional chemistry, nutrigenomics, and many others.

"As a lecturer, my main job is to prepare future nutritionists or nutrition graduates who have clinical competence, such as setting a diet on the condition of the disease. In addition to clinical competence, nutritionists are also equipped with other sciences such as public health nutrition, institutional nutrition, functional food and molecular nutrition, "continued Rio.

Besides teaching, he maximizes the experience he had in the US. For example, he is still active in the journal club, in which he initiate with his friends, at UNL. This fact has helped Rio to learn more, especially about new programs and tools in support of molecular nutritional research data analysis.

Currently, Rio is intensively conducting research and publishing more papers on a national and international scale. "I hope the next 5-10 years I can apply my knowledge in more various ways such as by becoming a seminar speaker, holding workshops and online courses," added Rio.

Rio expresses his gratitude for abundant benefits he got through the USAID-PRESTASI Scholarship program. USAID-PRESTASI accompanies awardees from the pre-study to the post-study activities. The training offered after the study has strongly supported Rio in developing soft skills, especially the decision-making methods in organizations.

For the younger generation of Indonesia, Rio said, "If you have a dream, work earnestly for it. Do your best and never give up. Break the limit!"