SNSW congratulates Spring 2023 Outstanding Senior Elsa Jacobson (Precision Nutrition and Wellness)

May 17, 2023

"My time at the University of Arizona has allowed me to find my passion in life, and that kind of experience is priceless."

Elsa Jacobson has been interested in nutrition and health as a high school student, when some health issues led her to consult a naturopath who introduced her to the idea that she could change her diet to optimize her health.

“My perception on health completely changed,” she recalled. “I was always hesitant to go straight to medication, so the idea that I could eat for health really appealed to me.”

The Flagstaff native graduated a semester early from high school, and after a visit to Guatemala convinced her of the virtues of warm winters, she decided to study nutrition at the University of Arizona.

Jacobson developed an interest in the emerging field of precision nutrition when she took an introductory course in the topic.

“It was the most engaging class I had taken,” she said. “It was talking about how your genes can affect the way you metabolize food, and how food can affect your genetic makeup, and how all of these components work together.”

Jacobson was hooked. “I switched into the precision nutrition major immediately, and I asked to be involved in any research project I could,” she said. “I was really excited, and I still am.”

Studying precision nutrition gave Jacobson a chance to delve into research with hands-on experience in a working laboratory. “I joined Dr. Ashley Snider’s lab,” she said. “I mainly contributed by genotyping samples and tissue collections, and I also collaborated on data analysis and histology.”

Experiential learning opportunities like these have been distinct highlights in Jacobson’s college career. “I learn best when I can talk to people and share ideas,” she explained. “I like working in groups and bouncing ideas off other brilliant minds.”

That desire to work with others led Jacobson to an Americorps position at the Tucson Village Farm, a program of Pima Community Cooperative Extension and the University of Arizona that offers educational opportunities for Tucson’s young people on a working urban farm.

“I’ve always been really passionate about nutrition education, especially for younger students, like those in elementary and middle schools,” she said. “It’s been great working at the farm, because we’re so focused on teaching kids nutrition and healthy lifestyle skills.”

After graduation, Jacobson will join the staff at the Tucson Village Farm full time as the leader of their teen programs. She also hopes to work with SNSW faculty to develop curriculum for a forthcoming program in culinary medicine.

“It feels like a dream job landing in my lap,” she said. “I love Tucson. The community here is unmatched, and I’m excited to be able to build programs that will help that community in a real, tangible way.”