Paediatric Research Dietitian
Catarina Fandinga is a Paediatric Research Dietitian at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) undertaking an internship funded by NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) Wessex.
For her internship, she is using data science techniques to analyse a decade’s worth of information on the growth of babies at UHS with congenital heart disease (CHD).
In 2017, a nutrition protocol was established to support growth in babies with CHD.
Catarina is comparing data on babies’ growth before and after the nutrition pathway started, to find out what affect it has on their growth. She will also look at the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.
Moving into research
Catarina trained as a dietitian in Portugal, graduating in 2016. She worked there for two years, before moving to the UK at the start of 2019 and starting work at UHS later that year.
In April 2022, she moved from working with adults to children, and in November that year she started her current role as a Paediatric Research Dietitian. It was at this stage she learnt about Southampton Academy of Research (SoAR).
“I switched over to a research-focussed role in paediatrics,” she explained, “and since then, I’ve been more involved with SoAR.”
In this role, she continued to work as a clinical dietitian one day a week but could devote the other four days to research. She hasn’t looked back since.
“Since I’ve moved to paediatrics, it has been clear to me that this is where I want to be working as a dietitian,” she says. “This is where I really want to make a difference and improve patient care and working in research is truly allowing me to do so.”
Learning from the best
Catarina started her six-month internship in May 2023, which allows her to dedicate one day a week to her own research. As well as her supervisor, Dr Luise Marino, this has enabled her to work with other researchers at UHS and the University of Southampton, including Dr Mark Johnson, Prof Mark Beattie and Prof Jonathan Swann.
Catarina hopes the internship will give her the skills she needs to carve out a career in data science research. These include learning to code, use specialised software and apply statistical techniques.
These will provide the foundation for a Pre-doctoral Clinical and Practitioner Academic Fellowship (PCAF) application, allowing her to continue to advance her research career as a clinical academic dietitian.
She is also keen to network, learning from both fellow interns and more experienced researchers.
“It’s so good to learn from the best,” she says. “I was interested in research, and after applying for this job, I have learnt so much and so quickly – the opportunities for development in research have been endless, and working with absolute top experts in the field has been so rewarding.
“I feel like I’m very lucky, and I would really encourage other colleagues to get involved in research as well.”