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Dr. Eleanor Shonkoff - PostDoc at Tufts University and startup founder

two young woman smiling, Simone Frey and Dr. Eleanor Shonkoff

Eleonor, you work at Tufts University and are about to found a company - can you share a little more about what you do at Tufts and your motivation to found a company?

At Tufts, I was a postdoctoral fellow, completing a 3 year postdoc to expand my training from health behavior to nutrition. Our interest in founding a company grew out of our collaboration with the Engineering department trying to develop a way to more quickly code our data (digital images of leftover food).  Pitch competitions have really been the way that we’ve been moving our entrepreneurial ideas forward – without them, I don’t think that we would be.

What did you do before?

I will be starting a teaching position at a local college next month.  I (and my teammates) plan to keep our current jobs. We are looking into the possibility of forming a company in collaboration with the Tufts Tech Transfer office.  They own 60% of the patent and advise us on whether it makes the most sense for us to be the founders, CEO, etc.  

What did you study and at which university? What specialization did you have?

I got a Masters in  Social Psychology at Wake Forest University, a PhD in Preventive Medicine, Health Behavior Research at the University of Southern California, and did a postdoctoral fellowship at Tufts University, ChildObesity180, in Nutrition.  My research specialization is parenting practices, stress, and child dietary intake

Did you like the studies and would you study the same again?

Yes :)

How can we imagine a typical day in your professional life?

I typically arrive at the office and answer emails for a little while. During my postdoc, I had meetings with staff members to carry out our research – often this was logistical – e.g., transporting leftover food for weighing/measurement, training research assistants, etc.. Other times meetings were about designing grants, so a group of faculty were talking through potential research ideas.  I also taught, so some time would be answering student emails or planning course material.  

If you have a family, how do you organize your self to manage work and family?

My two-year old son went to daycare down the street from my office.  So, I could see him during breaks, if I wanted.  I visited much more when he was very young.  I tended to be at the office during business hours, then work after he’d gone to bed at night or during naptime on the weekend.

What would you recommend Nutrition Experts to do in order to have a successful career?

Continue to incorporate more things that you like into your work – sometimes this means adding on to an already-busy schedule! – so that you’re prepared when opportunities present themselves to move your career in the direction you’re hoping to go.

If you want to know more about Eleanor's CV, visit her LinkedIn profile.


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