Samantha Dawson is an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Food & Mood Centre and was recently awarded the Alfred Deakin Medal for the University’s best PhD thesis of the year. She leads the Perinatal Nutritional Psychiatry stream of research within the centre. Her work focuses on understanding diet-by-microbiome pathways impacting maternal and infant health, and developing, testing, and implementing interventions to improve women’s diet before and during pregnancy. Samantha is one of our rising stars, who at a remarkably early stage in her career, has secured more than $1M in funding for her research stream, including a recent Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant of $930K for the Bugs & Bumps trial. Her research ultimately aims to promote better mental health outcomes in mothers and children through targeted dietary interventions.
Her active projects and roles include:
- Leading a translational research topic focused on ‘increasing the proportion of pregnant women meeting the dietary guidelines’ within the Pregnancy Research and Translation Ecosystem, which is a platform for pregnancy research co-design with clinical stakeholders in southwest Victoria.
- Principal investigator on the ‘Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids’ study, which was an RCT study trialling the efficacy of a face-to-face perinatal dietary intervention on improving maternal diet quality and altering the gut microbiota of mothers and children.
- Led the co-design and development of the Bugs & Bumps smartphone app for pregnant women, which was underpinned by her HPHK prenatal dietary intervention. This project received Philanthropic funding form the Waterloo Foundation in the UK.
- Principal investigator on the Bugs & Bumps RCT, which is a two-year trial testing the efficacy of the Bugs & Bumps program compared to the Australian Dietary Guideline advice, on improving maternal diet quality, altering the gut microbiome and inflammatory markers in mothers and infants, and influencing child emotional, cognitive and language outcomes over the first 18 months of life. As principal investigator, Samantha secured funding from the MRFF and the Waterloo Foundation to conduct this trial.
Research areas and skills: Pregnancy and Early Life Nutrition; Intervention design; Gut Microbiota; Fermented Foods; Mental Health; Bioinformatics