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Jill Joyce, associate professor of public health nutrition

CEHS professor recognized for undergraduate research

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Media Contact: Christy Lang | Manager, Marketing & Communications | 405-744-9740 |

Jill JoyceThe Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities named Dr. Jill Joyce, an associate professor of public health nutrition, the winner of the 2023 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.

The award recognizes leaders who advance human sciences by supporting the next generation of researchers, according to the APLU website.

Joyce said the award is a reflection of her passion to support and guide students as they find new ways to serve their communities through public health nutrition research.

“My 'why' is to change the world,” Joyce said. “This award affirms that I am fulfilling my 'why' for our undergraduate researchers and also helping them to do the same.”  

Over her six years at Oklahoma State University, Joyce has given her students opportunities to challenge themselves and gain valuable research experience in a supportive environment. She acknowledged the transition from classrooms to labs is not always easy, since many students are scared of failure and struggle when faced with unexpected challenges.

“They often come to me terrified of research,” Joyce said. “Research gives me a chance to show them that mistakes happen, that things rarely go to plan and that you have to be flexible and sometimes compromise.”

Joyce has mentored graduate and undergraduate students, working with them to identify and grow their strengths through research and hands-on experiences. She said her best days are when her students realize how far they have come and learn to welcome challenges.

 “I tell them that I am going to throw them in the pool, even if they can’t swim, but make sure they have floaties on,” Joyce said. “When students leave my lab, they see tough situations as challenges to tackle and opportunities to grow, not impending failure.”

Although Joyce has mentored countless projects over her time at OSU, research supporting the health and well-being of first responders and military personnel is her passion. In 2020, Joyce co-founded the Tactical Fitness and Nutrition Lab to educate and serve tactical professionals. 

Since then, Joyce and her students have developed programming to recruit and educate cadets for military and police academies, provide educational materials on healthy eating to first responders’ families and redesigned fire stations’ food environments to promote nutritious foods.

“It worked, and they want more,” Joyce said. “They loved it, saw a huge health culture and readiness shift, and ate on average an extra pound of produce per person.”

Although the work done through the tactical fitness lab has yielded impressive results, Joyce hopes partnerships and connections formed as a result of winning the APLU award will allow OSU and her students to make a greater impact on the health of those who serve. Already, Joyce has been invited to meetings with leaders from the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand outreach programs to veteran communities.

“Our lab is a great example of one of those programs, so we can discuss what that engagement and access would look like,” Joyce said. “Considering lots of my family and friends are veterans, this is exciting to me professionally and deeply meaningful to me personally.”

Joyce strongly encourages students to get involved in research. She said the research she conducts with her students, including programs through the tactical fitness lab, provides them with valuable opportunities to explore interests, build relationships, gain experience and give back to their communities. 

“Any and every student knows that they can be involved in research,” Joyce said. “I promise you are not bothering us. We love our jobs and are here for you, so use us and get involved.”

Although the APLU award recognizes Joyce’s leadership and mentorship, she credits her students for their commitment to learning, growing and staying engaged through their time in her labs.

“I have the best undergraduate researchers who make my job so much fun and so easy,” Joyce said. “It is a true honor and extreme joy that they involve me in their journey.”

Story By: Jessica Pearce |

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