Gionté Mason, a sophomore in Human Nutrition, is a research assistant for the Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Lab and philanthropy chair for Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED), a pre-health honorary society.
A former Biology major, Mason felt he wasn’t fully engaged in his interests in that major. “I was looking for something more applicable because I'm premed, and I like to be more hands-on.” Mason already sees the benefits of having switched to Human Nutrition. “I didn't have good nutrition at all, and I've been able to see the difference.”
In the Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Lab, Mason observes how different sodium intakes affect dialysis patients and their blood pressure. He enjoys the clinical aspect of his work, especially seeing the changes people make—or don’t make—depending on their commitment to a specific diet.
Mason gains additional experience in his premed curriculum while working on AED’s executive board, contributing fundraising ideas and supervising philanthropic events. The society raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, promotes AIDS research and prevention, and collaborates with local charities. Mason enjoys working with AED members with different health backgrounds, including physical therapy, dentistry, optometry, and pharmacy. “Being able to pick a committee, bounce ideas off each other, and watch ideas unfold—it’s a lot of fun.”
Mason also volunteers twice a week as an “America Reads” tutor for fifth and sixth graders at an elementary school in Champaign. The improvement he sees in his students is what he finds the most rewarding.
Mason advises incoming university students to go with their hearts and not let anyone sway their decisions. “If you can, sit down in the class that's in session right now; see how much it impacts you and how you feel in that environment. If it gives you the right feeling, go for it.”