Sarah Purcell received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition, respectively, from Florida State University. Afterwards, she obtained a Ph.D. in Nutrition and Metabolism from the University of Alberta, where she investigated energy expenditure (calories burned) in relation to body composition (muscle and fat), dietary intake, and current nutrition recommendations among individuals with active cancer. This work was complimented by several other investigations of energy balance and body composition in different populations, including people with obesity and older adults. Dr. Purcell then completed an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado – Anschutz, where she led research determining the relationships among appetite and energy metabolism - and how exercise may impact these variables - in people with obesity or previous cancer. She is currently an Assistant Professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
The ultimate goal of Dr. Purcell’s research is to help fill critical knowledge gaps regarding optimal strategies to manage obesity and disease-specific health outcomes through evidence-based nutrition strategies. Her research builds upon key concepts of nutrition, energy balance, and body composition to:
1) Characterize energy intake requirements and the determinants of such, and
2) Assess how perturbations in energy balance (e.g., energy intake restriction, exercise) impact other physiological and behavioral outcomes, which may then be used to develop more efficacious health interventions.
Nutritional status and energy balance are regulated by a complex system of physiological and psychological parameters. As such, Dr. Purcell utilizes several techniques to characterize variables related to energy balance, including doubly labeled water, body composition tools, hormonal regulators of appetite, “weigh and measure” methods of objective intake, dietary records and recalls, ecological momentary assessment, and self-report questionnaires of appetite and eating behavior. Her aim as a professional is to work collaboratively with researchers, graduate students, and health professionals to improve human health through nutrition assessment and intervention.