Meet Desiree: inspired by fellow NBA cheerleader to study science!

Pleased to introduce you to our most recent Science Cheerleader, Desiree, who cheered for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks for six years and earned an Master’s of Science degree in Health Sciences with a concentration in Nutrition from Georgia State University.

SciCheer: Desiree, why health sciences?
Desiree: In 2006 my friend, roommate, former teammate and fellow Science Cheerleader, Sandra, turned me on to the world of fitness competitions. I did 3 shows in 2006, winning 1st place at two of them, but I felt terrible at each show, due to the competition prep diet. I loved competing, I loved working out to prepare for the shows, and I absolutely loved getting up on stage, but the diet made the experience miserable. I knew that it couldn’t possibly be healthy and I made the decision after my third show, that I wanted to figure out the science of nutrition for myself. The following year, I started my prerequisites for the Georgia State nutrition program, and began my journey to becoming a scientist. I now have my master’s of science in health sciences with a concentration in nutrition from Georgia State University. Thank you, Sandra!

SciCheer: Favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
Desiree: This is going to sound crazy, but I loved almost all of my courses! In grad school, you only take courses that are relevant to your degree so most of my classes involved the science of nutrition, which is incredibly fun to learn about!

SciCheer: You cheered for the Atlanta Hawks for 6 years (2002-2008). Wow! I understand you’re still affiliated with the team. How so?
Desiree: I am a trainer for the current Hawks Cheerleaders. I am always taking continuing education courses so I can stay on top of the most current trends and studies being done in the health and fitness industry, so I still study!

SciCheer: Which came first? Your interest in science or cheerleading?
Desiree: Definitely my interest in dancing. I have been dancing since I was 4, and I was on a dance team in high school and then again in college. Early on, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I never became fully engaged in any of my science classes. Chemistry was torture in high school so I pursued a degree in journalism as to avoid any science classes. It wasn’t until taking chemistry again as a prerequisite class for the nutrition program that I realized how much I enjoyed chemistry!

SciCheer: It’s interesting how many Science Cheerleaders gravitated towards science in college. Thank goodness the U.S. requires students in four-year universities to take two science courses. In fact, some adult science literacy scholars believe this requirement has given the U.S. a leg up on other countries when it comes to adult science literacy rates. We actually outpace every other nation surveyed except Sweden, despite dismal results among kids in grades 4, 8, and 12. But I digress… Best part of your job?
Desiree: Again, ridiculous answer, but everything about my day job is incredible! I love working with people, I love helping them realize that exercise and eating well can be fun, I love choreographing new routines every week for my dance classes and designing new and exciting workouts for my fitness classes and personal training clients. I love that I am still a part of the Hawks, but behind the scenes. I love not having to sit behind a desk and getting to move around constantly. I am so fortunate to have made a career out of both science and dance.

SciCheer: Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and following another?
Desiree: I have always been an odd ball, and as an adult, I have learned to embrace my inner geek and she’s awesome! It’s fun to be smart and to be able to explain things to others, especially if it’s going to help them. I am fortunate that my dance and my science go together and I understand that may not be the case for everyone, I can’t imagine having to choose between the two. Bottom line, do what YOU want to do, and be who YOU want to be. No one on Earth knows what makes you happy better than you do. Can you imagine if Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Madame Curie, Daniel Hale Williams, or Sally Ride had been worried about being labeled a geek?!

SciCheer: Best cheerleading experience?
Desiree: I have 2: 1- My first year on the Hawks, the NBA All Star game was in Atlanta so we were the dancers for the weekend. The entire weekend was an incredible experience and seeing Janet Jackson on the front row as we danced was indescribable!
2-My fourth year on the team, six of us were able to travel to China and represent the NBA. Another incredible experience! I will spare you the details as that would lead to a novel.

SciCheer: Best science-related experience?
Desiree: Passing my dietetic technician, registered (DTR) exam and being able to put more initials behind my name! It was such a relief to see the screen pop up on the computer stating that I had passed the exam!

SciCheer: Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Desiree: Why wouldn’t I want to be a Science Cheerleader?! The Science Cheerleaders combine two of my favorite things in a positive and inspirational manner that shatters stereotypes in the process…and I love shattering stereotypes!