Tiffany Stewart developed passion for behavioral science at a young age.

“I became very interested about people’s motivations, and how that influenced their health behaviors and different goals and outcomes in their lives, so I started digging into that.”

Growing up Stewart was a competitive gymnasts. That experience as a female athlete helped spark her career path.

“We were under such demand for high performance, but by the same token the demand to look the part, if you will. So I became very interested in body image and eating disorders, and sort of the relationship and the juxtaposition of performance and appearance, and that relationship in female athletes.”

Even though the topic was largely female oriented, there weren’t many female scientists doing the research. This was something Stewart saw as an opportunity.

“I’m very thankful for my kind of eccentric drive to tackle that problem and study that issue. Because I was very passionate about it, it made it very easy to sort of ignore the distractions and focus on the work.”

That focus paid off. Today she is an Endowed Professor and Director of the Behavioral Technology Laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

“The thing that I’m most proud of with our work is that we have been able to take science, coupled that in some case with technologies, mobile technologies, converted these things so people can use them wherever they are in the world.”

Over the last 20 years her research has helped soldiers, female athletes and now our local community.

“All of these programs that we create help people with obesity, with our soldiers with nutrition, fitness and sleep, with our athletes with performance issues and prevention of eating disorders and improvement of body image, all of these things that we’ve created in the lab, we are taking out of the lab and into our communities.”

Stewart said she hopes to use her experience to help inspire the next generation.

“I’m very passionate about girls in STEM. There’s absolutely nothing more rewarding than watching young people, and nurturing their careers, and helping them to advance in what they aspire to do. So I would say there is nothing more rewarding than having that experience. It’s much more rewarding than your own success.”

To learn more about Stewart’s research and success watch her TED Talk.