Nutritional Sciences Newsletter - Spring 2017

Catharine Ross named department head

A. Catharine Ross is the new head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences.

Ross, professor of nutritional sciences and physiology and holder of the Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, has served in the department for 21 years. For more than four decades, Ross has conducted research on Vitamin A nutrition and metabolism, and nutrition and immune function.

Ross said her goals for the department are to maintain its strengths in basic nutritional sciences while also supporting its growth in translational research.


Eating peanuts may lead to supple arteries, healthy hearts

Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, and colleagues, found that eating peanuts with a meal may help protect against cardiovascular diseases which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

In the study, overweight and obese but otherwise healthy men who ate about three ounces of peanuts with a high-fat meal had a blunted increase of lipids in their bloodstream. Researchers say previous studies have shown that after a meal, there is a spike in blood lipids; this spike can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, as well as around the world.


Online master's program provides new opportunities for students

The new online Master of Professional Studies in Nutritional Sciences is designed to help prepare students for evidence-based advanced practice. The program features a curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and interactive technology to engage students in the learning process. The course work, focused on the development of leadership skills, can set students apart from their peers.

"The role of nutrition and the decisions we make about the foods we eat have a critical impact on our quality of life and risk of chronic disease," said Gina Pazzaglia, director of the online master's program and instructor of nutritional sciences. "As concern grows regarding the high incidence of obesity and other diseases caused by poor nutrition in various populations, there is an urgent demand for professionals who are proficient in the use of evidence-based strategies to improve health and optimize quality of life."

The program, which launched in October 2016, gives students the opportunity to learn from expert faculty who are leaders in the field.

"We tailor the program to the working professional by emphasizing leadership and collaboration," said Shawnee Kelly, coordinator of the online master's program and senior instructor of nutritional sciences. "We take time to develop our courses by working with instructional designers and learning the best practices for online learning."

This program is designed for registered dietitians who are interested in enhancing their careers and advancing their skills, or for students who hold an undergraduate degree in a nutrition-related field. The curriculum has been developed to create a skill set that students can use to apply to their experiences and issues in the workplace. The courses in the online nutrition program are based on a student-centered, highly interactive learning model.

"We use diverse, innovative teaching and learning methods that consider various learning styles and will help you tailor your education to your career needs," Pazzaglia said. "Many of our teaching methods, such as simulation, make learning exciting and meaningful in real-life work settings."

The assignments are centered around the students' talents and are directly applicable to everyday work experiences. Throughout the program, students will focus on evaluating the latest research, translating it to best practices in diverse practice settings, and becoming a leader in collaboration with other health care professionals and in the field of nutrition.

The program also includes a capstone project in which students will identify an issue or problem in their work setting and produce and implement an evidence-based solution.

Graduates will be prepared for employment in many nutrition practice settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics and outpatient care centers
  • Medical group practices
  • Federal, state, and public health agencies
  • The food industry
  • Nutritional consultation services

Alumna presents "Ditch Diets" event as part of National Nutrition Month

The Student Nutrition Association hosted Jennifer McGurk '06 NUTR who presented "Intuitive Eating: How to Ditch Diets and Live a Happy, Healthy Life" on March 23 in the Ruth Pike audtoirum as part of National Nutrition Month. McGurk is a certified eating disorders registered dietitian and owner of "Eat with Knowledge," a nutrition counseling and consulting business in Nyak, New York.

Earlier that day the group hosted an informational table at the HUB-Robeson Center to promote National Nutrition Month.

Ruth Pike Lecture receives spirited response

Matthew R. Hayes, assistant professor of nutritional neuroscience in psychiatry, Translational Neuroscience Program, Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, presented "Metabolic Neuropeptides Modulate Energy Balance, Motivation and Reward" as part of the Ruth L. Pike Lecture on Feb. 27.

Travis Masterson, a sophmore in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, said he enjoyed Hayes' ability to relate his work to a wide audience.

"Dr. Hayes gave a great presentation on how gut hormones are important to energy regulation. One of the interesting things from the lecture was the multidisciplinary approach that Dr Hayes uses in his research," Masterson said. "He expressed his passion for research as well as teaching. These kind of sentiments are important in providing motivation to those of us who are interested in similar careers as we often are told much about the negative aspects of our future. Dr. Hayes showed that you can be happy, productive, and successful within academia."

Masterson said Hayes was also able to show in his presentation that skills as nutritionists have wide application and are very useful in a variety of fields.

"He talked about his work from the perspective of a nutritionist, but he himself is part of the school of psychiatry and he did his post doc in psychology," Masterson said. "This helped me to see that our research is valuable to other departments and disciplines and that we are highly marketable as nutrition graduates in more than just nutrition. Bringing in successful and passionate former students can really provide perspective and energy as we move through our graduate programs which I believe helps enrich and improve the work we ourselves are doing."

Valerie Sullivan, a registered dietitian in her first year in the Nutritional Sciences doctoral program, said Hayes is an inspiration to current Penn State Nutritional Sciences graduate students, like herself, to direct research toward answering relevant, timely questions that will benefit the health of individuals and the population as a whole.

"Dr. Hayes’s lecture offered an intriguing perspective on neurological foundations of eating behavior. His contributions to understanding the mechanism of GLP-1 receptor agonist’s actions on energy intake were particularly interesting," Sullivan said. "As these receptor agonists are already used pharmaceutically for treatment of type 2 diabetes and have been approved for treatment of obesity, understanding precisely how they work is essential to identify potential limitations of current therapies and develop more effective therapies in the future."

Sullivan added that seminars and educational events such as the Ruth Pike Lecture offer students opportunities to learn about topics beyond their research focus and stimulate collaboration between behavioral and basic researchers in nutritional science.

The lecture is part of the Ruth L. Pike Lecture Series in the graduate program in the Department of Nutritional Sciences.

Nutrition and Dietetics Alumni Society update

The Nutrition and Dietetics Alumni Society (NDAS) sponsored several events this semester. On Feb. 25, a variety of alumni met with students for a speed networking event at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Following, the NDAS hosted a brunch that brought about 70 alumni, students and faculty who enjoyed networking and an awards presentation. During the awards presentation, Emily Schoettler was named Outstanding Senior in Nutrition and Regan Bailey '98 '07g NUTR was named as Outstanding Nutrition Alumna. The awards were presented by Barbara Kochanowski, NDAS president. (Pictured left in photo).

Alumni visit the classroom

The following alumni particiated in NUTR 170, Careers in Nutrition, in which nutrition professionals describe career paths and opportunities for graduates in applied and science options, and strategies for making effective career decisions:

  • Lauren Hosterman '07 NUTR
  • Ryan Burke '13 NUTR
  • Jaime A. Schwartz Cohen '01 NUTR
  • Mike Roussell '11g NUTR
  • Barbara Winters '77, '80g, and '93g NUTR
  • Jennifer McGurk '06 NUTR

Undergraduate student receives funding to travel to Bangladesh

Emily Seiger, an undergraduate honors student in the lab of Laura Murray-Kolb, has been awarded funding from The Committee for Undergraduate International Research Competitive Grants to delve deeper into an unusual finding from one of the lab’s studies. She plans to travel to Bangladesh to administer some questionnaires and hold some focus groups in order to collect data to help better understand findings.

Students present research findings at graduate exhibition

The following Nutritional Sciences students presented their work in the "Health and Life Sciences" category at the Penn State Graduate Exhibition on March 26:

  • Elizabeth Adams
  • Mihaela Ciulei
  • Sally Eagleton
  • Yi-Hsuan Liu
  • Chaoran Ma
  • Esther Oh
  • Ruth Pobee
  • Alissa Smethers
  • Hannah Van Every
  • Faris Zuraikat

The Graduate Exhibition is a showcase of musical and theatrical performances, cutting-edge research, and visual arts presented by Penn State's graduate students. It opened with performances on March 24 at Esber Recital Hall, and concluded on March 26 with poster presentations by graduate students of their research, along with video and visual arts displays in the HUB-Robeson Center. More than 240 graduate students presented their work to the public, and more than 170 volunteers entered as judges in the 32nd annual event.

Faculty searches

Open-rank professor in global health

The Department seeks an open-rank tenure-track or tenured faculty member in global health. Candidates should have a robust global health research agenda, strong publication record, and a record of extramurally funded research, established collaborations and partnerships in global health, a demonstrated commitment to interdisciplinary perspectives, and strong leadership, teaching and mentorship ability. Ideal candidates will have a central focus in nutritional sciences or biobehavioral health but may also come from other disciplines that address biological, physiological, psychological, sociocultural, environmental, medical, public health, or other related areas in global health research.

The appointment will be in the Department of Nutritional Sciences or the Department of Biobehavioral Health; both are internationally known for faculty expertise in interdisciplinary, translational health research. A doctoral degree is required plus a minimum of two years of postdoctoral training. To apply, interested candidates should complete an online application and upload 1) a cover letter, 2) a curriculum vitae, 3) teaching and research statements, and 4) the names, titles, and complete contact information for three professional references. Questions may be directed to Laura E. Murray-Kolb, chair of the search committee at lem118@psu.edu. Please indicate “Global Health Search” in the subject line of the email correspondence and cc: the message to Miranda Bair at mnr10@psu.edu.

Instructor and professional academic adviser

The Department is seeking a highly motivated instructor and professional academic adviser. The successful candidate will have a proven track record of classroom instruction, and will be capable of working effectively with students individually and in a team environment. This position will be approximately 50 percent instruction, which may include a summer session course or courses, and 50 percent advising. The academic adviser serves as a liaison among students, faculty, staff, and campus and university constituents. Competencies critical to success include outstanding interpersonal verbal and written communications; effective analytical problem-solving and organizational skills; accuracy and attention to detail; the ability to handle multiple tasks and meet deadlines; and the use of sound judgement and professionalism. This position requires a master's degree (with Registered Dietitian preferred), or higher plus one to two years of related experience. This is a fixed-term appointment funded for one year from date of hire with excellent possibility of re-funding.

Assistant professor in nutritional epidemiology

The Department seeks applications for a tenure-eligible, assistant professor in nutritional epidemiology with a focus on applied human nutrition research involving health disparities in socially disadvantaged populations. The applicant’s research may focus on any of a wide range of human nutrition issues related to national and/or international health disparities. Applicants should have academic training in nutrition or a related field and have demonstrated research expertise in epidemiology, bioinformatics and/or metabolomics related to nutrition. The use of interdisciplinary methodologies and/or experience with the analysis of large datasets will be considered an asset.

Applicants should also have experience that demonstrates proficiency in both teaching and in mentoring students. For more information or to apply contact A. Catharine Ross, department head, at acr6@psu.edu.

Support the Department of Nutritional Sciences through gift planning

Gift planning may allow you to make a gift of surprising significance to the Department of Nutritional Sciences, now or through your estate, while realizing financial advantages such as a lifetime income stream or lower estate taxes. At the same time, you can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you are providing vital future support for our students, faculty, or programs.

To learn more about securing the future of the Department of Nutritional Sciences–as well as the benefits to you, your heirs, and your estate–please contact Kathleen Rider, director of development, at 814-863-4157 or kmr8@psu.edu.