Our Story/Penny Kris-Etherton

Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, believes what we eat has the power to change the world.

Kris-Etherton has worked in the Department of Nutritional Sciences for nearly 38 years. Since coming to Penn State in 1979, Kris-Etherton has held numerous positions in the department, including didactic program and dietetics director, where she worked with students interested in pursuing a career in dietetics.

“It’s always been a program of excellence,” she said about the department. “Over the years it has grown and evolved.”

In addition to a bigger faculty, the department now covers more areas of nutritional sciences than it did many years ago, including epidemiology, global nutrition, chronic diseases, ingestive behavior and childhood nutrition, she said.

Kris-Etherton, who has authored more than 300 publications in refereed journals, says her passion for the study of nutritional sciences has many facets: “What we eat can affect our lives in very profound ways.”

Eating habits can affect personal risk of chronic diseases, micronutrient deficiencies and excesses, families and social circles, and future generations, she said.

“It’s something we can do something about,” she said.

Mike Flock, a senior research investigator of global nutrition for DuPont Nutrition & Health in St. Louis, Missouri, said he credits Kris-Etherton for his success in the field.

“I was a graduate assistant in her lab from 2010 to 2014 and had a phenomenal experience,” he said. “She is an extremely genuine and caring individual, which is reflected in her approach to training new scientists. Penny provides her students with endless opportunities, whether it’s managing a clinical study, writing a review article, or attending scientific conferences. Penny makes sure her students are exposed to all facets of nutrition research, which helps one figure out what they personally want to do with their education and training after graduating.”

Kris-Etherton is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In 2014 she was appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Science Board for the federal government.

She completed a dietetic internship in 1973 from Veterans Administration Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and received her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Case Western Reserve University and Rochester Institute of Technology, respectively, and received her Ph.D. in human nutrition from the University of Minnesota.