Professor to Discuss Importance of Vitamin A in Early Life

February 16, 2010

Dr. A. Catharine Ross, professor of nutritional sciences and Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair in Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development, will present the 2010 Schmitt Russell Research Lecture. Her lecture, “Vitamin A in Early Life—Why Does It Matter?” will be given at 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 2, 2010, in the Bennett Pierce Living Center, 110 Henderson Building. The event, sponsored by the College of Health and Human Development, is free and open to the public.

image of Schmitt Russell poster

Ross will present “Vitamin A in Early Life—Why Does It Matter?” at 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 2, in the Bennett Pierce Living Center, 110 Henderson Building.

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Ross is renowned for her vitamin A research. She has made a number of important contributions that have increased the understanding of vitamin A and vitamin A deficiency, which is a leading cause of blindness and mortality in young children in developing countries.

For decades, Ross has researched how the body interacts with vitamin A and responds to varying levels of vitamin A deficiency. She identified key enzymes and proteins involved in the metabolism and regulation of vitamin A, and her lab was one of two that first described the activity of one of the primary regulators of vitamin A, a gene known as LRAT (lecithin retinol acyltransferase). Her work led to the recognition that vitamin A is important for certain immune system responses, and the results of her work have implications for clinical studies worldwide. Recently, she has explored vitamin A’s role in infants’ lung development, and she was involved with developing a strategy to increase vitamin A levels in infants' lungs.

Ross currently chairs the Institute of Medicine’s committee to study and assess the existing dietary reference intakes (DRI) of calcium and vitamin D. She is one of only 180 women who are members of the National Academy of Sciences, and she was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003. Additionally, she is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Nutrition and serves on the editorial board of Experimental Biology and Medicine and Annual Reviews of Nutrition. She was the recipient of the College of Health and Human Development’s Evan G. and Helen G. Pattishall Oustanding Research Achievement Award in 1996.

Ross received her B.S. in zoology from the University of California, Davis, her M.N.S. and her Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from Cornell University, and she completed postdoctoral work at Columbia University.

The Schmitt Russell Lecture is delivered each year by the most recent recipient of the Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award, which recognizes a faculty member for outstanding research contributions throughout his or her career that have also significantly influenced his or her discipline. The award was created through an endowment by Leo P. Russell, a 1941 industrial engineering graduate, in honor of his late wife, Pauline Schmitt Russell, who received her Home Economics degree from Penn State in 1948.