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Faculty accomplishments include new courses, research

Catharine Ross, professor, head, and Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair in Nutritional Sciences, will offer a travel-abroad experiential learning course through the Schreyer Honors College (SHC) and Penn State Global Programs that will focus on Japanese food culture. 

Japanese food culture is recognized by the United Nations’ UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Yet, food culture in Japan is changing rapidly. The course will have two components: a spring two-credit NUTR497H course that will consist of readings and papers, and a one-credit Maymester NUTR499 travel course to Tokyo, where students will experience the culture first hand and prepare a final paper. The travel course will be limited to eight to ten students. 

Red arch bridge over water in a city.
This bridge is located in a garden called Kameido tenjin, in which wisteria were planted some 300 years ago. The garden is part of a temple, east of Akihabara in Tokyo.

In October, Ross traveled to Bethesda, Maryland to chair an NIH review panel that reviewed SCORE (Support of Competitive Research Awards) applications, and participate as an ad hoc reviewer for the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Board of Scientific Councilors.

Stephen Kodish, assistant professor of nutritional sciences and biobehavioral health, will offer a new course, NUTR421: Food, Culture, and Health Trends, for the spring semester. This course  explores the social-political, historic, and geographic roots of food patterns, featuring specific cuisine areas and nutritional disease patterns. This course provides the cultural awareness needed by dietitians and any student of food and culture to participate in dietary exploration and change.

Elaine McDonnell, assistant research professor of nutritional sciences and director of Project PA team, will be developing and pilot-testing two types of training sessions for sponsors of the Child and Adult Care Food Program through funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. A menu-planning training session and a culinary training session will be designed to assist these sponsors in planning and preparing healthy meals for program participants.

Alison Gernandassistant professor of nutritional sciences and Ann Atherton Hertzler Early Career Professor in Global Health, was awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in June to develop a new tool for assessment of placentas in low-resource settings.

Jennifer Savage Williams, assistant professor of nutritional sciences and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research, was an invited guest speaker at a number of recent conferences:

  • Central PA WIC Conference, Camp Hill, PA, October  2018, presenting “I don’t like it; I won’t eat it! How to get your child to accept more fruits and vegetables” 


  • Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, October  2018, presenting “Effects of Responsive Parenting on Early Obesity Prevention: The INSIGHT Trial” 


  • Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN, July, 2018, presenting “Examining current evidence for feeding practices on food acceptance and weight outcomes in toddlers (12 -24 months)”


Jennifer Savage Williams and the INSIGHT study team published the primary results of the Intervention Nurses Start Infants Growing on Healthy Trajectories (INSIGHT) trial in JAMA in August. The INSIGHT intervention aims to reduce child obesity risk by teaching first time mothers of infants responsive parenting techniques in the areas of feeding, sleep, soothing, and active play. The study team found that children whose mothers received the parenting intervention had lower BMI z-scores at 3 years of age than children whose mothers were randomized to a control safety intervention.

Undergraduate and graduate students receive funding, awards

  • Nicole Reigh, a doctoral candidate in Kathleen Keller's lab, was selected as a Clinical and Translational Science Training Program Scholar for 2018-2019. Nicole is an alumnus of the Nutrition and Dietetics program at Penn State. She will be using this support to conduct her dissertation work on the factors that impact eating self-regulation in children.
  • Alissa Smethers, a doctoral candidate in Barbara Rolls’ lab, has several notable accomplishments this semester. She was selected as the 2018 Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award finalist. The Ethan Sims Young Investigator Award recognizes excellence in research by young investigators based on their submitted abstracts and presentation during The Obesity Society Annual Scientific Meeting. She also earned the Barbara J. Rolls Graduate Scholarship in Nutritional Sciences, and has been offered a Postdoctoral Position at Monell, funded by Monell’s Institutional Training Grant under the guidance of Dr. Julie Mennella.
  • Faris Zuraikat earned his Ph.D. in August, and was selected to be a fellow for the American Heart Association (AHA) Strategically Focused Research Network and was invited to attend the AHA Research Leaders Academy. He was awarded best poster presentation award at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, and is currently an AHA post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center within the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center and Sleep Center of Excellence.

Student Nutrition Association host events, travel to national conferences

The Student Nutrition Association (SNA) has hosted a number of member events and professional development activities, including two cooking nights, one in September themed "Tailgating Eats n Treats" and one in October themed "Tricks and Treats.” Members were able to work on their cooking skills, eat great food, and mingle with other members. 


During Exercise is Medicine week, SNA partnered with the Kinesiology Club to promote the importance of nutrition before and after exercise. Members were also able to learn about Penn State's online Master of Professional Studies in Nutritional Sciences program from Gina Pazzaglia, associate teaching professor of the program, during an in-house meeting. Students also had the opportunity to get professional headshots taken for their ePorfolios and LinkedIn accounts. Additionally, four SNA members attended FNCE in Washington, D.C, where they were able to attend multiple educational sessions, the dietetic internship fair, and Penn State's alumni mixer.  

SNA members Valerie Snell, Mackenzie Lombardi, Madison Galascio and Paris Winston in front of a large Ocean Spray poster.
SNA members Valerie Snell, Mackenzie Lombardi, Madison Galascio and Paris Winston attend FNCE in Washington, D.C.

NDAS adds new board members, plans activitiesNutrition and Dietetics Alumni Society

The Nutrition and Dietetics Alumni Society (NDAS) commenced its 2018-2019 academic year with a fully staffed board and four brand new alumni members: Laurel English, Claire Berryman, Marie Vadella and Xioran Liu. 

A variety of activities are being planned in the areas of the mentoring, awards, communications, and social/professional pillars. The annual NDAS Brunch is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2019 and will host alumni from across the country, feature networking opportunities for students and alumni, and present departmental updates. For more information or to register for the annual brunch, please contact Lindsey Zapletal,

The NDAS hosted a football tailgate in partnership with the Department of Kinesiology in September with visits from several dozen alumni. 

Nominations are being accepted for the Outstanding Nutrition Alumni Award, to be given at the February brunch.  Please send any nominations to

Alumni interested in getting more involved with NDAS should email and join our NDAS Facebook group.                                                                                                                         

Department seeks researcher in ingestive behavior

The Department of Nutritional Sciences seeks applications for an investigator in the science of ingestive behavior at open rank (assistant, associate or full professor). The successful candidate will be a highly promising new investigator (assistant professor) or an established scientist (associate professor or professor) who is dedicated to advancing the field of ingestive behavior through innovative research. 

Applicants should have academic training in nutrition or a related discipline (e.g., physiology, neuroscience, food science, biobehavioral health, psychology, public health, bioinformatics) and have demonstrated expertise in ingestive behavior. Applicants for associate professor and professor must have demonstrated success in obtaining significant extramural funding relevant to this area.

Sports Nutrition interns get real-world experience working with athletes

Sports Nutrition intern Katelyn Hancock at a fueling station.
Sports Nutrition intern Katelyn Hancock helps manage the athletes' fueling station

Student interns with Penn State Sports Nutrition have been hard at work this semester. They have helped with cooking demonstrations and nutrition education talks, learned to do body composition testing with athletes and have helped manage athletes’ fueling stations so our athletes never miss pre-workout fueling or post workout recovery! 

Dietetic internship students attend national conference

Interns attend FNCE
Back row, from left to right: Jeanne Kandra, Terry Riley, Vivian Schemper, Greta Mellinger, Denise Lawson, Maurin Brown, Lex Fetter, Ern Lau, Manvi Lohia, Annette Morrison. Front row, left to right: Alex Frantz and Diane Graham.

Dietetic Interns from the 2018-19 class attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo Oct, 20-23, in Washington, D.C. Four undergraduate student members of the Student Nutrition Association were co-sponsored by the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the University Park Allocation Committee. The event drew nearly 11,000 dietitians from around the country. A Nutritional Sciences Alumni Reception was also held on Oct. 21, during the conference, with close to 75 alumni in attendance. 

Department celebrates alumni who passed the RDN exam

Congratulations to our Penn State graduates who have passed the RDN exam!

2017 Graduates

  • Carolyn Arbuckle
  • Marielle Austen
  • Gina Coleman
  • Kelly Combs
  • Monica D'Agnostino
  • Alexis Desrosiers
  • Holly Johnson
  • Teresa Lesher
  • Paola Micchiavello Neme
  • Bethany Paszkowski
  • Andrea Ross
  • Alison Witmer
  • Jessica Young

2016 Graduates

  • Elizabeth Appleton
  • Laura Cresta
  • Amanda Gebhart
  • Amrita Arcot
  • Alyssa Ardolino
  • Kelsey Cantor
  • Sarah Chesky
  • Sydney Ericson
  • Talia Follador
  • Alexandra Gillespie
  • Bree Grim
  • Ashley Hassett
  • Haley Irvine
  • Taylor Moyer
  • Megan Lasko
  • Emma Leister
  • Hope Nilson
  • Karrie Rice
  • Haley Schlecter
  • Angela Schlegel
  • Rebecca Skotek
  • Kiana Taylor
  • Erin Thornton
  • Victoria Watters
  • Alyse Wittman
  • Lindsay Voegell

2015 Graduates

  • Kristen Allen
  • Jenny Dang
  • Lauren Fischer
  • Theresa Gionata
  • Darian Schick
  • Brianna Saxton
  • Carli Liguori
  • Durra Alsumatti

2014 Graduates

  • Jessica Caricato
  • Shane Gamble
  • Melissa Grande
  • Kristen Hendrix
  • Stephanie Hickey
  • Brittany Persico
  • George Will
  • Megan Orr

2013 Graduate

  • Lindsey Evans

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 814-865-1064 or