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Search underway for new department head

Gordon Jensen was the department's leader for nearly nine years.

Gordon Jensen, M.D., Ph.D., professor and head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, will be departing Penn State in January 2016 after an 8.5 year tenure leading the department. He has accepted a new position as senior associate dean for research at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, Vermont.

A search committee is actively seeking applications for the position of Professor and Head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Nutrition has been a part of the curriculum at Penn State for more than 100 years, and based on National Research Council rankings is one of the premier programs in nutritional sciences in the nation.

Programmatic activities span the spectrum from basic science to application in clinical, community and global settings. The department is respected for its faculty expertise in basic and molecular sciences, emerging sciences such as nutrigenomics, metabolomics, clinical and translational sciences, and applied sciences in epidemiology, maternal and infant nutrition, global nutrition, obesity, ingestive behavior and nutrition education and dietetics. In addition to robust undergraduate and doctoral programs, an online Masters of Professional Studies program is scheduled to start in Fall 2016 as part of Penn State’s World Campus.

Michael H. Green, Ph.D. will serve as the interim dead of the department while the search is conducted.

The department wishes Jensen well as he moves on to this new position.

Highlights of Jensen's tenure leading the department include the following:

  1. Move of the department to new facilities in Chandlee Laboratory
  2. Building of new children’s eating behavior laboratory
  3. Successful recruitment of 15 new faculty
  4. National Research Council ranks the graduate program in Nutrition among the nation’s best
  5. New curriculum emphasis tracks are developed
  6. New branding initiative implemented: Penn State Nutrition .... Our Science, Your Health
  7. Development of new online Master's program

Gut bacteria may be to blame for obesity and diabetes

An excess of bacteria in the gut can change the way the liver processes fat and could lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, according to research conducted by Matam Vijay-Kumar, assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, and colleagues.

While it's true that neither people nor mice can digest plant-derived fiber, their gut bacteria can readily ferment the fibers and then release them as energy-rich short-chain fatty acids, such as acetic acid. Once they reach the liver, these compounds convert into lipids and add to fat deposits that could potentially lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, especially in people and mice lacking toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5).

Read more about how excess of bacteria in the gut can change the way the liver processes fat

Faculty News and Recognition

Shawnee Kelly (center) with Gordon Jensen (L) and Ann C. Crouter, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean

Shawnee Kelly, instructor/adviser, was awarded the Evelyn R. Saubel Faculty Award on Nov. 10 by the College of Health and Human Development Alumni society for her work helping students with academic planning and career direction. This award recognizes faculty members for service to students. Among its criteria are a commitment to human service; accessibility as an adviser; and a caring, professional style. The award was established in honor of Evelyn Saubel, a 1935 home economics graduate, a longtime assistant to the dean in the former colleges of home economics and human development.

Lynn Parker Klees, instructor, was elected president-elect of the Central PA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Formerly the Central Pennsylvania Dietetic Association, the academy is an advocate of the dietetic profession serving the public through the promotion of optimal nutrition, health and well-being.

Jill Patterson, assistant professor will retire at the end of fall 2015 after 18 years of service to our department. The department recognizes her steady leadership as professor-in-charge of undergraduate education.

Catharine Ross, Dorothy Foehr Chair and Professor, attended the 1st Symposium of the University of Nebraska COBRE program on Prevention of Obesity Diseases, where she spoke on "Lipid emulsions in the prevention of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease," Sept. 28, 2015.

The department thanks alumni and friends who spoke or came to campus this fall:

Scott Smith

Scott M. Smith '90 NUTR, manager for Nutritional Biochemistry at the NASA Johnson Space Center and a Penn State alum, presented “How Nutrition Fuels Human Space Flight” on Oct. 22, as part of the Health and Human Development Alumni Society Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series.

Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition & You, and media spokesperson on weight management, spoke to NUTR 100 class, Contemporary Nutrition Concerns.

Christie Parsons '10 NUTR spoke to NUTR 360 class, Disseminating Nutrition Information about her work experience. She works for Adiagio Health in its Power Up Program (nutrition education) delivered to low income schools in the Erie, Pennsylvania area.

Paige Whitmire '13 NUTR spoke about her dietetic internship experience to NUTR 370 class, Professional Issues in Nutrition and Health Careers, about her experience in the dietetic internship. The topic,"Is a dietetic Internship right for me?" addressed the application process. Whitmire discussed the variety of her rotations, and her current position as a consulting dietitian.

Dietetic Internship Fair

Alums return to offer career advice

Melissa Savino '08 NUTR representing Cedar Crest College; Kristen Engler NUTR '13 representing John Hopkins Bayview; Margaret DeFranco NUTR '15 and Caitlin Lesko '14 NUTR representing Sodexo, attendeed the NUTR 371 Dietetic Internship Fair on Oct. 20 in the Bennett Pierce Living Center in Henderson Building.

Student Nutrition Association Update

The Student Nutrition Association has been having fun and working hard planning events and giving back to the community.

Bi-weekly nutrition lessons

The group has continued to implement bi-weekly nutrition lessons at LifeLink PSU, a center in the HUB-Robeson Center dedicated to young adults with special needs. They have also began teaching nutrition lessons to club sports teams and have created recipe cards containing ingredients found within food banks to be given to the clients of the Bellefonte Food Bank.

THON support and Nutrition awareness

They continue to fundraise for THON and are in the midst of planning a big event for National Nutrition Month.

Community Outreach through opinion column

You can find their bi-weekly opinion column in The Collegian!

Professional Mentoring Program

The Professional Mentoring Program has launched to connect students to professionals in the field, and will be looking to expand in the coming year.

SNA seats new board

The SNA is excited to welcome the new executive board. Contact Alex Close (, president, for the 2015-16 year if you are interested in connecting with current SNA members, or providing new ideas and insights.

David Frankenfield

NDAS Alumni Brunch

Mark your calendars for Feb. 28, 2016, to join the Nutrition and Dietetic Alumni Society for its annual alumni brunch. The speaker will be David Frankenfield, a registered dietitian at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Further details and a formal invitation will follow.

New Online Master’s Program Seeks Director

The Department of Nutritional Sciences invites applications for a full-time, academic year (48 week), non-tenure track instructor position beginning Jan. 1, 2016, to direct the new online Master’s program that is currently in development.

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 Department of Nutritional Sciences–as well as the benefits to you, your heirs, and your estate–please visit the Penn State Office of Gift Planning website at or contact Kathleen Rider, director of development, at 814-863-4157 or