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News from 2019


Retired faculty Helen Hall passed away on December 31, 2019 at the age of 99. Helen, who retired in the early 1980s, coordinated dietetic internships for our students.  

Kristen Chang at Meraki

Kristen Chang gave the first cooking demonstration at Meraki, Virginia Tech's Living-Learning Community, for its grand opening ceremony.

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Congratulations to graduate student Grace Davis, who won the 2019 Nutshell Games, with her presentation "Cancer Vacation." Grace talked about how metastasis can be compared to cancer going on vacation in the body and the need to pack a suitcase. Hosted by Virginia Tech's Center for Communicating Science and held in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Science Festival, the Nutshell Games allowed Virginia Tech graduate students 90 seconds to present their research--research in a nutshell--to a public audience. Three winners, determined by a panel of judges to have been the most engaging and to have communicated their research the most clearly, each received a $500 prize. All of the contestants receive a professional quality video recording of their talk, and the opportunity to share their research.

Debbie Pollio

The Office of Undergraduate Advising recognized Deborah Pollio as December's Advisor of the Month.


Julia Basso created a new website for the International Quit and Recovery Registry at the Addiction Recovery Research Center. The new site was launched September 1st for National Recovery Month.

Kevin Davy was recently invited to join the Editorial Board for the American Journal of Hypertension, a monthly, peer-reviewed journal that provides a forum for scientific inquiry in the field of hypertension and related cardiovascular disease.

Valisa Hedrick is the recipient of the 2019 Amy F. Joye Memorial Research Award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to develop an objective urinary biomarker that can measure artificial sweetener intake.

2019-20 MSND Students
Front: Jordyn Jarvis, Evita Huang, Mikayla Thomas, Sara Luna, and Program Director Kristen Chang. Back: Kayla Airaghi, Tabitha Parks, Mary Beth Massey, Jenny Litchford, Katie Smith, Kiley Kettle, and Andrea Bower.

HNFE's new M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics graduate program kicked off August 22 with two days of orientation. The program, accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics as a Future Education Model Graduate program, is the only program of its kind in Virginia and currently one of only 12 nationwide. 11 students are completing the program over the next 17-21 months, which features the integration of graduate coursework and supervised experiential learning in order to prepare for entry-level practice as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.  Also, HNFE's partner Carilion Clinic, who is the major provider of supervised practice, recently hired HNFE alumna Jeannine Simon as the coordinator of supervised practice.


Summer TOUR Scholars

In July, 11 Translational Obesity Undergraduate Research "TOUR" Scholars and program directors Debby Good and Samantha Harden had a two-day trip to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The 2019 TOUR Scholars program, in its first year as an NIH-funded five-year $500,000 grant, had eleven students selected from 53 applicants who represented four different universities and six different academic departments. While the focus of the summer program was the student's laboratory, clinical, and community-based research project, the Scholars also traveled to several locations, including the NIH, to learn about careers in science outside of academic research. While at NIH, the Scholars participated in a career panel with the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestion, and Kidney Institute; toured Building 10 (the NIH Clinical Center); visited the NIH Whole Body Calorimetry labs; and went to the National Library of Medicine, where the computer hub for PubMed resides (the free searchable database of scientific journal articles). This two-day whirlwind tour of "government research in action" was a highlight of the 2019 TOUR Scholars program! More pictures of their trip and poster presentation are on Facebook.


CALS in Kenya
Global Opportunity Initiative fellows and faculty from Egerton University and the University of Rwanda converse on the bus ride to Kigali after a day of partnership building at the University of Rwanda's College of Agriculture, Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine.

Vivica Kraak was one of six faculty members chosen for the second cohort of the Global Opportunity Initiative, a faculty development program the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Global Programs office launched last year with the goal of helping early-career faculty to address complex research challenges, refine their research pitch, and build collaborative relationships with organizations active in global agricultural engagement. The rigorous year-long experience involved a series of meetings and workshops in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, culminating in a capstone trip to the Center for Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management (CESAAM) at Egerton University and several of its partner sites throughout Kenya and Rwanda. Once there, fellows — each selected to participate in the program for being uniquely suited to address different problem areas in agriculture and health — work with CESAAM faculty to jointly develop research concepts and co-advise students, give presentations, understand local agricultural production systems and value chains, and address issues that impact the global food supply chain.

Deborah Good's class
Students present at a symposium as part of a course-embedded undergraduate research experience in Deborah Good's class.

In line with its mission to foster an undergraduate research community that promotes, enhances, and expands undergraduate research opportunities, the Office of Undergraduate Research launched the Undergraduate Research Faculty Grant Program to research opportunities and to widen the breadth of openings and participation across majors. From a pool of 30 creative and diverse proposals, five grants were awarded last spring, and included HNFE's Deborah Good and Angela Anderson, who were awarded a $12,300 grant to offer a CURE in genotype/phenotype analysis with students in metabolic nutrition.  


Megan Godsey in front of Wallace Hall

Megan Godsey, HNFE's Outstanding Senior, was also named the Outstanding Senior for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Kevin Wogenrich

The Office of Undergraduate Advising recognized Kevin Wogenrich as Advisor of the Month for May 2019.

Annalicia DaSilva

HNFE senior and first-generation student Annalicia DaSilva put her passion for creating welcoming, inclusive communities into action; she is passionate about the university’s mission to make all Hokies feel truly at home. Over the course of four years, she put this passion for creating welcoming communities into action through Student Affairs programs and as an inclusive excellence representative for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

HNFE's first annual Undergraduate Research in Metabolic Nutrition poster session was held recently. Sixteen students participated in a "Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience" (CURE) and investigated a different gene in a health, nutrition, exercise, or metabolic phenotype. The Office of Undergraduate Research funded the grant, and Angela Anderson and Debby Good were co-PIs.


Virginia Tech is expanding its ability to meet a growing demand for registered dietitian nutritionists by launching a new graduate-level program within HFNE. The new M.S. in nutrition and dietetics program joins the department's undergraduate didactic program in dietetics (DPD) and the internship program in nutrition and dietetics, which were both reaccredited in 2018 and will prepare graduates to develop and implement programs promoting dietary guidelines and healthy dietary behaviors for both individuals and communities. Accepting its first cohort in the fall of 2019, the program is the first in Virginia and one of the first in the country to be approved as a Future Education Model graduate program by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.  The curriculum will complement both HNFE's DPD and internship programs.

Vivica Kraak is part of the CALS Global Fellows Program, which has been preparing eight faculty members traveling to Africa (Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda) in June, to explore new research proposals that examine agricultural and food system challenges using a one health approach.

Julia Basso was interviewed by for This Is What Exercise Does to Your Brain. In the article, which focused on why exercise improves mood, she said people who experience the biggest gains in their fitness show the biggest cognitive changes, suggesting higher-intensity workouts provide extra benefit. However, mood boosts occur no matter the intensity of the activity. "You could go for a walk and your mood is going to be lifted up. But you need higher intensity to get cognitive improvements. The more you're getting your heart rate up higher and higher, the longer-term fitness benefits you're going to have, and then the longer-term cognitive benefits," said Basso.


Allyson Bailey

HNFE senior Allyson Bailey was featured in FORWARD, a series from Student Affairs featuring Virginia Tech students, faculty, staff, and alumni who have faced, overcome, or learned from life's obstacles and setbacks. Bailey worked part-time as a certified nursing assistant at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital to gain valuable experience in health care where she drew on her experience with traumatic brain injury to connect with patients.

Alumna Shayna Komar (B.S. '00) was honored by Today's Dietitian in their annual showcase of 10 RDs who are making a difference! (March 2019 issue, page 35)

Samantha Harden contributed to the Society of Behavioral Medicine Healthy Living Article 5 Easy Ways to Get More Active. For adults age 18 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week with two days of full-body strength training. For those 65+ years of age, it is also recommended to focus on balance and agility exercises to avoid falling and to maintain your quality of life.


VT Dietetic Interns and faculty

On February 13, all 17 Virginia Tech dietetic interns and three faculty members (Kristen Chang, Amy LaFalce, and Carol Papillon) joined approximately 100 dietitians in Richmond to advocate for issues important to the health and well being of Virginians. Of particular interest was seeking insurance coverage for medically necessary nutrition formulas, supporting provision of telemedicine to reach under served populations, and adjustments to the state budget to support summer feeding for children who are not receiving school meals when school is not in session.

Becky Eacho

Becky Eacho (above, right) was elected as the Virginia State Student Leader/Representative for the 2019-20 term at the 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference in Boston. NIRSA: 'Leaders in Collegiate Recreation' is a dynamic organization within higher education that is dedicated to excellence in student and professional development, education, research, and standards. The State Student Leader has the duties of recruiting student members from their state, communicating with student members from their state on current issues, news, trends, and events, assisting with the student lead on in their region, representing the regional student leader at their state workshops, and performing tasks set forth by the formal state association (i.e. Virginia Recreational Sports Association). Becky is a member of Samantha Harden's PARCI lab.

Julia Basso's research on meditation and stress: Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators was published by Elsevier in Behavioural Brain Research and highlighted in Thrive Global's article, Six Reasons You Should Incorporate Meditation Into Your Daily Routine.


Lancet Report

Lancet Commission recommends that political leaders take bold decisions to tackle pandemics of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change
Leaders must take a hard line against powerful commercial interests and rethink global economic incentives within the food system in order to tackle the joint pandemics of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change, according to a new report released by the Lancet Commission on Obesity.

A key recommendation from the Lancet Commission is the call to establish a new global treaty on food systems to limit the political influence of transnational food and beverage firms that undermine health for people and planet.Led by the University of Auckland (New Zealand), George Washington University (USA), and the World Obesity Federation (UK), the new Lancet Commission is the result of a three-year project led by 43 commissioners and fellows with diverse expertise from 14 countries. HNFE Associate Professor Vivica Kraak was involved in this effort and is available for comment on the report.

Siobhan Craige
Angela Anderson
Janet Rankin

Janet Rankin was conferred the title of professor emerita by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.