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News from 2021


Caitlin Bowman

Caitlin Bowman was named as the 2021 Outstanding Senior for our department, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the VT Honors College!  Her experience at Virginia Tech, like many others, started in one place and ended in another. But her path through Virginia Tech including majoring in HNFE, minoring in psychology, and being a student in the Honors College, was one that led her perfectly towards her future as a clinician and researcher. Learn more about her and her future plans!

Marc Lewis in Lane Stadium
“I’m getting my Ph.D. 45 minutes from where I was homeless and from where I was abandoned as a baby in a trailer,” Marc Lewis said. “It’s surreal to be able to do this.” Photos and story by Max Esterhuizen for Virginia Tech.

For Marc Lewis, graduation is more than a degree
"Marc sets a high bar form himself and doesn’t let obstacles distract him from his goals. He is a highly motivated individual focused on generating high-quality work," said Kevin Davy, a professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and Lewis' Ph.D. mentor. "It has been a privilege to work with Dr. Lewis at Virginia Tech and to see the impact he’s had in the classroom and on the athletic field."


April 2021 Dietetics Program Highlights
We are excited to share the successful application activities and outcomes from the three HNFE Dietetics Programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

Joe Grieco was awarded a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award to support his research on ovarian cancer. He is a translational biology, medicine, and health graduate student mentored by Dr. Eva Schmelz.

Kalyn Specht, mentored by Dr. Siobhan Craige, received an ACSM Foundation doctoral research grant for her research proposal, Nox4 mediates mitochondrial remodeling in skeletal muscle. Drs. Siobhan Craige and Josh Drake are co-mentors on the grant.

Azin Pourkhalili, mentored by Carlin Rafie, received the Futures Board Research Scholarship from the Center for Gerontology. She also has been accepted into the Fralin Biomedical Commercialization Fellows cohort.

Dr. Michelle Rockwell has a research study looking into how social media misinformation influences people’s intention to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, especially those within the Appalachian region, with help from a grant funded by the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and the Data and Decisions Destination Area. Her collaborators, who come from a variety of disciplines (and include Dr. Jeff Stein and Jeremiah Brown from HNFE), are hoping to learn what misinformation was being spread, but also how health care and public health stakeholders could combat misinformative posts.

Research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy by Dr. Rob Grange and veterinary student Kate Bukovec may lead to better treatment options. Mimicking human muscle function from dystrophic patients in a dystrophic mouse muscle in the lab could lead to enhanced treatment methods in patients.


Dr. Sora Shin received a New Faculty Mentoring Grant from the Provost's Office.

Dr. Stella Volpe served on the LEADERS IN CALS: A Conversation with women in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences panel on March 9th.

Dr. Stella Volpe presented virtually at Hampton University for the HBCU Sports Science and Wellness Virtual Research Summit with Shernita Lee from Virginia Tech on March 22, 2021.

Dr. Stella Volpe was on the Health Sciences Panel for Ujima Living Learning Community on March 31, 2021.

Doctoral student Rohit Ramadoss and Dr. Stella Volpe wrote a blog, Nutritional Strategies for Healthy Aging, for the American College of Sports Medicine's American Fitness Index (AFI). Stella is chair of Rohit’s committee and of the AFI committee.

The research of Dr. Eva Schmelz and doctoral student Joe Grieco was featured in Oncology Times on March 5th:  Ovarian Cancer Cells Adapt to Proliferate in Peritoneal Cavity.


Dr. Vivica Kraak presented "Actions to Foster Healthy, Resilient & Sustainable Food Systems and Promote Health for People and Planet" during the ISCE Virginia Tech Policy Destination Area on February 17th as part of their "Policy, Technology, and Society" seminar series.

Academic Advisor Kevin Wogenrich received the Southeast Association of Housing Officer’s (SEAHO) Academic Collaboration Award for his work as program director of Meraki.

Ryland Webb

Dr. Ryland Webb, professor emeritus and former head of the Department of Human Nutrition and Foods from 1973 to 1982, passed away on February 23, 2021. Read more about his career and accomplishments.

Dr. Young Ju’s Introduction to Integrative Health (HNFE 2334) course was designated with the Global System Sciences attribute.

Dr. Stella Volpe was selected to be on the Executive Board of the newly developed Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences, a non-profit organization that catalyzes science for the benefit of public health.

Presented by HNFE faculty Heather Cox, alumna Emily Massi, and MSND student Katie Smith, Healthy Habits: Busting Myths and Creating Balance is a presentation on learning how to digest diet information into sustainable habits.

Newborn specialist and HNFE alumni Dr. Dustin Flannery (B.S. ' 07) had his research featured in the CNN article, Babies get Covid-19 antibodies from mothers while in the womb. An attending neonatologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Flannery and his colleagues studied more than 1,400 mothers and newborns and found that protective COVID-19 antibodies were transferred across the placenta in 72 out of 83 infected, or previously infected, pregnant women studied. He received a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2011 and a Master's degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019.

2021 GOI Fellows

Dr. Stella Volpe and Dr. Enette Larson-Meyer were selected to be part of the 2021 Global Opportunity Initiative Fellows. This year, ten Fellows from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine will participate in this cohort-based faculty development program geared towards capacity building, network development, and building teams to pursue global initiatives. Each of the Fellows will contribute their unique skills to address the 2021 GOI theme of strengthening food systems for food security, health, and community vitality.

HNFE 3034 Lab

Students in HNFE 3034 Methods of Human Health Assessment were provided with lab kits to help with at-home learning! These included a urine collection cup, a dipstick (glucose, protein, etc. in urine), pedometer (step count), and a plastic skin fold caliper and tape measure to augment online laboratory activities focused on assessing biomarkers of health and hydration, physical activity, and body composition.

Formed in 2019, Meraki is one of the newest stars in Virginia Tech's constellation of living-learning communities. These residential halls provide valuable experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. Each community possesses its own theme or academic specialization. At Meraki, the goal is to help students become the best versions of themselves by being dedicated to the well-being of mind and body. Meraki, featured in the 2021 issue of CALS Magazine, is led by HNFE academic advisor Kevin Wogenrich. Doctoral student Sarah Lynn was mentioned in the feature, and several of our students were quoted. The community is a partnership between The Cook Counseling Center; HNFE; Hokie Wellness; Housing and Residence Life; Recreational Sports; Schiffert Health Center; Services for Students with Disabilities; and Student Affairs Well-Being.


Dr. Julia Basso had an article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Dance on the Brain: Enhancing Intra- and Inter-brain synchrony.

Dr. Vivica Kraak says the combination of obesity, food insecurity, and COVID have increased children’s risk of poor diet quality and increased obesity in the feature: COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates concerns of childhood obesity nationwide

Dr. Brenda Davy offers the following lifestyle advice for improving well-being and keeping health resolutions: Cook at home, drink more water, and get outside to improve your well-being.

cutting broccoli

Virginia Tech nutritionist and registered dietitian Dr. Carlin Rafie weighs in on fighting COVID-19 with nutrition and healthy living on WTKR and in Virginia Tech News.

Dr. Eva Schmelz's ovarian cancer research was featured in Frontiers: Ovarian cancer cells adapt to their surroundings to aid tumor growth.

Doctoral student Erica Howes and Dr. Valisa Hedrick were featured in a recent issue of Weight Management Matters Newsletter, "Weight Stigma: Challenges and Opportunities for Progress in Weight Management during COVID-19 and beyond."