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News from 2022


Dr. Vivica Kraak was invited to serve on the Executive Vice President and Provost's  Task Force on Freedom of Expression and Inquiry.

On September 1, Dr. Zhen Yan will join Fralin Biomedical Research Institute (FBRI) and HNFE. He will be the inaugural director of FBRI’s Center for Exercise Medicine Research headquartered in Roanoke. Zhen is currently a professor of medicine with the University of Virginia.

Nicolin Girmes-Grieco, Vivica Kraak, Stella Volpe, Kate Stanley, and Maria DeNunzio (group leader) met with German university students who are part of the Fulbright Summer Institute at Virginia Tech. The students are all undergraduates at Germany's Universities of the Applied Sciences. Nicolin, Kate, Stella, and Vivica shared stories about HNFE, and everyone enjoyed comparing different food systems and university life.

Dr. Sarah Misyak was awarded Virginia Cooperative Extension's 2021 Program Excellence Award. She won in the program evaluation section for "Participant Perceptions of Access to Virginia Cooperative Extension Family Nutrition Program Services and Resources: A Racial Equity Assessment."

Dr. Stella Volpe is the the Chair of the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness IndexTM, and the 2022 city rankings of the fittest 100 cities was released earlier this month. In relation to these rankings, she was:


Dr. Julia Basso studied the impact of different activities on mood, including high-intensity interval training and moderate to vigorous workouts, and found that even a simple exercise such as walking produced profound effects on mood. “Just getting out there and moving your body through time and space really helps,” she says in Guardian US article.

With temperatures rising, it’s critical to stay hydrated when outdoors! In a video interview to Washington ABC7, Kristen Chang provided summer safety tips to avoid heat-related illnesses.

During a recent Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics webinar, Northern Virginia Virginia Tech Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics Site Director Amy LaFalce presented “Educate, then Advocate: Creating Policy Opportunities for Dietetics Students.” The webinar, attended by over 300 people, included research related to successes and barriers to incorporating food and nutrition policy into dietetics education, perspectives of current and past students, and suggestions for incorporating policy training into dietetics supervised practice. Her portion of the session focused on how Virginia Tech's Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics builds skills in policy and advocacy, leading to graduates who are more confident and more involved in nutrition policy and advocacy than other entry level registered dietitian nutritionists.

Enette Larson-Meyer

Dr. Enette Larson-Meyer, professor and director of our Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics Program, received both the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Medallion Award and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Cardiovascular Health and Well-being Distinguished Scholar Award!

People should take part in outdoor activities for physical and mental health benefits, says HNFE faculty Dr. Samantha Harden. “Outdoor activities are about enjoyment and we know that psychologically, people love being outdoors. It’s important to find any activity that you enjoy and go outside." Read more.

Proper hydration and nutrition vital to safe and effective summer workouts, says Kristen Chang, sports dietitian and assistant director of the Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics program. "It’s important to give the body the calories and nutrients it needs to fuel it during all kinds of exercise in the summer." Read more.

Baby formula shortage is temporary and relief is on the way, says HNFE faculty Dr. Carlin Rafie. Read more.

HNFE's College Bowl team won the National Championship ACSM Student Bowl at the American College of Sports Medicine annual conference in San Diego in June! Team members are Pierre-Anne Laird, Noah Stallard and Sabina Holz, and Dr. Angela Anderson was their coach.

Rohit is mentored by Dr. Volpe and is pictured with Dr. Craig Sale, who chaired the session.
Rohit is mentored by Dr. Volpe and is pictured with Dr. Craig Sale, who chaired the session.

PhD student Rohit Ramadoss, MS, is the recipient of the 2022 American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Nutrition Interest Group’s award winner for best abstract, "Effect of acute feeding status on substrate oxidation rates in runners and combat athletes during submaximal exercise tests." Rohit is first author and Dr. Joseph Stanzione and Dr. Stella Volpe (Rohit’s mentor) are co-authors. Rohit presented this abstract at the ACSM Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA held from May 31 through June 4, 2022.


Madisyn Dalton, Lauren Provinsal, Dr. Angela Anderson, and Lauren Wildman
Madisyn Dalton, Lauren Provinsal, Dr. Angela Anderson, and Lauren Wildman

During the college's commencement ceremony on May 12, HNFE faculty and students were honored for their achievements and successes both inside and outside of the classroom!

Congratulations to everyone! We are proud of all your accomplishments!

Emily Maher

Virginia Tech's Emily Mahar continued to cement her legacy as one of the Hokies' all-time greats, becoming the women's golf program's first-ever All-American, as announced by the Women's Golf Coaches Association (WGCA). Emily is an OMALS student in our Applied Nutrition and Physical Activity program.

Two or our undergraduate students Haley Miller and Reilly Krason published with Dr. Enette Larson-Meyer:

  • Kyle EK, Miller HB, Schueler J, Clinton M, Alexander BM, Hart AM, Larson-Meyer DE. Bone Mineral Density and Serum Lipids in Lactating Postpartum Women: Effect of Aerobic Fitness and Physical Activity. Nutrients 2022
  • Larson-Meyer DE, Krason R, Meyer LM. Weight Gain Recommendations for Athletes and Military Personnel: A Critical Review of the Evidence. Current Nutrition Reports (ahead of print) 2022

Neuroscientists will probe the functional brain circuitry that underlies learned preferences for tasty food: Dr. Sora Shin, HNFE faculty and an assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, will analyze the functional neuronal circuitry in the brain that lead to overconsumption of high-fat foods with new National Institutes of Health funding. Read more.

The science of sport: Rachel Baxter and Becca Mammel, HNFE graduate students and members of the Virginia Tech track and field team, use data collected from their research to push athletic boundaries. Read more.

Two of our students are officers on the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad for the next academic year:

  • Bella Filippone, administrative captain, rising junior
  • Lydia Kuo, equipment lieutenant, rising senior

Virginia Tech Rescue Squad members Lauren Yarnall (at left) and Hannah O'Malley climb into an ambulance outside the rescue squad facility.
Virginia Tech Rescue Squad members Lauren Yarnall (at left) and Hannah O'Malley climb into an ambulance outside the rescue squad facility. Photo by Christina Franusich for Virginia Tech.

HNFE senior Lauren Yarnall continued her family's legacy by joining the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad. Her parents met on the squad in the 1980s, and her older brother followed in their footsteps, joining the squad in 2012. Joining the squad introduced her to a new type of family. “You have your probationary siblings, your parents who are your mentors, and I got to have co-parents. The family aspect is super in your face from the very beginning. We call it that, but it becomes that.” Read more.

Ph.D. student connects athletics with genetics to strengthen the human body: PhD student Rebecca Mammel is applying data gathered from her research with Dr. Siobhan Craige to improve her performance as an athlete. Becca is a thrower on Virginia Tech's track and field team. Watch this video

FNP Northern District Area Coordinator Karrin Cordova was selected as a recipient of the 2022 CALS Diversity and Inclusion Service Award.

Dr. Enette Larson-Meyer's Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism Laboratory was a featured stop during the recent Experience CALS ’22 event hosted by the college.

Dr. Carlin Rafie's work with Engaging Martinsville is featured around minute 10 in VPM News Focal Point, Addiction: Season 1: From Blacksburg to Richmond. The series advocates offering hope and healing to people on the road to recovery from opioid addiction.

Dr. Brenda Davy talks about what we drink and why it matters, from hydration to fluoridation to weight management on the podcast, "Liquids Matter! Water & Weight Management." The episode spans a wide range of topics including how beverages impact energy intake, how to stay hydrated, and how to make beverage choices that support your lifestyle and body weight goals.

Dr. Julia Basso's research on the connection between dance and autism was featured by WDBJ7.

An international patent was submitted in May based on Dr. Debby Good's US Provisional Patents: International Patent application PCT/US2022/027697 based on U.S. Provisional Application Nos. 63/184,001 & 63/184,029. Title: CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID SUPPLEMENTATION FOR DISEASE TREATMENT

Doctoral student Kalyn Specht (Mentor: Dr. Siobhan Craige) was awarded an F31 from the National Institutes of Health NIAMSD for her research proposal, "Nox4 mediates the metabolic stress response in skeletal muscle." Her proposal was based on her dissertation, which she defended on May 9.

Doctoral student Azin Pourkhalili (Mentor: Dr. Carlin Rafie) received the Futures Board Research Scholarship and the S.J. Ritchey Endowed Scholarship.

Senior Dax Hollifield won the President’s Leadership Award. Dax was a linebacker on the football team.

MSND interns pose at VAND meeting
Pictured at the SVAND district dinner are (left to right) Becky Vick (MSND), Erica Howes (doctoral student, meeting co-chair), Kristen Dehr, Susan Noble, Keya Price (alumna), Trisha Sterringer (meeting co-chair), Jordan Boone (MSND), Hayley Miller (MSND), Kathleen Poole (SVAND president, alumna), and Kristen Chang (MSND assistant director).

HNFE played a huge role in a successful Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (VAND) annual meeting, which was hosted online April 24 and 25 by the Southwest District Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (SVAND).

  • Doctoral candidates Trish Sterringer and Erica Howes were co-chairs in planning and implementing the event. 
  • Recent MSND alumna Evita Huang planned and implemented the poster session (five dietetic interns and one MSND alum presented posters). 
  • Ashley Tremblay, current dietetic intern, planned and implemented the student session under the mentorship of Carol Papillon. 
  • Dr. Carlin Rafie presented, "The Balanced Living with Diabetes Program: An opportunity for improved patient outcomes through clinic-community collaboration."
  • Eleni Laskaridou demonstrated the DEXA.
  • Dr. Enette Larson-Meyer demonstrated the measurement of resting energy expenditure.
  • Mary Elizabeth Baugh presented on the metabolic chamber at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. 

Two students were recipients of VAND awards this year: 

  • Becky Vick was awarded the VAND Graduate Student Scholarship. Becky will continue in the MSND program upon graduation in May.
  • Dietetic Intern Emily Jenkins was awarded as VAND Outstanding Dietetics Student.

Lauren Provinsal at the Blacksburg Farmers Market

HNFE and CALS Outstanding Senior Lauren Provinsal, originally from England, has immersed herself in Virginia Tech campus life and the local community. She has volunteered at the Blacksburg Farmers Market with FNP'S SNAP nutrition program, helped with COVID-19 mitigation efforts on campus, served at the Warm Hearth retirement community hosting yoga sessions for seniors and writing letters to residents, participated in weekly phone calls with a veteran through COVID-19 for Companionship, and packed food for Micah's Backpack. Learn more about her


To celebrate World Day of Physical Activity, faculty, staff, and students enjoyed a beautiful spring day by doing some planks and jumping jacks! The World Day for Physical Activity is promoted through the World Health Organization and Agita Mundo – World Physical Activity Network, a group of international governmental and non-governmental institutions who strive to disseminate the benefits of adopting a more active and healthy lifestyle by practicing some physical activity daily.

Dr. Julia Basso and adjunct professor Rachel Rugh hypothesize that dance stimulates the social elements of the brain, and thus individuals with autism spectrum disorder may feel more connected at both the physical and psychological levels. Read more from VT News ; WDBJ7 also featured their research.

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Lil Buck and the Memphis Jookin' crew visited Dr. Julia Basso's lab to examine flow state during dance.

Two of our Dietetic Interns recently received Outstanding Student Awards from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Sara Kushner, MS, CN: Outstanding Dietetic Intern in the Maryland Academy. Sara earned her BS from Ohio State University and her MS from Bastyr University. After completing the internship in May, she plans to pursue a career as a registered dietitian nutrition focused on food and nutrition policy or nutrition counseling. She especially enjoys supporting neurodiverse clients with non-diet approaches to eating with ADHD. 

Emily Jenkins: Outstanding Dietetic Intern in the Virginia Academy. Emily earned her BS from James Madison University. Upon completing the Virginia Tech's dietetic internship, she hopes to continue exploring a variety of interests in her career as a registered dietitian nutritionist including clinical dietetics, women's health, intuitive eating, and working with students and young adults.

Undergraduate student Madisyn Dalton received the Madelynn Todd Trailblazer Award for the Class of 2022. This newly created award honors a student who has who blazed a new and impactful trail. Madelynn Todd APSC ’21 made tremendous strides in the area of access and inclusion across campus while she was a student.

Undergraduate student Medina Etemadi received the Aspire! Award this spring. She was recognized for her demonstration of the Aspirations for Student Learning, specifically her commitment to Practice Civility.

Anna Ninchenko (postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Josh Drake) was accepted into the 2022 cohort of the Fralin Commercialization Fellows Program. She also received a travel award based on the abstract she submitted to the 2022 Oklahoma Geroscience Symposium: The Role of Proteostasis in Aging and Age-Related Diseases. She will be presenting a poster at the meeting.

Jake Reynolds, a doctoral student who works with Brenda Davy, was selected as a CALS Graduate Teaching Scholar.

Doctoral student Sonal Sathe (mentor, Dr. Elena Serrano) was selected as an Associate of the Academy for Graduate Teaching Assistant Excellence (VT GrATE).

Undergraduate student Lauren Wildman received the CALS Hokie Helpers Award for the Class of 2022. This newly created award honors a student who has served the university and community through the covid-19 pandemic in an extraordinary way.

Zachary Weingrad (a volunteer student in Dr. Josh Drake's lab) was chosen for the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) at Rowan University.

Alumna Brandy Phipps, PhD (MS '00) presented to our graduate students on her career as an assistant professor with the Department of Agricultural & Life Sciences at Central State University on March 17.

Dr. Sarah Misyak and Meredith Ledlie were the outside evaluation team for the original federal funding for Virginia Fresh Match, a nutrition incentive program that matches funds to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) shoppers buy more healthy, local food at farmers markets. They presented a paper (right) during a recent event that brought together Virginia Fresh Match, Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), FNP, and stakeholders from across the state to showcase the network’s successes and plan for the future. Their concept is simple: when SNAP recipients use benefits at participating Virginia farmers market outlets, their dollars are doubled for purchases of fruits and vegetables. This incentive directly supports Virginia agriculture as every dollar of SNAP and the match goes from a customer’s hand into a farmer’s pocket. The great work will continue with a second round of federal funding!

Dr. Elena Serrano was selected as the recipient for the Alumni Association Excellence in Extension Award in the specialist category. The Virginia Tech Alumni Association established the award for Extension Excellence in 1975 to promote Extension at Virginia Tech and to recognize the outstanding contributions of Extension professionals to the land-grant mission of the University.


HNFE's student trainers and nutritionists are an integral component of the services provided to Virginia Tech’s student-athletes. Learn more.

On March 17 and 18, the Family Nutrition Program (FNP) held an online training for Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) youth nutrition educators at the University of Connecticut on the Teen Cuisine program. The training team consisted of Johanna Hahn (FNP trainer), Camille McGuire (curriculum support), Beth Jimenez (senior youth program assistant), Megan Johnston (senior youth program assistant), and Dr. Elena Serrano (EFNEP coordinator).  

Elizabeth Kitley enters the court.

HNFE student Elizabeth Kitley's life focuses around basketball and her special bond with sister Raven. Learn more.

Dr. Julia Basso's proposal to to study the use of mother-child dance to decrease parental PTSD symptoms and enhance interpersonal synchrony between the mother and child was awarded by the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment.

Dr. Valisa Hedrick was awarded a grant from the National Institute on Aging for her research project, "Non-Nutritive Sweetener Consumption and Glucose Homeostasis in Middle-Aged and Older Adults with Prediabetes." Co-investigators are Dr. Brenda Davy, Dr. Kevin Davy, and Dr. Tina Savla (Department of Human Development and Family Science, Center for Gerontology).

The town of Blacksburg; the nonprofit Live, Work, Eat, Grow; and Virginia Tech's Cooperative Extension are coming together to end food insecurity in Southwest Virginia through a community garden program, Feeding Southwest Virginia. Dr. Elena Serrano is involved with the project.

Dr. Enette Larson-Meyer and Dr. Michelle Rockwell were highlighted in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Active Voice issue about vitamin D assessment in athletes.

Dr. Angela Anderson was awarded a CALS Teaching Excellence Award for 2022. She was recognized for her dedication to teaching excellence and professional dedication to the students in the college.

Produce Rx programs are funded by the 2018 US Farm Bill

  • One of the Virginia Tech Internship in Nutrition & Dietetics program affiliations is NourishedRx, who provides personalized food and who is impacting health outcomes in hospitalizations and healthcare costs. Program graduate Megan McFadden is their lead registered dietitian and preceptor.
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension has been involved in Produce Rx programs in multiple counties in Virginia. A current OMALS student project will evaluate the impact of increased access to fresh produce and food preparation skill building and dietary change in participants in the Extension Diabetes Prevention Program.
  • Carilion Community Health and Outreach has a version of this program currently running through primary care offices. MSND students have been involved in helping to grow and formalize it during community rotations.

Rachel Baxter, Rebecca Mammel, Leigha Torino

HNFE students Rachel Baxter, Rebecca Mammel, and Leigha Torino had outstanding performances in the ACC Championship held in  March.

Rachel Baxter finished out her indoor vaulting career by breaking the ACC indoor pole vault record by clearing 4.61m (15' 1.5"), winning the ACC title for the fourth-straight year! Having become the first woman to win three consecutive indoor titles in 2021, she now stands alone as the only vaulter, man or woman, to be crowned ACC champion four indoor seasons straight. Baxter is mentored by Jay Williams.

In the women's weight throw, Rebecca Mammel shattered the ACC Championships record with a heave of 23.08m (75' 8.75") to earn her first ACC title. Having delivered consistently dominant performances all year, she set a new meet record, new school record, and move into No. 4 in the NCAA and No. 10 in the world this year. Additionally, she became the first Hokie to ever throw over 23 meters in the women's weight throw. Mammel is mentored by Siobhan Craige.

In the distance medley relay, Leigha Torino and her teammates left the rest of the field in the dust en route to a victory in 10:35.75! Their time was over three seconds faster than the second-best performers and shattered the previous ACC Championships record and Rector Field House record. Torino is an OMALS student mentored by Michelle Rockwell.

As part of Virginia Tech's Ethics week, Drs. Julia Basso and Josh Drake hosted a lecture and discussion forum on human and animal research ethics.

Dr. Julia Basso says data show the more you exercise, the more motivated you’ll be to exercise in WebMD article, How Short Can a ‘Short Workout’ Really Be?

Dr. Julia Basso presented at the Dance Science Symposium on March 26 regarding her work on dance, mental health, and interpersonal synchrony.

Between 45 and 60 years of age, your brain can start to shrink, and you may find it more difficult to stay focused. Dr. Julia Basso suggests meditation is one way to tune out distractions in the AARP feature, How to Stop Getting Distracted.

Dr. Valisa Hedrick's published work in the Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics on BEVQ-15, a beverage intake questionnaire for habitual beverage intake for adults, is a top cited article.

Dr. Valisa Hedrick, Molly Parker, and Dr. Sarah Misyak had their feature "A Preliminary Evaluation of Virginia Fresh Match: Impacts and Demographic Considerations for Future Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Programs" published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Rachel Liebe (formerly Nelson), Dr. Valisa Hedrick, Dr. Elena Serrano, and Dr. Sarah Misyak had "Understanding the Relationship between Food Security and Mental Health for Food-Insecure Mothers in Virginia" published in Nutrients.

Dr. Sarah Misyak and Rachel Liebe (formerly Nelson) had "A Content Analysis of Implementation Strategies Chosen by Virginia School Nutrition Directors" published in Health Behavior and Policy Review.

Dr. Carlin Rafie had "Distance Learning for Delivery of the Diabetes Prevention Program: Experiences of the Cooperative Extension National Diabetes Prevention Program Working Group (CE-NDPP)" published in the Journal of the NEAFCS.

Dr. Eva Schmelz, Stephanie Edwards Compton, and Joe Grieco had an article published in Cancers.

Dr. Stella Volpe was interviewed by Malcolm Gladwell, author, and podcast host of Revisionist History for a future podcast.

On March 12, Dr. Stella Volpe was a panelist for "Leading and Navigating Transitions from the Middle" for the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Leaders Network conference at Virginia Tech.

The Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment selected Dr. Julia Basso's proposal for the 2022-2023 Scholars Program. She and her colleagues are recipients of an award to study the use of mother-child dance to decrease parental PTSD symptoms and enhance interpersonal synchrony between the mother and child.

Dr. Deborah Good's proposal, "Where and when does SNORD116 interact with its mRNA targets?" was approved for funding by the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research. Good also presented a virtual keynote at the VII Obesity and Comorbidities Research Center Annual Symposium, University of Campinas, Brazil:  "NHLH2: Discussion of its roles in fertility, obesity, and Prader-Willi-Syndrome."

Dietary Conjugated Linoleic Acid Reduces Body Weight and Fat in Snord116m+/p− and Snord116m−/p− Mouse Models of Prader–Willi Syndrome was published by Nutrients. Authors include HNFE's Brittney Knott, Matthew Kocher, Shelby Hamm, William Fink, Jordan Mason, Dr. Robert Grange, and Dr. Deborah Good.

Dr. Julia Basso performed in the March 2 concert, "It Comes in Waves" with the Virginia Tech Percussion Ensemble and Dance Studio.

Dr. Vivica Kraak had two papers published recently:

Quantitative Biophysical Metrics for Rapid Evaluation of Ovarian Cancer Metastatic Potential was published in Mol Biol Cell; HNFE authors include Megan Brown, Joseph Grieco, and Dr. Eva Schmelz.

Dr. Sarah Misyak was part of a plenary panel presentation at the Association of SNAP Nutrition Education Administrators (ASNNA) annual conference. During "Keeping the SNAP-Ed Framework on the Leading Edge – How ASNNA Practitioners Can Influence Excellence in SNAP-Ed Planning," Misyak spoke on her subgroups efforts to increase equity through SNAP-Ed evaluation practices.  

Meredith Ledlie-Johnson's work with Virginia SNAP-Ed was honored by the USDA for her active participant in the Children's Cabinet's subcommittee on Nutrition and Food Security Issues from FY 2020 to FY 2021.

Rachel Nelson, Dr. Elena Serrano, and Dr. Sarah Misyak developed the report, Food Insecurity & Mental Health in Virginia.

Magan Ester, a Northern Virginia intern in HNFE's Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics program, was recognized with an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation award. She is also the 2021 recipient of the Mead Johnson Nutrition Scholarship in Memory of Joncier Greene.

HNFE senior Rosie Hackman had her article, Sleep on It, published on


Dr. Angela Anderson was selected as one of the college’s Certificate of Teaching Excellence awardees for 2022. This recognition is a credit to her teaching excellence and professional dedication to the students in the college. She will be recognized for this achievement during the spring undergraduate graduation ceremony in May.

HNFE’s Student Bowl team members Noah Stallard, Pierre-Anne Laird, and Sabina Holz won the SEACSM Student Bowl and will represent the organization at the ACSM Annual Meeting and World Congress in San Diego May 31 through June 4.

HNFE’s Student Bowl team members Noah Stallard, Pierre-Anne Laird, and Sabina Holz won the SEACSM Student Bowl and will represent the organization at the ACSM Annual Meeting and World Congress in San Diego May 31 through June 4.

Dr. Angela Anderson, Dr. Stella Volpe, Dr. Janet Rankin, and 15 students represented HNFE at SEACSM in February, Greenville, SC.

Dr. Stella Volpe gave three virtual presentations (US Army War College; School of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan; and Arizona State University, which was an international audience.

During Black History Month, Ramine Alexander, PhD, MPH was featured by Health Promotion Practice in "28 Authors in 28 Days."

Virginia Cooperative Extension fights food insecurity in the commonwealth: With a multitude of efforts across the state, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Family Nutrition Program work to fight food insecurity to ensure everyone has adequate access to proper nutrition. "We not only need enough food, but access to affordable, nutritious foods that align with personal preferences, cultural values, and other held values,” said Elena Serrano, director of the Family Nutrition Program. “We will have a healthier and more vibrant commonwealth if we achieve that."


Seven flights, four boats, three buses, and four COVID tests, 17 Virginia Tech students and faculty traveled through three of Ecuador’s ecosystems in ALS 3954: Environment, Health, and Culture! Students learned about medicinal plants, agroforestry, nutrition, and traditional healing practices along with Andean music and dance during trips to Hacienda Verde and the arts communities of Otovalo and Peguche. While hospital and clinic tours were cancelled, students visited Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) medical school, where Dr. Ivan Pelacio talked with students about public health issues and indicators. Several days spent in the rainforest at Tiputini Biodiversity Station next to Yasuni National Park provided opportunities to explore topics of biodiversity, medicinal plants, and ecosystems services. San Cristóbal island in the Galapagos archipelago offered learning experiences to understand impacts of tourism, food security and sustainability, and pollution. Students hiked three and a half miles to a remote part of the island to collect plastics as part of a research project with the Galapagos Science Center, part of the USFQ Galapagos campus. 

An HNFE alumni who is now a physician assistant recently wrote about their Ecuador experience, "Each year since our Ecuador trip, I have tried to implement a new environmental goal. Last year was zero plastic grocery store bags, and this year is zero plastic straws. I credit this awareness to Virginia Tech and the incredible trip we had."

The inaugural trip of HNFE’s course "An exploration of health, community, and yoga in a Blue Zone of Costa Rica" occurred mid-January. Ten undergraduate scholars, along with co-instructors Calleigh Fangmeyer, an athletic trainer with 500 hour registered yoga teacher (RYT) training credential, and Samantha Harden, PhD, 500-RYT traveled to Nosara, Costa Rica. The course was front-loaded with lectures so that the time in Costa Rica would be predominantly experiential learning. Each day included a theme around the seven primary chakras (energy centers) with lectures related to the chakra, followed by yoga flows that paralleled the mind-body-spirit benefits of the chakra, and concluded with an excursion to align with the yoga principles learned. One example of an excursion was planting trees on root (earth) chakra day.


Research by Vivica Kraak, Kate Consavage Stanley, and Elena Serrano was featured by Healthy Eating Research in the article, “Federal Nutrition Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)."

Alumna Tiana Glover, RD '19, who also graduated from the Virginia Tech Internship in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2020, was featured in the Well + Good feature, "Turns Out, Eating a Late Dinner Impacts Your Digestion—Here’s How."

Michelle Rockwell
“This would be such an important finding if a nutrition or dietary supplement intervention can make a difference in athletes’ risk of brain injury,” said Michelle Rockwell, the principal investigator of the research project. Photo by Max Esterhuizen for Virginia Tech.

Dr. Michelle Rockwell is examining how common nutrition supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, typically insufficient in collegiate athletes’ diets, help protect the brain from trauma. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was awarded the final two years of the three-year, $1.13 million grant from DSM Nutritional Products, a maker of nutritional supplements. Read more about the study.

During the second day of competition at the recent Virginia Tech Invitational, two of our students set NCAA records!

Rebecca Mammel
In her first meet as a Hokie, Rebecca Mammel delivered a throw that measured in at 22.15m (72' 8") for the win. Her throw puts her at second in the NCAA this season and was just .18m off the school record that has stood for 17 years! Rebecca is a doctoral student working with Dr. Siobhan Craige.
Rachel Baxter
Rachel Baxter finished first in the women's competition with a vault of 4.34m (14' 2.75"), and her mark places her at fourth in the NCAA so far this season! This past December at the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships, Rachel defended her pole vault crown for the second time, becoming the first woman to earn the gold medal in pole vault for three consecutive seasons. She is a master’s student working with Dr. Jay Williams.

Alumna Katrina Piercy, PhD, RD, FACSM was named as the Director, Division of Prevention Science with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in January. Her role supports the mission of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion to encourage all Americans to lead healthy and active lives.