FSHN alumna named director of football nutrition for Iowa State

Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell enhanced his student-athlete development program by announcing recently the hiring of Iowa State graduate and former Nebraska staffer Rachel Lukowski ('17 diet & exercise) into a newly created position of Director of Football Nutrition.

Lukowski, a registered dietitian and experienced instructor in performance nutrition, will spearhead Iowa State football's sports nutrition initiatives.

"At Iowa State, we make it a priority to improve our student-athlete development program, and we felt it was imperative for us to have a full-time individual work solely with our student-athletes in nutritional education," Campbell said. "We are thrilled to have Rachel join our program. She has experience working at a major football program at Nebraska and has a proven track record of implementing cutting edge ideas to help improve student-athlete performance. Rachel will be a valuable member of our team and we can't wait to have her get started."

Read the full press release here

First class of nursing students to graduate from Iowa State

For the first time in Iowa State’s history, a group of graduating nursing students will walk across the stage and accept their diplomas during Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

The five students started their journey to obtaining their bachelor of science in nursing degree in the fall of 2018 – the first time nursing classes were offered at Iowa State. Students are required to already have their associate’s degree in nursing prior to enrolling in Iowa State’s nursing program.

The decision to start an RN to BSN program was the result of a need verbalized to Iowa State’s president by Des Moines Area Community College representatives and area healthcare leaders.

“They really were looking for an option for community college students and other nurses who only have an associate’s degree to have a baccalaureate-level program they could finish their degree with that was at Iowa State…and could really be a part of the opportunities in Ames,” said Virginia “Ginny” Wangerin, clinical assistant professor and director of Iowa State’s nursing program.

Opportunities to individualize learning experience

What makes Iowa State’s nursing program stand out from other programs is the students attend classes on campus each Tuesday. This allows them to interact with their instructors and peers in person, rather than just online.

With a curriculum focused on population health and self-care, students have the opportunity to get out in the community to experience various aspects of nursing instead of just bedside care. Places they’ve visited include Youth and Shelter Services in Ames, a homeless camp in Des Moines, and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“I feel like we have been afforded a lot of opportunities to become familiar with our own community here in Ames and across a more broad spectrum,” said Tessa Sklenar, graduating nursing student.

The students also can individualize their education, having the opportunity to take two elective courses that fit their area of interest, whether that be leadership, gerontology or some other area.

“They are getting an education that was designed to really make a difference for them,” Wangerin said. “They have so many individual choices, and that was important to us, because when you’re going back for a degree, it needs to surprise you and create learning opportunities you didn’t expect.

Proud to be part of first graduating class

The students will receive their nursing pins Friday afternoon during the College of Human Sciences convocation, a symbolic welcome into the nursing profession.

Looking back at the past almost three years since she began putting together the program, Wangerin is proud of not only how far the program has come, but of the nursing students, as well.

“I’ve always said my greatest goal was that they’d be better nurses when they left, and they’re all agreeing that they are,” Wangerin said.

“I am so proud of them because they’ve worked so very hard,” Dawn Bowker, clinical assistant professor, said of the graduating nursing students. “Their goals have come to fruition. They have conquered this program so well and they did it with such poise and grace. They have been leaders in the community and have represented Iowa State so well.”

Being able to say they are the first graduates of Iowa State’s RN to BSN program is an honor for the students, and they are ready to take the knowledge they’ve gained and share it with others in the nursing profession.

“I’m so grateful to my professors – they’ve taught me a lot – and I’m ready to go out and share the knowledge I’ve acquired with my co-workers and with my team,” said Shirley Ohene-Yeboah, graduating nursing student.

“I feel really proud to say I’m graduating from Iowa State with my nursing degree, especially being part of the first class,” added Alaina Bohnert, graduating nursing student. “I think if you’re looking for a school that will give you the opportunity to network, meet awesome people, and just become a better nurse, then Iowa State’s the right program for you.”

Changes in the immune system explain why belly fat is bad for thinking

Iowa State researchers have found for the first time that less muscle and more body fat may affect how flexible our thinking gets as we become older, and changes in parts of the immune system could be responsible. These findings could lead to new treatments that help maintain mental flexibility in aging adults with obesity, sedentary lifestyles, or muscle loss that naturally happens with aging.

The study, led by Auriel Willette, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, and Brandon Klinedinst, a PhD student in neuroscience, looked at data from more than 4,000 middle-aged to older UK Biobank participants, both men and women. The researchers examined direct measurements of lean muscle mass, abdominal fat, and subcutaneous fat, and how they were related to changes in fluid intelligence over six years.

Willette and Klinedinst discovered people mostly in their 40s and 50s who had higher amounts of fat in their mid-section had worse fluid intelligence as they got older. Greater muscle mass, by contrast, appeared to be a protective factor. These relationships stayed the same even after taking into account chronological age, level of education, and socioeconomic status.

“Chronological age doesn’t seem to be a factor in fluid intelligence decreasing over time,” Willette said. “It appears to be biological age, which here is the amount of fat and muscle.”

Generally, people begin to gain fat and lose lean muscle once they hit middle age, a trend that continues as they get older. To overcome this, implementing exercise routines to maintain lean muscle becomes more important. Klinedinst said exercising, especially resistance training, is essential for middle-aged women, who naturally tend to have less muscle mass than men.

The study also looked at whether or not changes in immune system activity could explain links between fat or muscle and fluid intelligence. Previous studies have shown that people with a higher body mass index (BMI) have more immune system activity in their blood, which activates the immune system in the brain and causes problems with cognition. BMI only takes into account total body mass, so it has not been clear whether fat, muscle, or both jump-start the immune system.

In this study, in women, the entire link between more abdominal fat and worse fluid intelligence was explained by changes in two types of white blood cells: lymphocytes and eosinophils. In men, a completely different type of white blood cell, basophils, explained roughly half of the fat and fluid intelligence link. While muscle mass was protective, the immune system did not seem to play a role.

While the study found correlations between body fat and decreased fluid intelligence, it is unknown at this time if it could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Further studies would be needed to see if people with less muscle mass and more fat mass are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and what the role of the immune system is,” Klinedinst said.

Starting a New Year’s resolution now to work out more and eat healthier may be a good idea, not only for your overall health, but to maintain healthy brain function.

“If you eat alright and do at least brisk walking some of the time, it might help you with mentally staying quick on your feet,” Willette said.

Getting the most protein out of legumes and oilseeds

Pick up a protein bar or a protein shake, and chances are, the main source of protein in it comes from soybeans and other legumes. Researchers at Iowa State are finding ways to improve the protein extraction process from legumes and make the most of them in food applications.

Food science and human nutrition graduate students Bibek Byanju and Mahfuz Rahman, under the direction of Associate Professor Buddhi Lamsal, have been using high-power sonication to extract protein from defatted soybean flakes and flour. Conventional methods allow 50 percent of the protein to be extracted, but the researchers hope to extract closer to 70 percent with their method.

Funding for this research comes from a $427,000 USDA grant the group received two years ago.

protein extraction before and after_3219_website

“There’s been a lot of interest recently in plant-based proteins and their health benefits, and legumes are a major source of protein,” Lamsal said of what prompted them to conduct this research project.

As with any process, the researchers take into account the quality and quantity of the protein they are extracting, making sure the protein’s quality does not decrease as higher amounts are extracted. The research findings will also help evaluate the sonic-assisted plant protein extraction and such processing technology at larger scales.

If they are successful in their project, both industry and society will benefit from the results, Rahman said. The ability to extract larger amounts of protein from legumes will allow processors to increase their profits in the plant protein market. Consumers would benefit by having more choices of nutritious and healthy ingredients in their foods.

Through working on this project, both Byanju and Rahman have learned how to work with proteins in the laboratory and how to plan a research project. They also have gained experience in determining the nutritional and functional properties of proteins.

“It’s really good to work with advanced technologies and improve existing processes,” Bibek said.

Willette ranked among top experts worldwide in neurodegenerative diseases

Auriel Willette, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, has been named one of the top 1 percent of 241,215 biomedical researchers in the area of neurodegenerative diseases, as determined by Expertscape.

Willette is known for his research on how metabolic state is related to increased risk for cognitive decline, particularly in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. He has demonstrated connections between obesity, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance with the pathology of these conditions. With his unique interdisciplinary approach combining nutrition, genetics and brain imaging, his work has garnered national and international attention. He holds courtesy appointments in psychology and biomedical sciences at Iowa State, as well as in neurology at the University of Iowa.

Since joining Iowa State’s faculty four years ago, Willette’s work has been cited more than 1,300 times, exceedingly above the average for neuroscience researchers. He has published 22 peer reviewed manuscripts in top journals while at Iowa State, and has an H-Index of 20. His most recent published paper discussed how lean muscle mass and abdominal fat are related to fluid intelligence, and how different parts of the immune system underlie these associations in men and women.

“We are very fortunate to have Dr. Willette as a member of our faculty,” said Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of food science and human nutrition. “This recognition illustrates the quality and impact of his innovative research program that is uncovering the connections between neurodegenerative diseases and nutrition.”

Expertscape compiles lists of the top medical professionals in the industry, serving as a resource for those looking for skilled individuals to treat various diseases. Rankings are based on medical professionals’ expertise in biomedical topics. To be considered an “expert,” Expertscape looks at the number of articles individuals have written and published in medical literature, as indexed in the National Library of Medicine’s MEDLINE database, taking into consideration the quality and quantity of those publications.

Savencia Cheese USA establishes scholarship to honor first woman to receive dairy science degree from Iowa State University

Savencia Cheese USA has established the Dorothy Demeter – Savencia Cheese USA Undergraduate Scholarship, honoring the first woman to receive a dairy science degree from Iowa State University and highlighting the potential of women to succeed in dairy foods careers.

Savencia’s $50,000 commitment will create an endowed scholarship at Iowa State, providing support to outstanding students majoring in dairy or food science with consideration for those interested in cheesemaking.

With the resurging interest in artisan cheeses and premium ice cream, Iowa State is reviving research and teaching programs related to dairy foods. The Iowa State University Creamery provides an opportunity for students to gain hands-on training in dairy food production. The department is fortunate to have faculty member Dr. Stephanie Clark, who is an internationally recognized dairy food scientist, leading this effort.

Read the full Iowa State University Foundation press release here

Borlaug Poster Competition award winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th Annual Norman Borlaug Lectureship Poster Competition:

Undergraduate students

  • First place - Erin Huckins, senior in global resource systems; Caitlin Tipping, senior in global resource systems
  • Second place - Molly Moe, sophomore in animal ecology; Isabella Portner, junior in dairy science
  • Third place - Marit Hovey, junior in global resource systems; Gracie Rechkemmer, junior in global resource systems

Graduate students

  • First place - Mike Sserunjogi, agricultural and biosystems engineering
  • Second place - Ma. Cristine Concepcion Ignacio, agricultural and biosystems engineering
  • Third place - Si Chen, food science and human nutrition

The poster competition took place the evening of Oct. 14, in the Memorial Union, prior to the Norman Borlaug Lecture. Eleven undergraduate students and 13 graduate students representing various departments within Iowa State presented their posters related to world issues.

This year's Norman Borlaug Lecture was given by 2019 World Food Prize Laureate Simon Groot, a sixth-generation seedsman and the founder and leader of East-West Seed. Groot shared with attendees his work related to making vegetable seeds available to millions of smallholder farmers throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America, allowing them to earn greater incomes and improve nutrition through enhanced vegetable production. The lecture was moderated by Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen.

The lecture serves to honor Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), a Cresco, Iowa, native whose discoveries sparked the Green Revolution. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his contribution to world peace through his wheat research and production that saved millions of lives worldwide. He founded the World Food Prize in 1986 to recognize the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Interning in ‘the big leagues’

An email inquiry turned into a unique internship for this dietetics student.

Anna Colagrossi, junior in dietetics, spent her summer as a culinary intern for the Milwaukee Brewers, a major league baseball team in Wisconsin.

“I was researching internships online and decided to reach out to the company that works at the stadium,” Colagrossi said.

Though the organization had not offered such an internship before, Colagrossi and a graduate student from a different university were given the opportunity to work with chefs at Miller Park, the team’s home stadium. Throughout the summer, the two students suggested improvements to be made to meals offered to Brewers players and the 40,000-plus fans attending games at the stadium.

Pan of meat, vegetables

“We suggested different things the chefs could do to make the meals healthier, such as substituting sugar for honey in some recipes,” Colagrossi said. “We also suggested ways to make meals more sustainable so the baseball players would have more energy.”

Highlights of her summer internship included meeting the Brewers’ nutritionist and leading her own team in the kitchen for a special event at the stadium. She used the knowledge she has gained in her dietetics courses to ensure food was cooked to the proper temperature, gloves were worn while handling food, and other food safety procedures were followed throughout the food preparation process.

After seeing the amount of unnecessary food waste at the stadium, the two interns decided to find ways to reduce some of the waste.

They began taking inventory of how much of each type of food was thrown away and if stadium attendees had any dietary restrictions. They determined more vegetarian options should be offered in place of some of the meat options that were not being consumed.

“The project went very well, as we accommodated the dietary needs and desires of consumers, so less food was thrown out or wasted,” Colagrossi said.

A baseball fan herself, though she admittedly roots for the Chicago Cubs, Colagrossi said she enjoyed the internship, and it was interesting to interact with a major league baseball team.

“It was exhausting, but worth it because I got nutrition management and sports nutrition experience,” Colagrossi said. “The people I interacted with made it all worth it.”

Summer research experience opens student’s eyes to food safety aspect of food industry

After a summer spent participating in a research program on the east coast, this food science student has a clearer vision of the food science industry.

Laurel McGonegle, sophomore in food science, participated in the North Carolina State University Food Science Summer Scholars Program this past summer. The program is split in two parts – a research track, and an education and Extension track. McGonegle chose to take part in the education and Extension track, along with seven other undergraduate students from various U.S. colleges and universities.

Together, the students created a virtual reality program to allow food safety inspectors to experience situations they would come across when inspecting farms for FSMA Produce Safety Rules requirements compliance.

“Learning the virtual reality technology was fun,” McGonegle said.

laurel mcgonegle_NCSU summer research experience_2235

When they weren’t busy working on the virtual reality program, McGonegle and the other program participants toured several food facilities in the area, including a brewery and a candy manufacturing plant. They also attended the International Association for Food Protection conference in Louisville, Ky.

Toward the end of the program, McGonegle and her team put together a research poster about their virtual reality work to show during a research symposium.

Though she originally applied for the summer research program at Iowa State, McGonegle is glad she took part in NCSU’s program because it allowed her to see a different region of the U.S., as well as experience various aspects of the food science industry.

“I wanted to see if I liked the plant side of the food industry,” McGonegle said. “I learned that I like the food safety aspect. I like the problem solving aspect and figuring out how to overcome problems and think on my feet.”

Gleaning potatoes to prevent food waste

First Year Learning Community students gathered at a farm south of Nevada earlier this month to harvest more than 1,000 pounds of potatoes to donate to local food pantries.

When Erin Bergquist, clinical associate professor for Iowa State’s Dietetic Internship program, became aware of her neighbor’s desire to find a place to take the remainder of his potato crop, she wanted to find a way to get the potatoes to a local food pantry.

“Once I visited the field, I knew there was an opportunity to glean a significant amount of potatoes for donation,” Bergquist said.

She contacted Anne Oldham, academic adviser and coordinator of the First Year Learning Community, to see if any student groups would have an interest in gleaning and donating the potatoes.

SUV Pantry_websiteOldham suggested having the First Year Learning Community gather the potatoes, and donate the vegetables to The S.H.O.P. (Students Helping Our Peers) SUV Apartments food pantry.

Bergquist’s relationship with Eat Greater Des Moines led to a donation of brown paper bags from Hy-Vee in which to gather the potatoes and the suggestion of also donating to the pantry at Youth and Shelter Services.

This is not the first time First Year Learning Community members have taken part in harvesting crops to prevent food waste. Oldham has taken students, in partnership with the Horticulture Learning Community, to the Iowa State Horticulture Research Station to glean apples.

Bergquist said this was a great opportunity for the students to learn about ways to decrease food waste and assist those facing food insecurity.

“This activity connected students to issues surrounding food insecurity, agriculture, food waste and local partnerships in a way that helped them see how they can play a role in waste reduction and community building as students and future professionals,” Bergquist said.