During the summer and fall months, nine individuals involved in Iowa State University’s Dietetic Internship had a unique opportunity to gain insight into the future of telehealth. (more…)

In keeping with the tradition of naming residence hall houses after individuals who have made an impact on Iowa State University (ISU), two of the 14 houses in the new Geoffroy residence hall have been named for women with ties to food science and human nutrition.

One of the houses, Day House, located on the east side of the building on the fifth floor, is named after Mildred “Millie” Day. Known as the creator of Rice Krispie Treats, Day is a 1928 graduate of ISU with a degree in home economics.

Before Day graduated from college, she already had a job lined up with Kellogg’s. She was in charge of testing recipes and later was tasked with leading cooking schools in approximately 38 states for Kellogg’s customers, according to information on the ISU Department of Residence website.day-geoffrey-hall_8284-small

Several sources claim it was in 1939 that the Rice Krispies Treat was created by Day and co-worker Malitta Jensen. Initially, the treats were called “marshmallow squares” and were first introduced to the public six months later by Camp Fire girls in the Kansas City area who sold the treats for a fundraiser.

During the 2001 Veishea celebration, Day’s memory was honored by an effort to make the world’s largest Rice Krispies Treat. Though the oversized treat fell short of the world record, its final weight came in at 2,480 pounds and was made with 818 pounds of Rice Krispies, 1,466 pounds of marshmallows and 217 pounds of butter, according to the ISU Department of Residence website.

The other house in Geoffroy Hall is named for Charlotte Roderuck and is located on the third floor on the building’s west side. Roderuck served as an ISU employee for nearly 40 years, starting out as a Food and Nutrition faculty member in 1948. During her time at ISU, she went on to hold a number of positions, including assistant dean of the graduate college, assistant director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station and associate dean of home economic administration.

In 1977, she was named the Director of the World Food Institute at ISU. She held this position until Oct. 31, 1988, when she retired. A highlight of Roderuck’s time as the World Food Institute director was when the organization played host to the 1976 World Food Conference, according to the ISU Department of Residence website.

An endowed position within the FSHN Department is named after Roderuck – the Charlotte E. Roderuck Faculty Fellowship. The position was made possible thanks to a donation Roderuck made to the university after she retired.

“It is a great honor for the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department to have one of the houses in Geoffroy Hall named after Roderuck,” said Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of the FSHN Department. “It’s also nice to have Day recognized as an individual who impacted the food sciences industry.”

Lisa Ludovico, assistant director of the Residence Halls Department, said any time a new residence hall is constructed, the houses within that facility are named after individuals who have made an impact on the ISU community. The University Archives, as well as other sources, are used to come up with a list of names. The 14 individuals for which the Geoffroy Hall houses are named were narrowed down from a sizable list of candidates.

“We came up with a list of about 50 names that didn’t already have something named after them,” Ludovico said.

From there, a group of student leaders and Department of Residence staff members narrowed down the list to the 14 that were chosen. Ludovico said they tried to choose a combination of males and females, as well as people who represented various backgrounds, time periods and colleges within ISU.

“Attention was paid to diversity this time around,” Ludovico said.

The other individuals for which the houses are named are:

  • Dorothy Bean
  • Clifford Berry
  • Lauro Cavazos
  • Vine Deloria Jr.
  • Larry Ebberts
  • James Geddes
  • Elizabeth Hoyt
  • Ted Kooser
  • Barbara Mack
  • Samuel Massie
  • Dan Robinson
  • Lois Tiffany

Students have already begun moving into the new residence hall, which is located on the south side of Lincoln Way next to Buchanan Hall. It will officially open during the spring 2017 semester.



Lisa Ludovico, assistant director, Department of Residence Halls, Iowa State University, 515-294-2900, ludovico@iastate.edu

Whitney Sager, communications coordinator, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, 515-294-9166, wjsager@iastate.edu

Sarah Brekke did more than choose her adventure at Iowa State — she blazed a new trail. While taking part in the Food Science Club, she decided that students in the culinary food science major needed a club, too.

“Erica Beirman said she would serve as adviser if I wanted to put in the work of forming the club,” said Brekke, a 2011 Iowa State graduate in culinary food science who serves as a culinary specialist and food stylist at Meredith Corp. “We had a meeting, got together in a little conference room in MacKay Hall, and the group chose me as the first club president.”

Today, the Culinary Science Club has expanded its reach many times over.

Student members cook once a month for Food At First, an Ames-based free meal program and perishable food pantry. They partner with ISU Dining to cater events like the Order of the Knoll gala and the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Awards Celebration. They also support culinary teams each year who compete in the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s Student Taste of Elegance contest.

“Sarah has had a huge impact on the development and direction the club has taken,” said Beirman, a senior lecturer in food science and human nutrition who coordinates the culinary food science program. “Without the great leadership Sarah provided to the club, I do not think it would be as successful as it is today.”

Brekke learned the art and science of culinary food science by working with the club and serving as a lab assistant to complement her undergraduate coursework.

“The main thing that Iowa State helped me with was learning how to view food, and understand food quality,” she said.

Brekke’s learning and leadership was bolstered by accessible, engaged faculty like Lester Wilson, a University Professor in food science and human nutrition. For the transfer student who set foot on campus mid-year, Wilson’s welcome made Brekke feel at home.

“I went to the Food Science Club meeting, walked in, and right away, Dr. Wilson spotted me,” Brekke said. “He saw me. He said, ‘Welcome to Iowa State. Welcome to the department. Let me know if you ever need anything.’ I felt so welcomed.”

For Wilson, creating an inviting atmosphere is simply a part of the Iowa State experience.

“We need to be welcoming,” he said. “We’re a friendly campus. It’s just something you do.”

Brekke’s supportive Cyclone family led her to her first job at Meredith Corp. While she was still on campus, Beirman told her Meredith was converting its recipe database from one system to another. The company needed a person with food knowledge to make corrections on items that didn’t import into the new system correctly.

Now, as Brekke works with her Meredith teammates to prepare video shoots for brands like Parents or Better Homes and Gardens, she’s bringing her knowledge to bear — and leading with a collaborative spirit.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” Brekke said. “The work is very much in the moment, and we need to be able to go with the flow. We need to tackle whatever’s thrown at us.”


Sarah Brekke, culinary specialist and food stylist, Meredith Corp., sarah.brekke@meredith.com

Erica Beirman, senior lecturer, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, 515-294-4361, ebeirman@iastate.edu

Lester Wilson, University Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, 515-294-3889, lawilson@iastate.edu

Kent Davis, communications specialist, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-1326, davisk@iastate.edu

An enzyme found in the fluid around the brain and spine is giving researchers a snapshot of what happens inside the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and how that relates to cognitive decline.

Iowa State University researchers say higher levels of the enzyme, autotaxin, significantly predict memory impairment and Type 2 diabetes. Just a one-point difference in autotaxin levels – for example, going from a level of two to a three – is equal to a 3.5 to 5 times increase in the odds of being diagnosed with some form of memory loss, said Auriel Willette, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State.

Autotaxin, often studied in cancer research, is an even stronger indicator of Type 2 diabetes. A single point increase reflects a 300 percent greater likelihood of having the disease or pre-diabetes. The results are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Willette and Kelsey McLimans, a graduate research assistant, say the discovery is important because of autotaxin’s proximity to the brain.

“We’ve been looking for metabolic biomarkers which are closer to the brain. We’re also looking for markers that reliably scale up with the disease and have consistently higher levels across the Alzheimer’s spectrum,” Willette said. “This is as directly inside of the brain as we can get without taking a tissue biopsy.”


Kelsey McLimans

Willette’s previous research found a strong association between insulin resistance and memory decline and detrimental brain outcomes, increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Insulin resistance is a good indicator, but Willette says it has limitations because what happens in the body does not consistently translate to what happens in the brain. That is why the correlation with this new enzyme found in the cerebrospinal fluid is so important.

“It has a higher predictive rate for having Alzheimer’s disease,” McLimans said. “We also found correlations with worse memory function, brain volume loss and the brain using less blood sugar, which have also been shown with insulin resistance, but autotaxin has a higher predictive value.”

Physical health linked to memory

The fact that autotaxin is a strong predictor of Type 2 diabetes and memory decline emphasizes the importance of good physical health. Researchers say people with higher levels of autotaxin are more likely to be obese, which often causes an increase in insulin resistance.

Willette says autotaxin levels can determine the amount of energy the brain is using in areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. People with higher autotaxin levels had fewer and smaller brain cells in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain associated with memory and executive function. As a result, they had lower scores for memory and tests related to reasoning and multitasking.

“Autotaxin is related to less real estate in the brain, and smaller brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease mean they are less able to carry out their functions,” Willette said. “It’s the same thing with blood sugar. If the brain is using less blood sugar, neurons have less fuel and start making mistakes and in general do not process information as quickly.”

Researchers analyzed data from 287 adults collected through the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a public-private partnership working to determine whether MRI and PET scans as well as biological markers can measure the progression of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The data came from adults ranging in age from 56 to 89 years old. Study participants completed various tests to measure cognitive function. This included repeating a list of words over various time increments.

The research was supported by an Iowa State Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research grant and a National Institutes of Health grant.


Auriel Willette, assistant professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Iowa State University, 515-294-3110, awillett@iastate.edu

Kelsey McLimans, graduate research assistant, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Iowa State University, mclimans@iastate.edu

Angie Hunt, News Service, 515-294-8986, amhunt@iastate.edu

The Iowa State University StartUp Factory recently announced Gross-Wen Technologies Inc. (GWT) has secured $225,000 in additional financing from strategic angel investor Dave Furbush, founder and vice president of Midwest Project Partners, Inc., an Aureon Company. (more…)

As the fall 2016 semester comes to a close, one food science and human nutrition professor is preparing for the next chapter in his life.

Dr. Murlidhar “Murli” Dharmadhikari, adjunct assistant professor and director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, will retire in January 2017. (more…)

A team of three graduate students will be heading to Chicago in February to showcase their proposal for a new bakery food product.

Kangzi Ren, Joshua Nazareth and Monica Primacella, all graduate students in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University (ISU), were named finalists earlier this week in the American Society of Baking (ASB) Product Development Competition. (more…)

Stephanie Clark, a professor in food science and human nutrition, has been named the Virginia M. Gladney Professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Clark is internationally recognized as a dairy food expert and serves as an associate director of the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center. The center provides research funding for projects to promote the quality, safety, and new product development of dairy foods. (more…)

Wendy White has big plans for how she’ll use the extra support she’ll receive as the newest holder of the Charlotte E. Roderuck faculty fellowship at Iowa State University.

White, an associate professor in food science and human nutrition, researches methods to improve the nutritional value of vegetables such as carrots, corn, and tomatoes. (more…)

Rubber from Russian dandelions? Kevin Keener knows it’s possible. It’s just a matter of economics.

“It just depends on where you are in the world what the renewable resource is,” he said. “If something grows there, whether it’s dandelions or cactus, there’s technology innovation where we can take that plant and look at it as a raw material with compounds that can be pulled out of it.”

Keener is a professor in food science and human nutrition who serves as director of Iowa State University’s Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) and BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF).

CCUR is a multidisciplinary research, development, and technology transfer program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The BCRF, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences facility managed by CCUR, is the first-in-the-nation integrated research and demonstration facility dedicated to biomass production and processing.

Keener said that unlimited opportunities exist in a bio-based economy.

“We have capabilities and technologies that are both part of my research and research around the university that are looking to take advantage of crops that are already being produced from a food standpoint,” he said. “Additionally, the material that is not food based — the stalks themselves, or parts of the cob — we have ways to take that and produce all kinds of plastics, and all kinds of purposeful products.”

Solving worldwide challenges

Like many faculty, Keener focuses on applied research in a laboratory setting. But he has a 35,000-square-foot laboratory in which to work, all housed in a pilot plant located in the Food Sciences Building at Iowa State.

“We have more than 250 pieces of unique equipment,” he said. “We can process materials in many different ways. Our pilot plant capabilities are globally unique in that we can build system solutions across the bio space.”

Whether it’s finding new uses for non-food products or exploring ways to increase food preservation, Keener said he is convinced that today’s technology is helping to solve worldwide challenges.

“We actually have adequate food,” he said. “The challenge is, we don’t have technological innovations or structures in place to preserve the food that we produce. However, Iowa State is evaluating technologies that can significantly reduce and potentially eliminate challenges to food production and preservation.”

Science with practice

As Keener searches for new solutions to economic challenges, he gives undergraduate students the ability to conduct applied research — work that is tied to a practical problem. He credits his own undergraduate research opportunities with this focus on student development.

“We support a number of undergraduate students in the lab to give them the opportunity for research,” he said. “We give them the opportunity to do independent research. The first step is getting them in the lab to give them a flavor of how research works.”

Keener said he believes this trifecta of talent — faculty, students, and equipment — puts Iowa State at the leading edge.

The CCUR and BCRF space and equipment is used by more than 50 faculty across Iowa State colleges and departments — including those within the College of Human Sciences. The faculty, along with Keener’s staff, provide research, manufacturing, and process design assistance to more than 100 projects per year.

“It’s definitely an integrated process,” Keener said. “Faculty are the drivers. The equipment and the capabilities are one aspect, the other is the students.”

By giving students real-world experiences, Keener and his staff of 10 are preparing Iowa Staters for entering the job market and making it on their own.

“The long-term success of a company depends on its employees,” he said. “These students who have these practical, hands-on experiences in the laboratory or at the BioCentury Research Farm are highly sought after.”

Equipping companies for a bio-based economy

Keener said companies that partner with Iowa State are better equipped to meet today’s economic challenges. Approximately one-third of his team’s projects are from Iowa-based companies. The remaining come from companies across the nation and world.

 “We are equipping companies with knowledge that allows them today to be competitive in a global environment,” he said. “That’s why they’re coming to us. That’s the exciting part of it.”

For the Ohio native who grew up around agriculture, a move toward a bio-based economy is also a move toward sustainable living.

“Part of sustainability is viewing things in a bio-based economy,” Keener said. “Sustainability means that you’re looking to take advantage of the value of everything that you have, not just the primary product that you’re producing.”


Kevin Keener, professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition; director, Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) and BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF), Iowa State University, 515-294-0160, kkeener@iastate.edu

Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, 515-294-5991, ruthmacd@iastate.edu

Kent Davis, communications specialist, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-1326, davisk@iastate.edu