Department of Nutrition Science History 

110th Anniversary Celebration

The 110th Anniversary Celebration of of nutrition and foods at Purdue will celebrate the growth and success of our department and our amazing alumni.


Nutrition Science evolved from Foods and Nutrition (2011) after the department joined eight other units to form a new College of Health and Human Sciences (2010). Foods and Nutrition was an original department in the School of Home Economics established in 1926. Before the School of Home Economics was established, Dietetics and Nutrition was already a program of study within Household Economics, when it became a department in the School of Science in 1905. At that time, the President's annual report quotes the reason for establishment of the new department, "Purdue should offer to women opportunities comparable in scientific and technical value with those enjoyed by men." A 1923 catalog lists Dietetics and Nutrition as the only professional program in the area of foods and nutrition. The dietetics program at Purdue was the first in the state. The Delta Chapter of Kappa Omicron Nu, national honorary for Consumer and Family Sciences, was the second chapter, founded in 1913.

Department Heads

The first woman to head the department was Amy Bloye, a departmental instructor before the move from the School of Science. When she retired in 1953, Dr. Gladys Vail became department head until she moved to the position of dean in 1962. At that time, Dr. Mary Fuqua became department head until 1966, when Elwood Reber took that position. Dr. Reber held that position until 1973. Dr. Helen Clark was acting head until Dr. Paul Abernathy was hired in 1974. Dr. Connie Weaver was promoted to this position in 1991 when Dr. Abernathy desired to step down.

Leading the Way

There have been many firsts for Nutrition Science (formerly Foods and Nutrition). The first two women distinguished professors to the University, Drs. Helen Clark and Avanelle Kirksey, were from this department. Dr. Gladys Vail was a charter member and the only woman in a new organization, Institute of Food Technologists, that has since become an influential, important organization for food professionals and educators. The first male graduate of CFS was an F&N major. The interdisciplinary Interdepartmental Nutrition Program was begun in 1992. A new major, nutrition, fitness and health, is among very few in the nation to combine nutrition with the other lifestyle components of fitness and health curriculum. The Department is the first of its type in the country to partner with a medical center and extension to receive a NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA).

Significant Research

There has been major research conducted in this department.

In the 1940s, Dr. Ceclia Schuck studied requirements for and sources of ascorbic acid. Gertrude Sunderlin developed a "Master Mix" that was used widely in the preparation of baked goods in homes and institutions. Ruth Johnson did research on meat and eggs in cooperation with Animal Science and Poultry Departments.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Helen Clark did research on the protein and amino acid requirements of man, an area that took on a note of urgency because of the world food problems. As part of a North Central Regional project, college students participated in experiments designed to evaluate the requirements of men and women for protein and amino acids and the ability of different sources of protein, alone or in combination with other protein courses or with essential amino acids, or special mixtures of amino acids, to meet these needs. High-lysine corn and high-protein rice were tested in this context. The work that they did contributed significantly to the body of knowledge in this area. (Dr. Clark considers her many graduate students that work effectively in the field, as her biggest contribution.)

During this time, Vianna Bramblett and Dr. Margie Woodburn tested proper methods for cooking turkey. This was a huge project, funded by the Department of Agriculture. The standards that were established at this period of time for food safety and quality for turkey with and without stuffing are still being used today.

In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Dr. Avanelle Kirksey worked in the area of maternal, infant, and child health. The large Egypt study that she conducted in the early 1980s made a major contribution in the area of vitamin B6 needs in utero and in childhood. A correlation was discovered between low levels of vitamin B6 during pregnancy and lactation and abnormal structural changes in the brain.

In the 1990s, Camp Calcium, a research project of Dr. Connie Weaver, was funded four times by the National Institute of Health. Information obtained about calcium metabolism in adolescent girls through this research was the major factor to establish the new RDI levels in 1998.

The Ingestive Behavior Research Center (IBRC) was established in 2005.  This group studies factors that influence eating behaviors and body weight.  This Center is a campus strength.

Department of Nutrition Science, 700 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059(765) 494-8228, Fax: (765) 494-0674

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