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Faculty Research Award

Distinguished Professor Connie Weaver
Department of Foods and Nutrition

The Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award for 2006 is presented to Professor Connie M. Weaver. Dr. Weaver us Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University. In 2000, she also became Director of a National Institutes of Health funded Botanicals Research Center to study botanicals containing polyphenolics for age-related diseases. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine Panel to develop new recommendations for requirements for calcium and related minerals and is now a member of their Committee to Determine Mineral Requirements for the Military. She was appointed to the 2005 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the highest appointment for public policy related to diet and health. Dr. Weaver is the past-president of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences and is an elected fellow of both the American College of Nutrition and the Institute of Food Science. She is on the Board of Trustees of the International Life Sciences Institute and serves on the boards of 3 major companies. Among her awards include the W.O. Atwater Award, the highest award given by the IS Department of Agriculture for promoting human health, in 2003; the Institute of Food Technologists Babcock Hart Award in 1997; the American College of Nutrition Research Award in 2005; a number of names lectureships and the Centennial Award from Florida State Promotion Award for Women, the Gamma Sigma Delta Award of Merit, the Institute of Food Science Research Award-Indiana Section.

Dr. Weaver is a nationally recognized expert on calcium, its function, and bioavailability in foods. Best known is her groundbreaking work on calcium metabolism through controlled feeding studies run as summer research camps in adolescents known as Camp Calcium. She has received NIH funding for Camp Calcium since 1990. Data from these studies were used to set the current calcium requirements for adolescents and young adults for North America. With her unique approach to the study of calcium metabolism using table isotopes, Dr. Weaver has provided insights into factors affecting the development of peak bone mass during growth, which determines the risk of osteoporosis. She follows up the human studies which indicate regulators of calcium metabolism and bone turnover with mechanistic studies in animal models. Her group showed that 91 percent of total adult bone mineral content is acquired by 17 years of age in women. Furthermore, their research group has characterized gender and racial differences in calcium and sodium metabolism. This work shows that the etiology of racial differences in incidence of hypertension and osteoporosis begins in childhood with differences in regulation of sodium at the kidney, calcium absorption at the intestine and bone turnover rates. Her group predicted bone mineral density differences between black and white adults by differences in calcium retention during puberty. Studies in adults have shown that bone mineral density can be improved by exercise, but compromised with oral contraceptive use.

Through collaboration with the PRIME lab in Physics, Dr. Weaver's group has been developing the methodology using a rare isotope of calcium to measure early changes in bone loss to quickly screen efficacy of interventions for preventing and treating osteoporosis. Through the Botanicals Research Center, they are screening plant phytoestrogens as dietary substitutes for estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women. Dr. Weaver's joy is to bring together multi-disciplinary teams to study complex problems. For all of these reasons the committee felt that she was most deserving of the 2006 Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award.

The formal Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award lecture will be presented by Dr. Weaver during the Fall 2006 Semester.
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