Kirksey Lecture Series

Dr. Avanelle Kirksey (HDR’97), a valued faculty member of the Department of Nutrition Science from 1961 to 1994, left a legacy at Purdue University. Her dynamic, productive and imaginative research program bridged the gap from basic mechanistic science, to a better understanding of the relation of diet, to human behavior and cognition. In addition to her commemorable research program, Dr. Kirksey served as an inspiring role model for students.

In 1985, Dr. Kirksey became only the second female at Purdue to named “Distinguished Professor,” and the university awarded her with an Honorary Doctorate in 1997. Each spring, the Department of Nutrition Sciences recognizes Dr. Kirksey’s groundbreaking research, valued teaching and community outreach via the Kirksey Lecture Series.

The next Kirksey Lecture:   

Looking into the Black Box: Applying Non-Invasive Approaches and Systems Biology to
Study Host-Microbe Interactions in Human Infants

Friday, April 16, 2021
10:30 a.m.– 11:30 a.m. 

Register Here

Presented By:

Sharon Donovan                                Sharon Donovan, Ph.D., RD

Professor and Melissa M. Noel Endowed Chair, Director, Personalized Nutrition Initiative, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Division of Nutritional Sciences, and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois  


The first 1000 days of life is essential for establishing the gut microbiome and programming lifelong health through diet-host-microbe interactions. Human milk is the ideal nutrition for infants, but 60% of infants receive infant formula at some time during the first year of life. My laboratory is interested in understanding how early life nutrition shapes the composition and function of the gut microbiome and its association with short- and long-term health outcomes, including gastrointestinal (GI) development. However, defining how early nutrition regulates GI development in human infants has been limited by the lack of non‐invasive approaches suitable for use in healthy human infants. To meet this need, we developed a non-invasive method for assessing intestinal epithelial cell mRNA expression using exfoliated epithelial cells (exfoliome). Using this approach, we have demonstrated that gene expression differs between breastfed and formula-fed infants and between preterm and term infants. Variation in both host mRNA expression and the microbiome phylogenetic and functional profiles was observed between breast- and formula-fed infants. Multivariate statistical analyses was used to examine the interdependent relationship between host epithelial cell gene expression and bacterial metagenomic-based profiles. Gut microbiota metagenome virulence characteristics concurrently varied with immunity-related gene expression in epithelial cells between the formula-fed and the breast-fed infants. More recently, we have optimized our multivariate analyses and demonstrated in the piglet model that exfoliated cells represent both small and large intestinal gene signatures (under review). We are applying these approaches in our STRONG kids 2 longitudinal cohort as well as investigating regulators of early life growth trajectories (under review).

 Event Flyer

Year Title Presented By
2021 Looking into the Black Box: Applying Non-Invasive Approaches and Systems Biology to Study Host-Microbe Interactions in Human Infants Sharon Donovan, Ph.D., R.D.
2020 Child Eating Behaviors and Energy Intake: Findings from the Growing Up in Singapore to Healthier Outcomes Cohort (GUSTO) Ciaran G. Forde, PhD
2019 Assessment and Control of Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies in Low-Income Countries: Achieving Greater Coherence in Nutrition Intervention Programs Kenneth H. Brown, MD
2018 The Nutritional Quality of Human Milk: New Research on an Old Problem Lindsay Allen, PhD
2017 Micronutrient Deficiencies We Rarely See: Frontiers in Preventing Hidden Hunger Keith P. West, Jr., Dr.P.H., R.D.
2016 Future of Dietary Guidance - Conception to Chronic Disease Prevention  Dennis M. Bier, PhD
2015 Premature Infant Nutrition: Work in Progress Ekhard Ziegler, MD
2014 Dietary-induced zinc deficiency in low-income countries: Challenges and solutions Rosalind Gibson, PhD
2013 Complementary Feeding Strategies for Breastfed Infants: What's the Evidence that it Matters? Nancy F. Krebs, MD, MS
2012 Impact of Maternal Obesity and Diet on Fetal Development Janet C. King, PhD
2011 Improving the Assessment of Diet in the National Children's Study: The Battle Between Technological Advancement and Old Habits Anna Maria Siega-Riz, PhD, MS
2010 Early Determinants of Chronic Disease: Pregnancy Through Early Childhood Stephanie Atkinson, PhD
2009 The World is Fat -- The Trends, Policies, and Products that are Fattening the Human Race Barry M. Popkin, PhD
2008 What are the "Problem Nutrients" for Breastfed Infants? Kathryn Dewey, PhD
2007 Insulin and Amino Acids are Critical Regulators of Neonatal Muscle Growth Teresa A. Davis, PhD
2006 Childhood Malnutrition Kills: Scientific Demonstration, Persuasion, and Evolution of Policy Jean-Pierre Habicht, MD, MPS, PhD
2005 Nutrition, Physical Activity, Bone Development and Forearm Fractures in Children Heidi J. Kalkwarf, PhD, RD
2004 Maternal/Fetal Nutrient Partitioning During Pregnancy: Whose Needs Predominate? Kimberly O'Brien, PhD
2003 Reference Infant and Child Models of Body Composition: A Contemporary Update Kenneth Ellis, PhD
2002 Micronutrient Deficiencies and Child Development Maureen Black, PhD
2001 Are Activity and Diet Really Important for Children's Bones? Bonny Specker, PhD
2000 The Public Health Importance of Maternal Zinc Deficiency: Lessons Learned From Peru Laura E. Caulfield, PhD
1999 Prenatal Vitamin B-6 Deficiency and Poverty -- Is There a Link? Robert D. Reynolds, PhD
1998 Folate Nutrition and Reproductive Health Mary Frances Picciano
1997 Developmental and Behavioral Effects of Iron Deficiency in Infants Betsy Lozoff
1996 Early Flavor Experiences: When Do They Start? Julie Mennella, PhD

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

© 2021 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by: Nutrition Science

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact Purdue Marketing and Media at