By Jessica Merzdorf
Nutrition scientist and professor Connie Weaver will receive Purdue University's 2012 Spirit of the Land-Grant Mission Award for improving nutrition recommendations for children, adolescents and adults nationwide through her research in calcium absorption and bone health.
The award is presented yearly to a Purdue faculty member in the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences or Veterinary Medicine whose work exemplifies the university's land-grant mission of discovery, engagement and learning.
A program honoring Weaver will be held Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. EST in Pfendler Hall's Deans Auditorium on the Purdue campus. Weaver will present a seminar titled "Translating Science from the Bench to the Dietary Guidelines," followed by the award presentation and refreshments. Weaver will receive a commemorative plaque, $10,000 to support her research and a $1,500 honorarium.
Much of Weaver's work with children and adolescents takes place at Camp Calcium, a six-week camp designed to measure calcium absorption and use in children and younger teenagers. The camp, held annually for the last 22 years, gives adolescents a chance to explore careers and take science and math classes in a college environment while researchers control their diets and measure the amount of calcium their bodies absorb.
"The award reflects excellence in research, teaching and engagement, and Connie demonstrates this excellence in a way that very few have," said Karen Plaut, director of agricultural research and associate dean of Purdue Agriculture. "Connie embodies the spirit of the whole award, particularly in the area of engagement. She truly has an attitude of 'let's take that research out and get it to the public.' She has greatly impacted the lives of children - and adults, too - through her work with Camp Calcium."
Weaver has brought her knowledge to a variety of national boards and organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board Panel, where she helped develop government standards for the amount of calcium that adolescents should consume to optimize bone strength and prevent osteoporosis. Her recommendations were used to develop the U.S. Department of Agriculture's My Plate dietary guidelines.
Conducting research with the purpose of informing the public of the results is a hallmark of Weaver's research and Extension program, said Jim Mintert, interim director of Purdue Extension.
"Dr. Weaver provides a great example of how a land-grant university faculty member can truly help improve the lives of people, not only in Indiana but throughout the world," he said. "The impact of her work will be felt for very many years to come as it's reflected in improved bone health and reductions in osteoporotic fractures as our population ages."
At Purdue, Weaver heads the Department of Nutrition Science in the College of Health and Human Sciences. She leads the new Women's Global Health Institute in Discovery Park and serves as deputy director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She previously won the university's highest research honor, the Herbert Newby McCoy Award.