September 28, 2006

Nutrition experts join agriculture faculty

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two experts in nutrition have joined the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Rebecca L. Atkinson, a scientist who studies dietary effects in cud-chewing animals, and Sharon L. Peterson, a registered dietitian with a doctorate in human nutrition, fit with the college's short-term needs and long-range plans, said Dean Gary L. Minish.

"They're both outstanding teachers working in critical areas of excellence in our research program, and they both have great potential to work with our industry clientele," he said.

"Most positions in our college tend to focus on teaching and research with some service on the side, but these two cut across all three areas equally."

Atkinson came to SIUC from the University of Wyoming, where she earned both her master's and doctoral degrees in animal science with an emphasis on ruminant nutrition. A Wyoming native, she grew up in the southeastern part of the state, where her family ran a 10,000-acre ranch, farming dryland winter wheat and managing a 250-head cow/calf operation.

At SIUC, she is teaching beef production and management and feeds and feeding.

"She's a beef forage nutritionist and will continue her research in that area," Minish said.

"There's a big emphasis on growing the livestock industry in the state, especially in Southern Illinois," he said. "We're in a forage-based part of the state with a lot of good pastureland, and there's a significant need for experience in intensive grazing and pasture management as well as all that goes into grass-fed beef program."

In addition to her classroom and research duties, Atkinson will run the college's Beef Evaluation Station and Beef Cattle Center.

"This will give her great connections with the industry," Minish said.

Peterson, who owns the Carterville-based business Southern Illinois Nutrition Therapy, is teaching classes on community nutrition, nutrition policy and personal nutrition, that last course as a Core Curriculum offering open to all University students. Her research focuses on obesity and the dietary management of such ailments as heart disease and diabetes.

"One of our research and teaching areas of excellence is human nutrition and wellness," Minish said.

"This is a fast-growing area and should not only help us advance but improve the health, well being and quality of life of folks in Southern Illinois."

Peterson also is heading the college's community nutrition program.

"She will work with pediatricians, free clinics, high schools and medical professionals," Minish said.

"This is a really important position in terms of outreach. She's already writing a weekly column for Farm Weekly — she's moved into this in a hurry."

Atkinson earned her undergraduate degree in 1999 from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D. She received her master's from Wyoming in 2003 and completed her doctorate there earlier this year.

Peterson, who has worked as a dietitian for clinics, hospitals and a private contracting firm, earned her bachelor's in 1988 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her doctorate in 1996 from Pennsylvania State University.

Recruiting high-quality faculty is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.


Rebecca L. Atkinson

Rebecca L. Atkinson
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Sharon L. Peterson

Sharon L. Peterson
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