Is there a correlation between wheels and food science? Not really, unless you’re Jacek Jaczynski, professor of human nutrition and foods at West Virginia University.

As a young boy, he made the calculated decision to pursue a career in food science after a conversation about wheels with his dad while they worked on a car. That decision has proven to be a fruitful one for Jaczynski, who was recently recognized with the 2016 Rhododendron Award, a prestigious honor from the West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

This award recognizes non-dietitians who have made a significant contribution to the science of human nutrition and the dietetic profession. The WVAND honored Jaczynski during its annual meeting in Morgantown on April 22, 2016.

“I was happy to be nominated and selected for the award by my peers,” said Jaczynski. “I live and breathe nutrition, so this award was a stamp of approval for me.”

Betty Forbes, WVAND’s 2012 Outstanding Dietitian of the Year, nominated Jaczynski for the recognition. Forbes retired from WVU after a 41-year career as a clinical dietitian and nutrition educator.

“Jacek is very deserving, and has made a significant impact on both nutrition and food sciences,” said Forbes. “He is a food scientist, not a nutritionist or dietitian, who has become an integral part of the food and nutrition programs by his own volition.”

From meeting crucial curricular needs in WVU’s dietetics program by developing on-campus and online courses to holding three patents and having more than $1 million worth of funded research, Jaczynski has contributed greatly as an educator and researcher since joining the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design in 2002.

Jaczynski loves using interactive, innovative teaching methods to engage his students. In addition to teaching more than 400 undergraduate and graduate students each year, Jaczynski publishes, on average, 11 journal articles every year, most often for the Journal of Food Science and Food Chemistry, and is invited to contribute to scholarly books on a regular basis.

“Dr. Jaczynski’s work is important to our professional organization,” said Brooke Nissim-Sabat, WVAND past-president and member of the award selection committee. “In addition to his contribution to our field through his research, he makes difficult topics accessible to students through a variety of educational methods, and his expertise really enriches their experience.”

Jaczynski’s enthusiasm for making difficult topics accessible is fueled by his passion for food science.

And this passion stems from a moment of practicality – a simple question posed to his dad many years ago. While working together on a car, he asked, “What do you think I should do? I really like wheels.”

His dad replied, “Wheels are a liability – it’s your hobby, and you need money to have a hobby. People will always have to eat. There’s no way around it.”

Jaczynski quickly learned that his dad was right, and it was as true then as it is today. With about 7 billion people on the planet, a number that’s estimated to climb to approximately 10 billion by 2050, the need for food will never diminish, thus creating ample employment opportunities for food scientists, nutritionists and registered dietitians down the road.

“If you’re thinking, ‘What should I do with my life in the next 5, 10, even 20 years,’ think food,” said Jaczynski. “Because our population is ever-growing, we’ll have to become more efficient with how we grow and raise animals and plants for food … and how can we do it? Food science.”

Jaczynski will now be added to the list of 10 other non-WVAND members who have been recognized with the Rhododendron Award. Among them is Margaret Albrink, the first researcher to establish the significance of serum triglycerides in coronary artery disease and the first award recipient (1989). She developed this theory based on her extensive research at Yale University and later at West Virginia University. Other recipients from WVU include William Neal (2012) and Janet Tou (2014).



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