Swanson named director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences in ACES

Kelly Swanson professional headshot
Kelly Swanson

After serving as the interim director for nine months, Kelly Swanson has been named director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, starting Feb. 1. Swanson is a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in DNS, both part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the U. of I.  

"I am truly honored and excited to step into the role of director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences — the opportunity to lead such a dynamic and interdisciplinary program is both a privilege and a responsibility,” Swanson said. “I look forward to fostering collaboration, advancing groundbreaking research, and guiding the next generation of leaders in nutritional sciences. Together, we will continue to make meaningful contributions to the field and uphold the esteemed legacy of this 56-year-old program.” 

Faculty from departments across campus teach and provide research opportunities through DNS, which is an interdisciplinary program for graduate education in nutrition — offering a master’s and a doctorate in nutritional sciences, and an internship toward registration in dietetics. A new online Food Regulations, Nutrition Policy, and Personalized Nutrition Graduate Certificate Program is also under development and will be offered starting in fall 2024.

“An accomplished scientist and University Scholar renowned for his work in comparative nutrition and nutrigenomics, Professor Swanson has over two decades of experience in DNS. He brings an invaluable combination of knowledge of DNS and scholarly excellence to his service,” said animal sciences department head Rodney Johnson when Swanson was named interim director in May 2023. 

Swanson studies the effects of diet on gastrointestinal microbiota community composition and activity. His research, which includes human subjects, companion animals, and traditional animal models, clarifies the roles and relationships of gastrointestinal microbiota and dietary components, including dietary fibers and prebiotics, with the goal of developing diets to prevent obesity and other health-related issues.

Swanson became an assistant professor in the College of ACES in 2004 and was promoted to associate professor in 2009 and full professor in 2014. Over the past two decades, he has established an internationally recognized research program, highlighted by approximately $26 million in research support, over 160 invited lectures in 15 countries, and more than 255 peer-reviewed publications. He has trained over 45 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, hosted 17 international visiting scholars, and mentored 40 undergraduate research projects. In the classroom, Swanson has taught over 3,250 undergraduate, graduate, and veterinary medicine students in over 65 nutrition courses, featuring on the “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students” 32 times.

Swanson has received 15 distinguished research and teaching awards, including those from the American Society for Nutrition and the American Society of Animal Science. He received the 2014 University of Illinois Campus Distinguished Promotion Award, honoring exceptional scholars whose contributions have been extraordinary in quality of work and overall achievement. In 2017, Swanson was named Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition, and he was recognized as a University Scholar in 2018 by the University of Illinois System.

“Kelly Swanson is one of our most respected teachers, researchers, and leaders. His extraordinary dedication to progress in the nutritional sciences, as well as his talent as an educator, makes him an outstanding fit for the role of director for DNS,” said ACES dean Germán Bollero

Swanson succeeds Elvira de Mejia, professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition in ACES, who served as DNS director for five years. 

"I also want to thank Elvira de Mejia for her service these last several years,” Bollero added. “Under her steadfast leadership, DNS initiated six new courses, launched a new USDA-funded certificate program, grew faculty membership, and initiated fruitful collaborations with Mexican research and academic institutions, among other notable accomplishments. Visionary leaders like de Mejia have propelled DNS forward since its inception in 1968, and I am excited to see where the program goes under Swanson’s direction.”

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