Dr. Catherine J. Anderson and Dr. Aaron Van Dyke lead research students in groundbreaking nutritional science study.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) has awarded Fairfield University's assistant biology professor Catherine J. Andersen, PhD, with a $149,419 federal grant to support an innovative faculty-student research study in the area of nutritional sciences. Aaron Van Dyke, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will join Dr. Andersen as the study’s co-project director.
The two-year research project will investigate the effects of dietary intake on markers of cholesterol metabolism, inflammation, and immune function. As part of the study, healthy adults will participate in a dietary intervention trial to determine whether whole eggs, egg whites, or an egg-free diet can alter the beneficial properties of HDL – carriers of the “good cholesterol” – in the bloodstream. Fairfield’s researchers hope to determine if the bioactive components in the egg yolks will alter the composition and function of HDL, leading to beneficial changes in immune cell activity and inflammation. Their findings could have important implications for the role of nutrition in health and human disease.
Each semester, a total of four to six undergraduate research students from both Dr. Andersen's and Dr. Van Dyke’s labs will conduct experiments and perform data analysis for the study. Research activities will include comprehensive dietary evaluation, cell culture work, molecular biology assays, and biochemical analysis. Fairfield University is uniquely equipped for this research, thanks in part to a $271,407 instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which Dr. Andersen and Dr. Van Dyke helped secure.
Through the study’s collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to nutritional sciences, both Dr. Andersen and Dr. Van Dyke hope to develop exciting new lab techniques that can be applied to future research projects. “By working together we are able to leverage our expertise in nutritional sciences, molecular biology, and chemical biology to address novel research questions,” Dr. Andersen stated. “This grant serves as evidence that our work is competitive in the national arena, allowing us to continue developing our research programs in exciting new areas.”
“Asking scholars to reach beyond the boundaries of their own field is built into the DNA of Jesuit institutions,” said Dr. Van Dyke. “This grant offers further external validation that our student-faculty research teams are among the best nationally.”