Here are some questions and answers from our interview with TOS Fellow Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, FTOS, Professor of Nutrition at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Q: What is your title and organizational affiliation?
A: I am a Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Q: Will you tell us about your current work and your professional developmental trajectory?
A: My NIH-funded research portfolio focuses on individual-, household-, and community-level susceptibility to obesity, and my work ranges from genetic to societal-level factors that shape obesity and its consequences. Much of my research focuses on issues related to ethnicity, disparities, and development of obesity over the lifecycle with attention to pathways linking environment and behavior to cardio metabolic risk. My earliest work related to obesity and human biology, and the integration of biological and environmental factors. During my postdoctoral fellowship, my research was mostly in the area of environmental factors related to obesity, but then I returned to my roots in human biology.
Q: What is one of your professional or personal qualities that has contributed to your success?
A: Natural curiosity and willingness to take risks.
Q: What advice do you have for today's junior obesity researchers?
A: Get involved in a variety of professional activities and keep an open mind to learn as much as you can from your peers and colleagues. When you get involved in collaborative projects or activities, take them seriously and do your absolute best. Continue to critically evaluate the literature and science. Find really good mentors and seek their opinions, but make up your own mind about the work you want to do.
Q: What aspects of obesity research are the most exciting to you right now?
A: Right now I am intrigued by the microbiome and novel methodologies to study energy balance.
Q: What are your favorite things to do when you're not at work?
A: I love to spend time with my kids and my family. I also love to garden, cook, exercise, read, hike and study animal behavior.