Gwen Chodur is the 2020 recipient of the Neal Van Alfen and James MacDonald Graduate Student Award for her research in molecular and nutrigenomic nutrition and her commitment to social justice, food literacy and food security.
“The quality and scientific merit of Gwen’s work is outstanding,” said her major professor, Francene Steinberg, chair of the Department of Nutrition. “She is an exceptionally strong student with good analytical, statistical, critical thinking, writing and organizational skills. She is also a wonderful teacher and mentor who enjoys working with students.”
Chodur is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Group of Nutritional Biology. Her research focuses on how bioactive components in food and dietary lipids influence early chronic disease risk. She is particularly interested in how diet regulates gene expression. This information may be applied to strengthening and fine-tuning dietary recommendations, as well as personalized recommendations for specific diets and food components to promote health and prevent chronic disease.
She is a registered dietitian and earned a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University, which has helped shape her interest in food issues at UC Davis. She is involved in a research project studying student dietary quality, biochemical measures of fruit and vegetable intake and use of campus food resources.
She has been a Global Food Initiative Fellow and campus ambassador for the program, was a member of the chancellor’s task force on food security, is currently on the campus Basic Needs Advisory Committee and is a member of the system-wide Basic Needs Initiative. She also has made significant contributions working as an evaluation specialist with the UC Davis Aggie Compass Student Basic Needs Center.
Chodur has readily embraced university service work. With the Graduate Student Association, she served as a departmental representative and on the executive council. She is currently president of her graduate group’s student advisory council and has served in three other leadership roles. She also has demonstrated mentoring leadership through her work with the campus Professors for the Future program.
Additionally, Chodur served as a graduate student representative on recruitment advisory committees for campus administrative positions, including Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. She currently is the Davis representative to the UC President Recruitment Student Advisory Committee.
Her major advisor described Chodur as the top doctoral student in more than 20 years of mentoring at UC Davis. “She is an asset not only to my laboratory but to the college and campus,” Steinberg said. “Gwen has a bright future and I am confident that she will reach her goals within an academic career.”
The Neal Van Alfen and James MacDonald Graduate Student Award was established to acknowledge the contributions of former CA&ES Dean Van Alfen and former Executive Associate Dean MacDonald. It supports graduate students in the agricultural, environmental or social/human sciences who have a major professor within the college. The honor includes a $7,500 award.