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Continuing impactful work: Reddivari named University Faculty Scholar

Lavanya Reddivari is one of four faculty members from the College of Agriculture who received the distinction of University Faculty Scholar this year. The award recognizes faculty who are on an accelerated path for academic distinction in the discovery and dissemination of knowledge. A total of 120 faculty across campus received the award.

Reddivari, associate professor of food science at Purdue University, says of her win, “I’m very grateful, and this would not have been possible without my wonderful and talented graduate students and supportive colleagues. Any time this kind of award comes up, it’s an encouragement and a recognition of our research efforts and impact.”

Reddivari earned her Ph.D. in horticulture at Texas A&M University. There, she studied the genetic and environmental influences on plant bioactive compounds and their health benefits. Before joining Purdue, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Colorado State University and research assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Combined with her background and passion for utilizing food as medicine, Reddivari’s studies the impact of diet and gut bacteria in health and disease. Her Foods for Gut Health Lab team in the Department of Food Science explores and analyzes potential dietary interventions for improving health and preventing diseases.

Her current work dives deeper into understanding the role of bioactive compounds, like plant secondary metabolites and fiber, in improving gut health. She explains this focus is crucial given the rapidly increasing frequency of chronic diseases including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) among people in the U.S. and across the world.

“Individuals with these chronic colonic conditions are intolerant to fibers, but we know fibers play a vital role in improving gut barrier function and mucosal immunity,” Reddivari explains.

“All fibers are not equal,” she adds, “So, understanding the role of physicochemical characteristics of fiber in fiber intolerance will enable us to identify fibers, or fiber and secondary metabolite combinations, that can be tolerated by people with these conditions. This could have significant implications for improving colon health.”

Reddivari’s long-term goal is to develop a holistic food-based approach to chronic colonic disease prevention.

Senya Simsek, head and professor of food science, recommended Reddivari for the award. “Lavanya Reddivari is a rising star in dietary bioactives and gut health. The Department of Food Science values her greatly as a colleague and looks forward to supporting her lab's future contributions to our field.”

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