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Family and Consumer Sciences welcomes Jen Barnes to faculty

Assistant Professor Jennifer Barnes headshot

Assistant Professor Jennifer Barnes

Jennifer Barnes has joined the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences as an assistant professor in the food, nutrition, and dietetics sequence.

Barnes received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics in 2008 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After finishing her Ph.D. in 2013, completing a dietetic internship, and becoming a registered dietitian, Barnes spent two years in the Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Research Laboratory run by Ken Wilund at the University of Illinois.

During this time, she worked to develop and pilot a comprehensive nutrition and physical activity lifestyle intervention program for patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing hemodialysis treatment. Barnes continues to collaborate with Wilund as the project is expanded into a clinical trial in Champaign and Bloomington dialysis clinics.

We recently caught up with Barnes to ask her some questions.

Can you tell us a little bit about your dissertation?

My dissertation was entitled “Efficacy of Butyrate-Producing Therapies for Use in Pediatric Intestinal Failure.” I utilized a piglet model of intestinal failure to optimize gastrointestinal structure and function through administration of pre- and/or probiotic supplemented partial enteral nutrition. I completed this work under the advisement of Dr. Kelly Tappenden in the division of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Why did you decide to become a professor?

I decided I wanted to become a professor after working as a teaching assistant for several different nutrition courses at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Spending time with students and watching them become excited about nutrition and how it impacts each of them personally was very fulfilling. I was fortunate to have excellent teaching mentors who demonstrated a contagious passion in the classroom. Nutrition is such a special field in that everyone engages with food on a daily basis. It is so important to have strong leaders in clinical and community-based nutrition applications as well as those responsible for creating and reforming policy. I want to help educate students for overall wellness, as well as the best possible future nutrition practitioners.

Why did you choose Illinois State University?

I decided to come to Illinois State because of all the wonderful people I had the privilege to interact with when I visited campus for my interview. Everyone I met was friendly, helpful, and shared universally positive experiences from their time at ISU. I also was impressed with the caliber and enthusiasm of the students. Overall, it seems like a great place to work and I am excited to get started.

What is your main area of research?

My research program focuses on improving quality of life through nutrition and physical activity interventions in people with chronic disease, most often, chronic kidney disease. People with end-stage kidney disease have very restrictive nutrition prescriptions and low physical activity, which results in a cycle of rapid decline. My collaborators and I work with patients and their support team to identify simple changes in their diet and lifestyle in order to improve or maintain their nutrition status and physical function.

What are your hobbies?

I love running, yoga, hiking, camping, and anything that lets me be active outside. I enjoy cooking (especially if it involves breakfast and/or bacon) and spending time with my family and friends. I live for summer time and run away to the beach any chance I get during the winter. Fall is lucky: It has football and tailgating, or I would be tempted not to like it, either. Go Redbirds!

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