After a national search, the Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition has tapped one of its own as the next leader. Associate Professor Chris Gentile has been named the new department head, taking over on July 1.
Gentile will take the reins in July 2022 from Professor Chris Melby, who has been serving in the interim role since former department head, Mike Pagliassotti, retired in June 2021.
“I am excited to welcome Dr. Chris Gentile to the role of department head in Food Science and Human Nutrition,” said Lise Youngblade, dean of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. “Chris brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position, along with an infectious passion for research, teaching, and engagement related to food science and human nutrition. Through his many roles and experiences in the department, our college, and across the campus, he is well poised to lead this strong department as it continues to grow. I am greatly looking forward to working with Chris to support and promote the excellent work that is done in FSHN.”
Gentile came to CSU in 2007 as a postdoctoral fellow conducting research with Pagliassotti until 2010, when he accepted a permanent faculty position in the department. Gentile leads an NIH-funded research program, mentors graduate students, teaches several classes, is the department graduate coordinator, and currently serves as assistant department head. He says he was interested in the department head job because he felt he was in a unique place to hit the ground running to facilitate the success of faculty and staff.
“The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is very eclectic in that we have areas of specialization in food science, hospitality management, nutrition science, dietetics, and fermentation science,” Gentile noted. “Despite that eclecticism, one of the strengths of the department is that the faculty and staff are very collaborative and supportive of one another. That collaboration and support will be very important as we implement changes in the coming years to facilitate growth.”
Interest in nutrition
Gentile, who grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, became interested in nutrition and how food can affect physical performance while playing soccer for Skidmore College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in physiology. He went on to earn his master’s degree at the University of Colorado Boulder and his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. His first stint in Colorado left him wanting more.
“I knew from my time in Boulder that I’d like to move back to Colorado one day if I had the opportunity,” he said. “After I received my Ph.D., the opportunity arose when I was offered a postdoctoral position in the food science and human nutrition department, so in January 2007, my family and I moved to Fort Collins.”
Cardiovascular system research
Gentile leads the Integrative Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, which focuses on identifying the mechanisms by which obesity causes dysfunction of the cardiovascular system. Most recently, his collaborative research has involved studying the microbiome.
“My lab examines how weight gain and certain dietary practices can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes,” said Gentile. “In the last five years we have been working very closely with Dr. Tiffany Weir in the department to determine if changes to the gut microbiome play a role in those diseases, and if so, whether targeting the microbiome can lead to novel therapies.”
Gentile has garnered more than $3 million in continuous external funding since receiving a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral training award in 2007. In addition to being funded by multiple institutes within NIH, he has received funding from the USDA, American Heart Association, the Boettcher Foundation, and several other entities. He received the College’s Tenure-Track Faculty Scholarly Excellence Award in 2016.
Gentile will have the opportunity to shape the department with some critical faculty hires over the next few years as several long-time faculty have already retired or plan to retire soon. His goals also include initiatives focused on strengthening student recruitment and retention; enhancing the department’s Extension and community outreach programs such as the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center; growing external funding for research; and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We have fortunately been working to define our department vision and goals for the last several years,” said Gentile. “That previous work provides us with a strong roadmap for the coming years. Our challenge as a department, and my challenge as a department head, is to implement actionable steps to achieve those goals.”
Gentile lives with his wife, Amanda, and daughters: Julia aged 20, Ella aged 13, and Claire aged 10, in Fort Collins where they enjoy hiking, riding bikes, and sitting on their backyard deck.