Purdue University professor of food science Suzanne Nielsen was honored as one of two recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences for 2017. Nielsen has been a professor at Purdue since 1983. She served as department head for 10 years, currently serves as a faculty fellow for the Office of Corporate and Global Partnerships, and continues to teach her signature course, “Food Analysis.”
“Dr. Nielsen lives our college’s mission every day. She is dedicated to the students she teaches as well as to her research,” said Karen Plaut, interim dean of Purdue’s College of Agriculture. “We are incredibly grateful to her and proud of this recognition of her extraordinary dedication and achievements.”
Nielsen received this national recognition at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C., on Sunday (Nov. 12). Launched in 1992, the USDA National Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards are the product of a partnership among the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the University of Florida, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
In nominating Nielsen, associate dean and director of the Office of Academic Programs Marcos Fernandez wrote, “She is personable, establishes clear expectations and continually connects course and curricular topics to real-world issues to make her students become better problem solvers.”
Fernandez also explains that Nielsen is the author of “Food Analysis,” a book and lab manual, now in its fifth edition, which is the most widely used book on this topic in the U.S., and is also used extensively worldwide.
Nielsen, who grew up in central Nebraska, says her interest in teaching began in the one-room schoolhouse she attended. “One of my earliest childhood memories is lining up my dolls on a sofa and teaching them, just like I was being taught,” she said.
Nielsen later discovered what she wanted to teach when, as a freshman at the University of Nebraska, she took an elective introductory food science class.
Nielsen has received numerous teaching, research, and mentoring awards from Purdue University; teaching and achievement awards from the Institute of Food Technologists; and alumni awards from both of her alma maters, the University of Nebraska and the University of Minnesota. She earned a B.S. from the University of Nebraska and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota.
Praising Nielsen’s contributions, Food Science department head Brian Farkas said: “It has been said that ‘the influence of a teacher is infinite’ and this is never truer than for Dr. Suzanne Nielsen. She has inspired, motivated and educated students who have gone on to impactful careers, including in teaching, thus continuing her legacy.”