Leann Birch retires after 21 years

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Leann Birch, distinguished professor of human development and family studies and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, is retiring effective Dec. 31 after 21 years at Penn State. She has accepted a faculty position at the University of Georgia.

Birch's research investigates the factors that influence the development from infancy through adolescence -- such as individual, familial and other contextual factors -- that control food intake. This research focuses on both predictors and consequences of eating behavior, including the development of food preferences and problems associated with energy balance, particularly obesity, dieting and disordered eating. One of her ongoing projects -- conducted with Ian Paul, staff physician at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center -- is an investigation of the relationships among feeding, sleeping and growth in infants, and the subsequent influence of these factors on eating, growth and weight status later in life.

Her other ongoing projects include research on the effects of altering energy density and portion size of meals and snacks on preschool children's energy intake, and a 10-year longitudinal study of the development of the controls of food intake among young girls, with a focus on the emergence of weight concerns, dieting and problems of energy balance, including childhood obesity and disordered eating.

Birch is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2013 Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award and the 2011 Leadership in Outreach Scholarship Award from the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State, the 2012 E.V. McCollum Award from the American Society for Nutrition, the 2010 Bar-Or Award for Excellence in Pediatric Obesity Research from The Obesity Society and the 2003 Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Penn State. She was named a Fellow of the American Society for Nutrition in 2011.

From 2003 to 2005, Birch was a member of the Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth at the Institute of Medicine. She was the chair of the Committee on Obesity Prevention Policies for Young Children at the Institute of Medicine from 2009 to 2011. She currently serves as a member of the Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention at the Institute of Medicine. She has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals and has authored or co-authored several books and chapters in books.

Birch received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Long Beach, in 1971, and master's and doctoral degrees in psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1973 and 1975, respectively. She joined the faculty of Illinois State University in 1975. In 1992, she became professor and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State. In 2003, she was named Distinguished Professor of Human Development at Penn State. In 2004, she became a professor of pediatrics and of nutritional sciences at Penn State and director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research.


Last Updated January 10, 2015