MCDB Associate Professor Monica Dus has been awarded a 2023 fellowship by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She conducts research on how dietary components interact with genes to shape taste function and feeding behavior. Guggenheim fellowships recognize distinguished achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.

As Dus explained to the University Record, her long-term goal is to uncover the rules that regulate the relationship between food and the brain, and to understand how they play a role in metabolic and neural diseases. Because the interactions between nutrients and neural physiology are so complex and far-reaching, the lab uses animal models like flies and rats and integrates the tools of neuroscience, molecular biology and metabolism, she said.

“I am so profoundly honored to have received the 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship, which will fund my sabbatical research for a popular book on food-gene interactions, a field known as nutrigenomics,” she said.

Dus notes there are competing nutritional messages, resource chaos, information overload and disinformation about nutrigenomics. For example, despite lacking scientific and clinical validity, companies and influencers aggressively push for a “DNA diet” with expensive and unregulated genetic testing and supplements.

Meanwhile, proven advances in nutrigenomics, like the combination of nutritional and target therapies for diseases, remain obscure even to physicians. To navigate this world, people need a map where the boundaries of the scientific consensus, controversies, applications and implications are clearly drawn, she said.

“This is the book I wanted to research and write during my sabbatical, and now, thanks to the generous support of the Guggenheim Foundation, I can actually do it,” Dus said.

The Guggenheim Foundation awarded fellowships to 171 American and Canadian scientists, scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and writers and artists of all kinds, selected from nearly 2,500 applicants.

Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted nearly $400 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, and winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award and other internationally recognized honors.

While you wait for the nutrigenomics book, check out the Sugar Buzz comic book and experiments you can do at home from Professor Dus and the UM Museum of Natural History.  Download Link