Published on 03/20/13

UGA nutrient researcher wins Russell Award for nurturing young minds

By Merritt Melancon

Ron Pegg’s students know him as one of the only food science professors to still require his students to use blue books during exams. However, his colleagues have come to know him as an instructor who is breaking new ground in food science instruction at the University of Georgia.

Since arriving at UGA in March 2006, Pegg has not only maintained grant funding for research into beneficial chemical compounds (i.e., bioactives) and nutrients in foods, but he has also developed new laboratory and study-abroad programs that have made him one of the most sought-after instructors in his department.

Pegg is one of three UGA faculty members who will receive the 2013 Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the university's highest early career teaching honor.

"This year's Russell Award recipients integrate research and service into their instruction to create an outstanding learning environment for students," said Jere Morehead, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, whose office administers the awards program.

"Faculty members such as these help make the University of Georgia one of the nation's great public universities, and we are pleased to recognize their contributions."

Pegg, who is now an associate professor, teaches courses ranging from a Freshman Odyssey course on coffee technology, a junior-level introduction to food science class, a senior-level food analysis course and lab and a graduate level class on functional foods and nutraceuticals.

Pegg’s instructional prowess has earned him the praise of his students and awards from the university community. Students have voted him Food Science & Technology Outstanding Undergraduate Professor during the 2007-2008, 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 academic years. He received the 2010 College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Early Career Teaching Award and the UGA Outstanding Teaching Award in March 2011.

“I must admit that Dr. Pegg’s contribution to student education is indeed rare,” said Rakesh Singh, professor and director of the Department of Food Science and Technology. “His pedagogical ‘force’ is unique, and unlike any other I have seen in my 28 years as a college educator. He has set incredibly high teaching standards for himself and this has clearly benefitted our students.”

In 2007, Pegg retooled a course on “Instrumental Methods of Food Analysis,” to include a hands-on lab component in which students learn the techniques and equipment used to determine selected nutrient contents and bioactives of foods.

“One of my primary roles as an educator is to provide the students with real-world or simulated experiences, so that they can discover on their own the need for continued education,” Pegg said. “It is insufficient to theorize how food chemistry happens: I want my students to see and experience it firsthand.”

Pegg also broke new ground in the Department of Food Science when he launched a Thanksgiving break study-abroad program at UGA’s Costa Rica Campus, FDST 4150/6160 Coffee (El Grano de Oro): From Bean to Cup. The course lets students trace one of the America’s favorite beverages from the farm to the coffee processor, and provides them with the science behind the perfect cup of coffee.

He currently serves as a member of the UGA Centre for Teaching and Learning Faculty Learning Community, and has recently participated in the UGA Lilly Teaching Fellows Program and in UGA’s “Teaching Locally, Engaging Locally” Faculty Learning Community.

Pegg received his Ph.D. from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in food science (food chemistry) in 1994, and his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto in 1986.

His research interest is in quantifying the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and nutrient contents in legumes, nuts, berries and other foods as well as pinpointing compounds that can be used to promote health.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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