Stella Lucia Volpe has been appointed head of the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Volpe comes to Virginia Tech from Drexel University, where she had served as chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences for almost 10 years. Under her leadership, the department became nationally known for its strong teaching and service programs, as well as its overarching research on chronic disease prevention through nutrition, food safety, and exercise studies.

Volpe also created Drexel’s Center for Nutrition & Performance and developed the Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory, which was granted university approval due to her efforts, and eventually became part of the Human Performance and Bionutrition Core. During her tenure at Drexel, Volpe maintained an active research program that brought in more than $15 million from federal and foundation grants. She has published more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, three books, and a number of book chapters.

“I am delighted that Dr. Volpe has returned to Virginia Tech and that she is serving as HNFE’s department head. Stella brings a wealth of experience and scholarly achievements, including extensive knowledge of the department’s disciplines, effective leadership, and an abundance of enthusiasm to the position,” said Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

As an alumna of Virginia Tech, Volpe will advance the mission of a department that promotes health through discovery and learning through disseminating research in the nutrition, food, and exercise sciences. Her immediate goals for the department include enhancing alumni engagement; forming a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee; and developing a new strategic plan.

“When I accepted the role of department head, I knew immediately it was the right decision. It is an honor to serve this wonderful university that gave me so much when I was a student. Our department has amazing staff, faculty, and students,” Volpe said.

Volpe, who presents her research both nationally and internationally, plans to continue these studies at Virginia Tech. She currently examines obesity and diabetes prevention using traditional interventions, mineral supplementation, and environmental alterations that result in greater physical activity and healthy eating. She also researches sports nutrition. In 2014, she began a study on recreational and professional athletes of all levels, which has led to the creation of a unique database that still provides data for student research.

“I plan to continue focusing on these areas, but I would also like to explore the human-animal interaction with colleagues in HNFE and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine,” she said.

Seeing people become independent investigators is fulfilling to Volpe. She is an enthusiastic educator who is passionate about mentoring students, post-doctoral fellows, and early-career faculty.

“It is very important to me to help the next generation of leaders succeed.”

As an active member of the American College of Sports Medicine, Volpe has served as vice president and as associate editor of their Health and Fitness Journal, Translational Journal, and Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. She is currently editor-in-chief of Current Nutrition Reports and past chair of the Science Board of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

In addition to her academic career, Volpe participates in a variety of sports and fitness activities. She began her involvement in field hockey in ninth grade, played through college, and continues to compete. In 2018, she was selected for the U.S. Masters National Field Hockey Team at the World Cup in Barcelona, Spain. She also enjoys competitive ice hockey, rowing, and CrossFit.

Stella Volpe
Volpe playing for the U.S. Masters National Field Hockey Team at the 2018 World Cup in Barcelona, Spain.

Volpe, who is a registered dietitian nutritionist and an ACSM certified clinical exercise physiologist, earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Pittsburgh, and both her master’s degree in exercise physiology and doctorate in human nutrition from Virginia Tech.

She succeeds Robert Grange, associate professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise, who served as interim department head from August 2019-20.

Written by Sherri Songer