New faculty profile: Beth Olson

Beth Olson joined CALS on May 1 as an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and a UW-Extension nutrition specialist.

Briefly describe your career path—up to this point.
As an undergraduate in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I took Nutritional Biochemistry and fell in love with the field of nutrition. I was first interested in teaching at the university level, so went to graduate school at UC-Davis where I obtained my MS and PhD. I worked on an industry funded research project which piqued my interest in food companies. I went to work at Kellogg Company in Battle Creek, Michigan. I spent 5 years in R&D supporting nutrition research initiatives globally and 2 years in the Kellogg USA business working on nutrition marketing. It was a tremendous experience, but decided I wanted to work more in research and outreach that would help people make the best decisions they could about nutrition and health. I took a position at Michigan State University, doing research and working with MSU Extension nutrition programs, and decided this combination was the perfect fit for me.

Beth Olson (left) with family. Click to see larger image.


What is the main focus of your research program?
I do research on education and interventions that help mothers and families feed their infants and young children. This has included providing support to low-income and working women on breastfeeding their babies, and helping families transition their babies from breastfeeding and baby foods to eating with their families. Most parents really want the best for their children, and I hope the research I do can be used to help them achieve their goals of healthy and happy children.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
The quality of the university and departments were a big draw for both myself and my husband, who will be working in the business school. I’ve also always enjoyed being at a land grant university, with its role in improving the lives of citizens in communities around the state. My husband and I grew up in Wisconsin, and we both received our undergraduate degrees from UW-Madison. Our daughter is now a junior here in psychology, and our two sons both want to attend UW-Madison. We’ve always loved how vibrant the university and city is, and the beautiful country and lakes (we have a boat) surrounding the campus. It seemed the right time to come “home”!

What do you like to do outside of work?
I do a lot of cycling, especially with my husband. I also swim with a master’s swim program and play tennis. I try to take advantage of opportunities to travel and see new places, sometimes through work, and often with family or friends. As our children have gotten to be older, it has been incredibly fun to spend time doing things with them – and we’re happy they want to spend time with us!