Distinguished Professor of animal science recognized by Sigma Xi for research, service

Iowa State University Distinguished Professor Donald Beitz has conducted several studies examining the role of the human diet on blood cholesterol concentrations. In this image, the large and small jars contain the amount of cholesterol that can be found in our bodies and brains, respectively. Photo by Chris Gannon. 

AMES, Iowa - Donald Beitz, Distinguished Professor of animal science and biochemistry, was recently named a Fellow of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, an international honor society for research scientists and engineers. This award acknowledges his contributions to Iowa State University’s research mission and his many years of active membership in the honor society.

Sigma Xi has more than 500 chapters around the world with over 60,000 members. To gain membership, one must be nominated by a current member. Fellows are selected by their peers and are awarded on a competitive basis based on their service to the organization and the influence of their research on the science and engineering communities.

Beitz joined Sigma Xi in 1967 while obtaining a doctorate in dairy nutrition and biochemistry from Michigan State University. In the same year, Beitz began working at Iowa State and joined the university’s Sigma Xi chapter. Beitz has since been a member of the executive committee, served as the chapter president and is currently the secretary-treasurer – a position he has held since 2015.

“I am honored to be a member and to be recognized as a Fellow of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society,” Beitz said. “I also am honored to serve as the secretary-treasurer of the Iowa State University chapter of Sigma Xi.”

Beitz’s research at Iowa State has focused on problems surrounding animal agriculture and human nutrition. The topics he has studied include the impacts of milk and meat consumption on human health, beef cattle growth, mitochondrial DNA and milk production, and feeding distillers grains and probiotics to dairy cattle. Beitz has a joint appointment in the departments of animal science and biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology (BBMB), where he instructs classes for undergraduate, graduate and veterinary students. He also advises undergraduate students in biochemistry and graduate students in nutritional physiology and biochemistry.

Kristen Johansen, chair of the BBMB department, was excited to learn Beitz has been named a Fellow of Sigma Xi. His dedication to his work and his peers stands out to her, and she considers the award well-deserved.

"I think all of us in the department know what a tireless advocate for science Don has been, promoting the best research in his laboratory and in his colleagues' and students’ work,” Johansen said. “I am delighted to see his contributions to research being recognized in such a meritorious way.”

Beitz was the recipient of the Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences Award, Iowa State’s highest academic honor, in 1989. This award identifies people who have demonstrated outstanding performances as researchers and faculty members. In addition to Sigma Xi, he is also a Fellow of American Dairy Science Association, American Society of Animals Science, American Society for Nutrition, Iowa Academy of Science and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Despite the recognition Beitz has received, he said his biggest accomplishments lie in his students’ success. In his 54 years at Iowa State, he has taught more than 13,000 students and served as a major professor for 105 graduate students who have gone on to earn graduate degrees of their own.