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Anandh Babu Pon Velayutham, PhD, Receives University's Distinguished Teaching Award

Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology Associate Professor Anandh Babu Pon Velayutham, PhD, is passionate about the causal association between dietary berries, gut microbiome, and vascular health.

That passion is evident in the classroom, and each year he racks up accolades for his teaching. That includes this year’s honor, the University of Utah’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Eligible faculty must have taught at the University for at least eight years and maintain a consistent record of outstanding teaching performance.

Students love Velayutham’s lectures, which include a mix of animations, cartoons and interactive assignments, as well as the traditional blackboard. Velayutham leverages his teaching experience of 25 years, but he’s also constantly striving to mix up his approach to education.

“My goal is to create an enthusiastic environment,” he said. “Teaching isn’t one-way—we can learn a lot from the students. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll go back and find out.”

Anandh Babu Pon Velayutham

After completing his PhD in biochemistry and lecturing in India, Velayutham worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Virginia Tech University. He joined the Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology as an assistant professor in 2012, moving his way up to associate professor. Teaching runs in the family too—his father and sister both head up classrooms.

Macronutrient Metabolism is one of Velayutham’s signature classes. It sounds like a heavy topic, but student reviews from the course rave that “he made science come alive in a way I had never experienced,” and “his enthusiasm and real-world examples made a very technical subject relevant and entertaining.”

That’s because Velayutham strives to embody the qualities of a great teacher.

“I believe in students and their learning,” he said. “I develop a curriculum that’s interesting and related to research, but I also update my syllabus every year. I keep an eye on my students to determine what’s interesting throughout the semester and modify accordingly.”

He’s also a prolific researcher and engaged student mentor. His lab focuses on the nutritional benefits of blueberries and strawberries, specifically how their active components impact blood vessels and improve vascular health. Velayutham has supervised more than 40 trainees who go on to successful careers in teaching or medicine.

“I want to help my students achieve their academic goals,” he said. “Each mentoring relationship has allowed me to witness the transformative power of personalized guidance.”

Velayutham Lab
The Velayutham Lab 

Not one to rest on his laurels, Velayutham plans to expand his educational offerings over the next few years. Students have found his lectures on gut microbes so interesting that they’ve requested a course specifically on the subject. He also plans to pivot his online course in nutritional biochemistry to an in-person class.

Teaching is ultimately a team effort and Velayutham is quick to credit the supportive atmosphere in the College of Health for his impressive track record as a professor.

“My colleagues have shaped my journey here at the University,” he said. “I’m so pleased to have received teaching awards for the past four years and I want to share this honor with everyone, my students and my colleagues.”