Popkin named Kenan Professor
June 10, 2011
Dr. Barry Popkin

Dr. Barry Popkin

Barry Popkin, PhD, has been named a W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, effective July 1.

The Kenan Professorship is an endowed faculty position awarded to outstanding scholars and teachers.

Popkin has been a nutrition faculty member at UNC since 1977. Currently, he is the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public health, and director of the UNC interdisciplinary obesity program in the university’s Carolina Population Center. The Chamblee professorship will be awarded to another faculty member.

Popkin’s 2008 book, The World is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies and Products that are Fattening the Human Race, draws on what he’s learned throughout his career. He makes a strong case that lifestyle changes, including eating more sugary and fatty foods, as well as government policies and globalized food marketing, are fueling the weight gain.

“He is a renowned scholar and a leader in both U.S. and international nutrition research,” said nutrition chair June Stevens, PhD, AICR/ WCRF Distinguished Professor. “His work has made a difference in how scientists and policy makers think about problems in nutrition across the globe.”

Popkin’s research focuses on changes in diet, physical activity and inactivity, and body composition. His work has included detailed longitudinal studies that he directs in China and Russia, and involvement with longitudinal studies in the Philippines, the United States, as well as related work in Brazil and several other countries.

He has headed environmental components of large national longitudinal surveys and has been involved in extensive research on dietary patterns and trends in the U.S. He has been principal investigator for grants from major government sources, including the National Institutes of Health, which total more than $60 million.

Popkin has authored more than 340 publications, and his work has been cited more than 8,000 times. He has trained dozens of students, and he and his students make presentations at scientific meetings around the world. He also is involved actively in working with governments as varied as Mexico, China and others, in creating policies and regulations related to improving diets.

The W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professorships, the largest group of professorships bearing the Kenan name, was established in 1965 through a bequest from William R. Kenan Jr.

An 1894 alumnus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan became an internationally known chemical and engineering adviser. In 1926, he gave Kenan Memorial Stadium to the University in memory of his parents. Following his death in 1965, part of his estate became the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. Upon receipt of a gift from the trust, the University named the business school the Kenan-Flagler Business School. He also endowed the University with other significant gifts.

For more information on Popkin’s career, please see a recent Carolina Public Health article on his research, as well as information that appears on the Carolina Population Center website.


UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or


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