J. Thomas (Tom) Brenna, Ph.D.
Dr. Brenna is professor of pediatrics, professor of human nutrition, and professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining the University of Texas, he served as professor of human nutrition, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, professor of food science, and professor of geological sciences at Cornell University, where he maintains a continuing appointment as professor emeritus. His group’s research is focused on the chemical, biochemical, metabolic, genetic and ecological aspects of fatty acids.
Dr. Brenna’s analytical chemistry research pioneered facile methods for the structure elucidation of fatty acid methyl esters by mass spectrometry. Additionally, his work developed some of the first molecular methods for high precision isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Taken together, his research has appeared in 35 peer-reviewed scientific papers in leading chemistry journals including Analytical Chemistry. Dr. Brenna’s research group is credited with contributing to the recognition that dietary omega-3 fatty acids are required for proper neural and retinal function in developing infants and, more recently, has been interested in the nutrition and metabolism of branched-chain fatty acids.
A regular contributor to nutrition policy globally, Dr. Brenna was appointed as a member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. His work has transformed the understanding of fatty acid biochemical pathways and genetics, and was recognized with the American Society for Nutrition’s Osborne and Mendel Award for outstanding contributions to basic research in nutrition (2017) and the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) 2021 Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award. His analytical chemistry was recently recognized by the AOCS Herbert J Dutton Award (2020).