Susan E. Carlson

Susan Carlson
  • Distinguished Professor, Dietetics and Nutrition


Susan Carlson, Ph.D., is the AJ Rice Professor of Nutrition in the KU Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at KU Medical Center. She was appointed associate dean for research in the KU School of Health Professions and began that additional role in September 2017. She resigned from that position in February 2021.

Carlson received her bachelor's degree in home economics at Washington State University in 1969 and her doctorate in nutrition with minors in biochemistry and physiology from Iowa State University in 1975. She had NIHLB postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Wisconsin in the Department of Pathology (1975-1977) and at the University of South Florida in the Department of Pediatrics (1978-1979).

A faculty member in several medical school departments of pediatrics, mainly in divisions of newborn medicine from 1979-1997, Carlson rose through the ranks to professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Biochemistry at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, Tenn. Her major research interest was on the effects of fatty acids that compose a large percent of brain membranes and found in human milk but not in vegetable oils typically used in the production of U.S. infant formulas.

Professional Affiliations
  • International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, Past President, 2015 - 2018
  • International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, President, 2012 - 2015
  • International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, President Elect, 2009 - 2012
  • American Society for Clinical Nutrition (Am. Society for Nutrition), Consulting Editor, 2005 - 2010
  • American Society for Clinical Nutrition (Am. Society for Nutrition), Publications Management Committee, 1999 - 2002
  • American Pediatric Society, Member, 1996 - Present
  • American Oil Chemists Society, Member, 1991 - 2006


Post Doctoral Fellowship, Pediatric lipid metabolism, University of South Florida
Post Doctoral Fellowship, Hepatic programming of cholesterol metabolism by sex, University of Wisconsin
Ph.D. in Nutrition, Iowa State University
B.S. in Food and Nutrition, Washington State University



Carlson moved to the University of Missouri Kansas City in 1997 and to the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1999. While at these institutions, she has continued intervention studies of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) supplementation of infants and DHA-supplemented pregnant women. The studies have been performed in collaboration with John Colombo, Ph.D., Byron Gajewski, PhD and Kathleen Gustafson, PhD, at the University of Kansas Medical Center Maternal and Child Nutrition and Development Laboratory.

Her work has been recognized nationally and internationally. Significant highlights include the addition of DHA and AA to U.S. infant formulas in 2002. Near the end of that year, she was made an honorary member of the American Dietetic Association in recognition for her pioneering work in identifying DHA as a conditionally essential nutrient for developing infants. Carlson also received the 2008 March of Dimes Agnes Higgins Award for outstanding achievement in the field of maternal-fetal nutrition at the American Public Health Association meeting in San Diego, October 2008.

In August 2017, Carlson was named a University Distinguished Professor. This prestigious honor recognizes faculty who have made significant and sustained contributions to research, scholarship, and teaching at the medical center. The same year she was named a Distinguished Alumna of Iowa State University.

In 2021, she received the Alexander Leaf Award from the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids for her contributions to that Society (she is a charter member and served on the board and for an additional 9 years as President-elect, President, and Past President) and her translational studies of lipids in maternal and child nutrition.