Charlotte Roderuck

Charlotte Roderuck’s career at Iowa State spanned nearly forty years as a professor and eventually the director of the World Food Institute. Her dedication to research is clear from her breadth of publication, and she paved the way for future female scientists and researchers at Iowa State. 

Charlotte Roderuck

Charlotte Roderuck, 1983

Roderuck received her undergraduate training in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1940 and completed her master’s work in Organic Chemistry at the State College of Washington (Washington State University) in 1942. Finally, she received her Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa in 1949. On June 22, 1948 Roderuck accepted a position on the Food and Nutrition faculty at Iowa State University from Dr. Pearl Swanson. In 1954 she became a full professor, making $7,100 in salary and benefits during her first year of the promotion. Roderuck not only established herself at Iowa State; in 1961 the American Board of Nutrition declared Roderuck a specialist in Human Nutrition at their annual meeting. Finally, in 1972, Roderuck became a Distinguished Professor in Home Economics at Iowa State University.

Relying on her background in chemistry, Roderuck conducted extensive research on the elements of nutrition, including protein, cholesterol, and the role of fats in nutrition, lecithin, calcium, 4 amino acids, saccharides, vitamin E, folic aid, and vitamin B. She also concentrated her scholarship on children, producing articles that explored the relationship of nutrition to a child’s growth.  One such article explored the effect malnutrition had on learning.

Roderuck’s eminence in nutrition research grew as she traveled extensively around the world.  She consulted the Department of Agriculture of Florida on the evaluation of frozen nine-hundred-calorie formulae, cautioning that obese adolescents eat more than nine hundred calories to avoid nitrogen loss.  She traveled abroad to Lady Irwin College in India in January 1964 and taught at the University of Baroda in India. In June 1974, Roderuck flew to Nigeria, serving as an external examiner and visitor at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.  Finally, she participated in the International Congress of Nutrition in Brazil in May 1978. 

Roderuck not only left her mark both internationally and at Iowa State through her scholarship; she also served in a host of administrative roles.  She served as Assistant Dean of the Graduate College from 1971 to 1972, Assistant Director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station from 1973 to 1975, and an Associate Dean of Home Economic Administration from 1975 to 1978. In 1977 Roderuck became the Director of the World Food Institute at Iowa State University, serving as director until October 31, 1988 when she retired. Under her guidance, the Institute hosted the World Food Conference in 1976.

Perhaps her most lasting legacy as a female faculty member at Iowa State occurred in 1972 when she became one of the first female members of the Osborn Research Club.  Formed on February 16, 1920 and named after Herbert Osborn, the first person to receive a master’s degree from Iowa State College, the club brought together faculty in the sciences to exchange ideas on research problems.  Once a month during the academic year, the club met to hear a research presentation from one of its members or another scientist from the University.  For over fifty years the group strictly rejected the admission of women into its membership. It was not until 1972 that a membership survey showed that while seven members voted to prohibit women from joining the club, fifty-nine members voted to allow women to join.  That year, the club admitted two women, Roderuck and Lois Tiffany, Professor of Botany.  Ten years later, Roderuck became the first female president of the Osborn Research Club.