Science is full of "aha moments." This is one scientist's approach to finding them.Faculty Feature: Get to Know Dr. Eric Ravussin

Released: Thursday, April 19, 2018

Everybody loves a good "aha moment."

To find those moments, Dr. Eric Ravussin encourages scientists to seek answers to questions they feel hold uncharted answers. A scientist cannot be afraid of the unknown, he said. Rather, the unknown should be inspiration for finding those curveball discoveries.

One major query continues to drive Ravussin’s research: Why do some people naturally burn more energy than others?

The easy answer is genetics, but Ravussin strives to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the phenomenon of human metabolism. Much of his work revolves around determining differences among people in energy expenditure, fat burning and why some people develop diabetes with obesity while others don’t.

Hailing from Lausanne, Switzerland, Dr. Ravussin is one of today’s most renowned and respected researchers for his work related to obesity, type 2 diabetes and human metabolism.

"We are not just scientists. We are entrepreneurs," he said. "This career is about being creative and developing new ideas to overcome the health challenges that are facing your society."
- Dr. Eric Ravussin

Dr. Ravussin has attracted more than $65 million in research grants and contracts, become a Boyd Professor in the LSU system, published more than 460 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and mentored more than 60 postdoctoral fellows.

He is Associate Executive Director for Clinical Science at Pennington Biomedical and oversees the metabolic chambers, a research core that assesses energy output in people. In other words, a metabolic chamber can tell a person how many calories they’re burning in relation to how many they’re consuming.

Ravussin’s work includes impressive breakthroughs in human physiology, including how genetics influence metabolism, the major determinants of energy expenditure, and the positive effects of long-term calorie restriction.

Despite Ravussin’s long list of accomplishments, his major pride and happiness lie in his mentees. Even after earning a lifetime achievement award, Ravussin credits his postdoctoral fellows for much of his success.

"It isn’t the studies I’ve done or the discoveries I’ve made that will ultimately make a difference," Ravussin said. "It is the young scientists I have mentored that will eventually change the world."

After nearly 20 years at Pennington Biomedical, Dr. Ravussin said the center has shown tremendous growth in facilities and employees as well as in creativity and entrepreneurship.

"This is a unique place, because under one roof we have all the different facets of knowledge about obesity research," Ravussin said. "With outstanding facilities and exceptional equipment, we are an avenue for phenomenal research."

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