CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has named Emily Ho and Yanyun Zhao as its 2023 University Distinguished Professor recipients, the highest academic honor the university bestows on faculty.

Ho is professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and director of the Linus Pauling Institute. Her research addresses nutritional approaches to chronic disease and preventing cancer. Zhao is a professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences whose research focuses on sustainable food packaging.

“Professors Ho and Zhao are outstanding examples of OSU’s impact across Oregon and globally,” said Ed Feser, OSU provost and executive vice president. “It’s a pleasure to recognize their excellence in research, teaching and mentoring students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and public engagement and service.”

Ho and Zhao will deliver lectures about their research on May 24 at the Memorial Union on the OSU Corvallis campus. The lectures will also be livestreamed.

Ho’s research helped lead to current knowledge of how nutritional status affects the susceptibility of individuals to oxidative stress, inflammation, DNA damage and cancer risk.

Her main areas of current research are dietary influences on cancer development and the function of zinc across human’s lifespan. She has discovered that dietary compounds, especially those found in traditional Asian diets, such as soy, teas and cruciferous vegetables, can reduce prostate and breast cancer development. She has discovered that deficits in zinc intake have a major impact on an individual’s susceptibility to DNA damage and risk for developing cancer.

She and her team have published nearly 50 scientific articles examining the effects of a broccoli component (sulforaphane) in preventing prostate cancer.

Since arriving at Oregon State in 2003, Ho has received more than 25 federal and foundation grants totaling more than $22 million, including awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.

Zhao is an internationally recognized researcher whose work aims to reduce the food industry’s dependence on single use plastic packaging. Her patented and licensed edible coating technique has had a broad impact in agriculture and the food industry, especially in reducing food loss and waste.

In 25 years at Oregon State, she has advised more than 40 graduate students, 14 postdoctoral scholars and about 20 undergraduate students and interns. She has received $23.5 million from grants and contracts to support her research, which has resulted in her being granted 12 patents.  

She is also associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Agricultural Sciences and an OSU Extension Service value-added food products specialist.

Since 1988, the university has awarded the title of University Distinguished Professor to current OSU faculty members who have achieved national and international distinction for their contributions in research and creative work, teaching and mentoring, public engagement and service.

General OSU

About Oregon State University: As one of only three land, sea, space and sun grant universities in the nation, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 36,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport, OSU Portland Center and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.

Story By: 

Sean Nealon, 541-737-0787, [email protected]


Emily Ho, [email protected] and Yanyun Zhao, [email protected]


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