Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Ph.D.

Jen Smilowitz

Position Title
Associate Director of Human Studies Research Program Foods for Health Institute



  1. Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California Davis, 2008-2012
  2. Ph.D., University of California Davis, 2008
  3. Business Development Program, University of California Davis, 2006
  4. Bachelor's Degree, University of California Los Angeles, 2001


Dr. Smilowitz is the Associate Director of the Human Studies Research Program for the Foods for Health Institute at UC Davis. She holds a doctoral degree in Nutritional Biology with an emphasis in Endocrinology from the University of California Davis. During her Ph.D. program, Dr. Smilowitz discovered metabolic phenotypes associated with changes in body composition in a large-multi-center trial and designed and executed several human studies studying specific lipid metabolic pathways and the inflammation cascade. 

Since 2008, Dr. Smilowitz studied the inter- and intra-individual variation of complex molecules in breast milk; the influence of maternal diet, lifestyle, genetics and health on milk bioactive molecules; and their effects in the infant. The discovery of oligosaccharides in breast milk, their variation across lactation and among women and the specific bacteria within the infant gut that is shaped by these sugars has proven to be a highly valuable model to understand the role of diet in building and guiding the human microbiota for all ages. Dr. Smilowitz’s contribution to this research stemmed from the human studies she designed and executed that led to the collection of thousands of samples and health information from hundreds of mother-infant dyads that were used to make these discoveries.

Dr. Smilowitz’s education, training and the research program she has built over the past eight years have led her to the conclusion that improving the human condition starts with the health of babies. The first 1000 days—from pregnancy through a child’s 2nd birthday--is a critical period in life when nutrition largely influences long-lasting health. Diet and lifestyle during these early stages of life have long-term consequences to human health and the breadth of individual potential. Dr. Smilowitz’s research has been widely translational and she is currently conducting three intervention trials involving the supplementation of Bifidobacterium infantis in pregnant women, and breastfed newborn and older infants.