Stephen D. Hursting, PhD, MPH
Institute Director and Professor of Nutrition
Dr. Hursting is the Director of the NRI and Professor of Nutrition at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis, NC. He is also Professor in the Department of Nutrition and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An international leader in the area of nutrition, obesity, metabolism and cancer, his lab focuses on the molecular and metabolic mechanisms underlying obesity-cancer associations, and the impact of obesity- energy balance modulation (eg, calorie restriction and exercise) or pharmacologic agents on cancer development, progression, and responses to chemotherapy. Learn More
Susan M. Smith, PhD
Professor of Nutrition and Deputy Director for Science
Dr. Susan Smith, Deputy Director for Science, joined the NRI in July 2016 after a long career as Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from UW-Madison and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School in developmental biology. Her research investigates how genes and dietary factors interact to direct fetal outcome in alcohol-exposed pregnancies, and her work uses both animal models and clinical populations. Her work is supported by the National Institutes of Health, where she was a MERIT recipient and currently sits on the NIAAA Advisory Council. Learn More.
Director of Institutional Advancement
Suzanne Dane joined the NRI in May 2014 as Director of Development and Community Outreach. She has provided fundraising, communications, marketing, and programming expertise in Charlotte, NC, at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art as the founding membership and development director, and Blumenthal Performing Arts as program associate and grants manager. Ms. Dane was a writer and editor at the National Main Street Center and program manager at Historic Hotels of America – both programs of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. She has written extensively on topics of architecture and historic preservation, small town economic revitalization, heritage tourism, performing and modern arts, and nutrition research. She is the author of Main Street Success Stories published by the National Trust and five editions of the National Trust Guide to Historic Bed and Breakfasts, Inns, and Small Hotels published by John Wiley and Sons. Her fiction has been published in a short-story anthology. Ms. Dane is a graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.
Assistant Director for Training, Programs and Partnerships
In April 2018, Brandi was promoted to the new position of Assistant Director for Training, Programs and Partnerships. She brings to her new position more than eight years experience in administration and community partnership management, and 11 years of experience at the NRI. She assists Eddie Serrano, Deputy Director of Research Administration, with Institute operations, oversee HR and administrative functions, plan and implement research-related programming, and continue to be the NRI liaison with the NCRC. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Brandi is a native of Kannapolis, where she has chosen to raise her family.
Carol L. Cheatham, PhD
Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience
Dr. Carol L. Cheatham earned her PhD in child psychology and neuroscience in 2004 at the University of Minnesota. She is part of the Institute's brain research team. In addition to her appointment with the NRI, Dr. Cheatham holds an appointment as an associate professor in UNC's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. She has published research on memory recall in pre-term infants, the role of fatty acids in neonatal brains and how stress impacts brain development, as well as other topics. Learn More. Lab Website
Michael Coleman, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition-CH
Michael Coleman, PhD is a cancer biologist and Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research asks the question “how is antitumor immunity regulated by cellular and systemic metabolism?” by integrating cell and tumor biology with systems biology approaches including metabolomics and transcriptomics. He earned his PhD at University College Cork in Ireland and joined the Nutrition Department as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in 2017.
John E. “Jef” French, PhD
Dr. French is Professor of Nutrition at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute, Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Kannapolis, NC and Adjunct Associate Professor, Center for Pharmacogenetics and Individualized Therapy, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, an international leader in the investigation of gene x environment interactions (GEI) using pre-clinical genetically-diverse and genetically-engineered mouse models to discover genetic and epigenetic variants associated with inter-individual differences in metabolism and disease. Learn more.
Rachel Goode, PhD, MPH, LCSW
Assistant Professor of Social Work and Psychiatry
Rachel W. Goode is an Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Goode received her PhD, MPH, and MSW from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include developing, implementing, and evaluating equitable and community-engaged interventions to treat obesity and eating disorders. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Health, National Eating Disorders Association, Magee Womens Research Institute, and the University Research Council at UNC-Chapel Hill. Learn more.
Martin Kohlmeier, MD, PhD
Dr. Kohlmeier joined the NRI in 2010 bringing his expertise in nutritional genetics to anchor the NRI’s mission of advancing knowledge of precision nutrition. He literally wrote the textbook on Nutrient Metabolism. Dr. Kohlmeier serves as faculty and primary investigator, and continues to develop a Precision Nutrition in Medicine (pNIM) course, which is an essential part of the NRI’s mission and vision. He also focuses on current industry-funded clinical studies, continuing his role as lead PI of the Project Baseline Oral Health Study at the NRI. This major study bridges our institute with the UNC Adams School of Dentistry, creating another among the many excellent collaborations NRI faculty have been building over recent years with our colleagues on main campus in Chapel Hill. Learn More.
Natalia Krupenko, PhD
Associate Professor of Nutrition
Natalia Krupenko, PhD, joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in April 2014 as Assistant Professor of Nutrition. She was promoted to Associate Professor of Nutrition with tenure in April 2020. Dr. Krupenko’s research is focuses on the role of folate (vitamin B9) in promoting health and preventing disease in humans. Folate deficiency has been connected with increased risk for neural tube defects, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Recently, however, concerns have been raised regarding the adverse effects of over-supplementation with the vitamin. Dr. Krupenko’s goal is to determine the best ways to utilize health-protective properties of folate and prevent the possibility of its adverse effects in humans. Learn more
Sergey A. Krupenko, PhD
Professor of Nutrition
Sergey A. Krupenko, PhD, joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in 2014. Dr. Krupenko’s research focuses on vitamin folate and its role in liver function and cancer disease. His goal is to understand how we can fight cancer by controlling the diet and nutrient supplements. “There are molecular strings in the human organism, which can be pulled by right combinations of nutrients to activate resistance to tumor formation or to slow down cancer development. We have to identify these links and make them work,” he said. Learn more
Philip May, PhD
Professor of Nutrition
Philip A. May, PhD, joined the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute in 2011 as a Professor of Nutrition. He is an expert in the epidemiology of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Dr. May has conducted extensive research on the epidemiology and risk factors for FASD, including inventories of the population based on traits of children within all four diagnoses of FASD, maternal and paternal alcohol use and abuse, childbearing variables, and maternal health factors such as dietary intake, maternal BMI, childbearing history, alcohol use biomarkers, and socioeconomic status. Learn more.
Katie Meyer, ScD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Dr. Katie Meyer is a nutritional and cardiovascular disease epidemiologist. Her research focuses on diet-related health behaviors and nutritional risk factors for cardiometabolic disease. She is a recent recipient of a Research Scientist Development Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to study the gut microbiome, nutrient metabolites, and cardiovascular disease in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA). Learn more.
Sandra M. Mooney, PhD
Associate Professor of Nutrition
Sandra Mooney, PhD joined the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute in August 2018 as an Associate Professor of Nutrition. Her research program investigates the effect(s) of environment and genes on brain development, with a focus on prenatal alcohol exposure. Current studies use animal models to understand how nutritional needs change after alcohol exposure, thereby increasing the chances that modifying (or personalizing) nutrition will optimize growth and development. Learn more.
Wimal Pathmasiri, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Wimal Pathmasiri, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). An overarching goal of Dr. Pathmasiri’ s research includes understanding the links between exposures (diet, constituents in natural projects, environmental chemicals, drugs), microbial metabolism, and human health. He was worked with the Sumner-Lab for over 12 years, as the director of a technology core for the NIH Common Fund Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core (ERCMRC), and as a co-investigator in the North Carolina Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource Untargeted Analysis Laboratory (NC HHEAR UAL). Learn more.
Blake Rushing, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Blake Rushing, PhD, is an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). Dr. Rushing’s is trained in pharmacology and toxicology, and has experience using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, in vitro model systems, and various biochemical assays to study the interactions between small molecule toxins/drugs with macromolecular targets such as proteins and DNA. He is well versed in using analytical instrumentation to study metabolic products of exogenous small molecule agents and their biological effects. Learn more.
Nipun Saini, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Nipun Saini was promoted to Assistant Professor of Nutrition in December 2023. She joined the NRI in the summer of 2017 for her second postdoctoral position working with Dr. Smith on fetal alcohol syndrome. She completed her PhD. in Biochemistry from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where her dissertation was focused on the characterization of inhibitors of fatty acid transport protein-2 in cell and animal models to reduce obesity, lipotoxicity and related diseases. After earning her PhD, she moved to the North Carolina Research Campus as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at North Carolina Central University and worked on understanding the mechanism of microRNA-mediated regulation in metformin treated breast cancer cells. Saini’s research interest is to understand the metabolic adaptations that occur in the mother and fetus to support a healthy pregnancy, and how maladaptation to stressors such as alcohol, malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes impairs fetal growth and brain development. Eventually, she would like to translate this mechanistic understanding to the development of nutrition-based interventions for at-risk pregnancies.
Susan Sumner, PhD
Professor of Nutrition and Pharmacology
Susan Sumner, PhD is a Professor of Nutrition at UNC Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute (NRI), and the Director of the Metabolomics and Exposome Laboratory (MEL) at UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Sumner is working to make personalized medicine and precision nutrition a reality. Using state-of-the-art metabolomics and exposome technologies, Dr. Sumner’s team determines how molecules that are present in our tissues and biological fluids are associated with states of health and wellness. Learn more.
Deborah Tate, PhD
Professor of Nutrition
Deborah Tate is a professor in the Department of Nutrition. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Health Behavior and a faculty appointment at the Nutrition Research Institute. Dr. Tate is a behavioral scientist, receiving her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Her research focuses on two main areas: (a) strategies for improving both short and long-term body weight regulation to reduce disease risks and (b) the development and translation of programs as alternatives to clinic-based care using digital and wearable technologies.
Isis Trujillo-Gonzalez, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Isis Trujillo-Gonzalez, Ph.D. is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). Her research is focused on mechanisms linking choline status and neurodevelopment in health and disease states. She joined the NRI in 2015 to conduct her postdoctoral research under Steve Zeisel mentoring. She earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Learn more.
Saroja Voruganti, PhD
Associate Professor of Nutrition
Dr. Saroja Voruganti, Associate Professor of Nutrition, is working on building a nationally and internationally recognized research program in nutritional genomics at UNC. A unique field, nutritional genomics seeks to identify genetic susceptibility to diseases, effect of genetic variation on nutrient metabolism and the effect of nutrients on gene expression. She has extensively investigated the interplay between nutritional and genetic factors influencing disease risk in ethnically diverse populations. Learn more.
Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD
Professor of Nutrition and Pediatrics, Founding Director of the NRI
Dr. Zeisel is recognized as an international leader in nutrition research. His team's work established the requirement for choline, a newly recognized essential part of our diet. His work on nutrition and brain development, genetic variation and diet requirements, environment and nutrition, and medical education are supported by grants from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Zeisel directs one of the NIH national centers of excellence in human nutrition research. Learn More. Lab Website
Amira Abdellatef, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, S. Krupenko Lab
Amira A. Abdellatef is currently working as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Sergey A. Krupenko Lab, Nutrition Research Institute (NRI), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Amira completed her Ph.D. in cancer biology and immunology from the Graduate School of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the University of Toyama, Japan in 2021, under the supervision of Prof. Yoshihiro Hayakawa. Before joining NRI, she completed her Research Scholar training at the University of Toyama, Japan, and a postdoctoral appointment at Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI), North Carolina Central University (NCCU), under the mentorship of Prof. Xiaohe Yang. She is a recent recipient of the Award of Female Researchers of the University of Toyama, Japan. Her research project focuses on the function of folate enzymes ALDH1L1 and ALDH1L2 in cellular metabolism and their association with human diseases. Her project utilizes cell culture and mouse models to answer questions about the role of folate metabolizing enzymes and dietary folate in liver and brain functions, tumorigenesis, cancer progression, and metastasis. She has co-authored many peer-reviewed articles and had several poster/oral presentations at international and local conferences. Outside of the academia, she enjoys listening to music, watching movies, walking, swimming, and cooking.
Ramine Alexander, PhD, MPH
Research Project Manager, Goode
Ramine Alexander joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute as Research Project Manager. Dr. Alexander received her Ph.D. and MPH, from Virginia Tech. As an intervention scientist, her research interest includes utilizing Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) to improve lifestyle risk factors (i.e., diet and physical activity) that have a direct relevance to obesity and chronic disease. Through CBPR approaches a primary goal of her work is to involve the voice of the community in the research process to promote intervention sustainability. Dr. Alexander has a passion for building health equity, conducting research on the social determinants of health, and using innovative approaches to communicate science.
Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill
Numair is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he is pursuing a BS in Biology with a minor in Philosophy, with hopes of earning a BSPH in Nutrition. He is a research assistant in Dr. Hursting’s lab at the Gillings School of Public Health and is passionate about cancer research. He hopes to attend medical school and pursue a career as a clinician.
Emmanuel Baah, MD, MPH
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Kohlmeier Lab
Dr. Baah is from Ghana where he practiced medicine before migrating to the United States. He says, "My passion to go into medicine stems from the experiences I had growing up in a small town of about a thousand people with limited access to healthcare. I developed the passion to go into research because I believe it is the driving force to the future of medicine." He graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a Master's in Epidemiology in May 2020. His areas of interest include genetic epidemiology, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics. He currently works with Dr. Martin Kohlmeier to strengthen training programs in precision nutrition, particularly for physicians.
Executive Assistant to the Director
Jenna Baker joined the Nutrition Research Institute in June 2018. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Communication Studies. Jenna joined us from UNC Charlotte where she served as administrative staff for five years within academic departments. She is a native of Concord and currently lives in Kannapolis with her husband. In her spare time she enjoys exercising, traveling or anything outdoors.
Property Security Officer
Jamie joined the NRI as the Property Security Officer in September 2021, and is the person who welcomes our employees and visitors as they enter the building. In his Property Security Officer role, Jamie is tasked with building security, directing human study participants to the appropriate locations, and the central contact for our delivery vendors. Jamie will also assist Facilities with special projects on occasion, and will partner with NCRC Security, NCRC EHS, Kannapolis Police Department, and University resources on campus safety initiatives. Jamie is a retired sergeant from the Kannapolis Police Department, where he served in the Patrol, Criminal Investigation, and Vice Narcotics divisions. Additionally, he served on the agency’s Honor Guard Team and as a negotiator for their Special Response Team. He received numerous commendations and awards during his 30-year career in law enforcement.
Sandra Boucher-Bessent joins the NRI as part of the dental research study being led by the Kohlmeier Team. Sandra graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene and also holds a Master’s Degree in Family and Youth Ministry. She has worked in private dental practices, a naval dental clinic, a hospital dental clinic for indigent and medically compromised populations, Duke University Medical Center’s pediatric dental clinic. She served as the dental program manager for the Cabarrus Health Alliance and was the National Program Director for the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation. She has served as a clinical adjunct professor for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also worked in oral health research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under Dr. Steven Offenbacher in the oral-systemic health link studies for cardiovascular disease and pre-term low birth-weight babies She looks forward to returning to research with the Kohlmeier study.
Research Technician, Sumner Lab
Emily graduated from Catawba College with a Bachelors in Biochemistry and a minor in History in 2023. She is excited to be with the Sumner Lab and looks forward to learning everything that she can. She is a Michigan native that misses the snow but does not miss the cold. In her down time, Emily loves to read, play games, and crochet many different things.
Research Technician, S. Krupenko Lab
Rhyston earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University in December of 2022. Rhyston joined the NRI in July of 2023 working in Dr. Krupenko’s Lab. In his free time, Rhyston enjoys reading, working out, and playing Ultimate Frisbee.
Kalli Brock joined the NRI as part of the Finance Team in 2023. She brings financial and administrative experience from her past position in administration at a local Charlotte eye doctor. Kalli is inspired by the NRI's mission and thrilled to be a valuable part of our team. Outside of work, Kalli is passionate about music and art.
Undergraduate Research Assistant, Goode Lab
Claudia is currently an MPH student in Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her areas of interest include diabetes management, nutrition policies and programs, and the intersection of disordered eating and obesity. She is interested in working on how to reduce health disparities for immigrants, populations of color, and the Hispanic population. She enjoys listening to music, hiking, exploring, and trying out new recipes to share with her friends.
Ana Paola Campos, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Goode Lab
Paola completed her PhD in Social Work at Boston College and a Master in Nutrition at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City. Her research examines risk and protective factors for child malnutrition, and the impact of the social determinants of health on health disparities among underserved populations. Her current research interests have been shaped by a gradual evolution of professional experiences from diverse clinic- and community-based research projects in Mexico, Guatemala, and the U.S. A more recent area of her research focuses on adapting and testing a parenting intervention to prevent child obesity among Hispanic families.
Samantha Carroll, BSN
Human Research Core Lab Manager
Sam has worked in the healthcare field for over 20 years, mostly in pediatrics, but most recently in public health. She received an Associate’s Degree in Nursing from Cabarrus College of Health Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from South University. Sam has lived in Cabarrus County for 15 years, is a self-proclaimed foodie and loves traveling to find new things to eat! She also enjoys cold weather, spending time outdoors with her family, and taking care of her family’s farm animals - alpacas, goats, and chickens.
Technology Support Technician
Walden joined the NRI in September 2015, in the role of Technology Support Technician. He has a passion for all things technology related, and enjoys tinkering and learning about new tech. He comes to the NRI after serving T-Mobile, AT&T, and CompUSA. He is excited to bring that knowledge and passion, as well as a strong desire to help people, to the NRI. Walden is currently attending UNC-Charlotte, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a concentration in Software, Systems, and Networks.
Graduate Research Assistant, Hursting and Voruganti Labs
Angela joined the NRI in August 2022 after graduating from Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, in May 2022 with a Master of Science in Nutrition. Her master’s degree focused on dietetics to become a future registered dietitian. Before completing her graduate studies, Angela gained 20 years of research experience in the pharmaceutical industry by managing first-in-class and first-in-human clinical trials, especially in immuno-oncology therapies. Angela is co-mentored at NRI by Dr. Hursting Dr. Voruganti where her focus is to expand nutrition research into human clinical trials and focus on identifying nutritional and genetic factors that can aid in early disease detection and using the mechanisms of metabolomics for adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment.
Research Technician, Smith Lab
Brendon Coats is currently pursuing a BS in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He started at the NRI as an intern in January of 2022, and now is a Research Technician in the Smith Lab where is excited to gain experience in the research field. He hopes to enroll into graduate school and earn his masters after UNC Charlotte.
Assistant Laboratory Manager, Sumner Lab
Rachel Joined the UNC Chapel Hill NRI in August 2020 as a Research Technician in the Sumner Lab. As a local of Rowan County, specifically China Grove, she graduated from Catawba College in 2020 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. She has always wanted to have some kind of involvement at the NCRC ever since she saw the campus being built as a little girl. Now, her dream has come true. She plans to further her involvement in metabolomics during the admirable times here at the NRI.
In 2009, Shena joined the North Carolina Research Campus as a member of Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. In 2011, she began her professional career in higher education at NRI. Since then, Shena has served at UNC Charlotte and the Town of Davidson. She earned a Bachelor of Science from the College of New Jersey. In 2022, Shena rejoined NRI as Personnel Administrator.
Facilities and Special Projects Coordinator
Ryan Dayvault joined the NRI in May 2008, where he serves as the Assistant to the Deputy Director and Special Projects Coordinator. A native of Kannapolis and 2008 graduate of Catawba College, Ryan holds a B.A. in Political Science with an emphasis in public administration and a minor in business administration. An avid supporter of the efforts at the North Carolina Research Campus, Ryan has served in various capacities throughout the development of this project while in college and maintaining his residency in Kannapolis.
Doctoral Student, Hursting Lab-CH
Emily began working at UNC Chapel Hill in August 2019 as a doctoral student. She is studying the metabolic links between obesity and ferroptosis in breast cancer under the mentorship of Dr. Hursting. Prior to her time in Chapel Hill, Emily attended UC Berkeley where she graduated with a degree in Molecular Toxicology.
Lydia Goss Dooley, RD
Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab
Lydia joined the NRI with Dr. Voruganti’s lab in August 2022 and is looking forward to contributing to the body of knowledge in the field of nutrition. Lydia graduated from the University of Tennessee with a BS in Nutrition in 2017. She completed a Dietetic Internship with Lenoir-Rhyne University and earned her RD credential in the summer of 2019. Lydia worked as a clinical dietitian while pursuing her MS in Nutrition, graduating from the University of Alabama in the summer of 2021. In her spare time, Lydia enjoys spending time with her husband and dog in the great outdoors.
IT Support Technician
Gavin joined the IT team at NRI to explore his interests in information technology, and plans to attend UNC Charlotte where he’ll pursue a degree in Computer Science with a focus in game design, alongside a minor in creative writing. Gavin is passionate about Computer Science and hopes to learn as much as he can from his new position at the NRI.
Student Research Assistant, Sumner Lab
Isabella joined the Sumner Lab as a student intern in 2023. She is an undergraduate student pursuing a BSPH in the Nutrition program through the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, as well as a minor in Chemistry. As Isabella aims to attend medical school following her undergraduate career, she is eager to learn from Dr. Sumner and her team. In Isabella’s free time she enjoys running, baking, and crafting
George Flentke, PhD
Research Scientist, Smith Lab
George Flentke received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his dissertation focused on the structure and catalytic activity of the enzyme UDP-galactose-4-epimerase, which is crucial for galactose metabolism. His postdoctoral research in Biochemistry and Pharmacology at Tufts University / New England Medical School focused on the design of inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase enzymes, which control immune function and HIV infection. After returning to UW-Madison he continued working with the immunosupressives cyclosporine and rapamycin. He is an experienced enzymologist/protein chemist and synthetic organic chemist. Currently, he manages Dr. Smith’s lab, where he investigates the mechanism by which alcohol alters ribosomal signaling and mTOR activity in alcohol-exposed neural crest.
Graduate Student, S. Krupenko Lab
Halle earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Minor in Anthropology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in May 2020. After moving to Charlotte, Halle joined the NRI in August 2020 as a Research Technician in Dr. Sergey Krupenko’s Lab, where she studies the role of folate in liver function and cancer disease. Halle plans to further her education in the research field within the next couple of years.
Research Specialist, Trujillo Lab
Walter Friday, a Kannapolis native, recently returned to Cabarrus County to get married. He is a 2010 graduate of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College with an AAS in Biotechnology. He is pleased to be working at the Nutrition Research Institute as a research technician. He enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, and traveling.
Emilio Salazar Garduno
Clinical Research Coordinator, Voruganti Lab
Emilio graduated from UNC Charlotte with a BA in Biology in 2023. He has worked as a phlebotomist for two years. He passionate about bridging healthcare gaps and expanding medical access to underrepresented communities (sexual/ethnic minorities). He also an advocate and promoter of higher education. He volunteers for RAO Community Health in Charlotte, NC (a non-profit committed to providing support and prevention services for those living with HIV) and the Rowan County Literacy Council (works to enhance literacy and life skills of adults, youth, and families). He hopes to become a PA, interested in the fields of infectious diseases, internal medicine, and dermatology. In his free time, I enjoy, running, traveling, and trying new foods!
Marketing Asset Manager
Brooke Giles is a 2011 graduate of Campbell University. She recently rejoined the NRI as the Marketing Asset Manager in the Institutional Advancement office. She previously served the NRI as a Communications Specialist from 2014-2017. Brooke is responsible for a variety of communication media to stimulate interest in research, programs, events, and activities conducted by the NRI. She develops original content and suggests creative ways to attract more audiences and supporters, and promotes our brand with the goal of increasing traffic to NRI digital properties for public and donor engagement and event attendance.
Elaine (Elle) Glenny, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill
Elle completed her PhD at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill under the supervision of Dr. Ian Carroll where she investigated the consequences of severe calorie restriction on intestinal stem cell function and potential interactions of the gut microbiota. To further delineate dietary regulation of intestinal epithelial cell function, Elle has remained at UNC-Chapel Hill where she is now working with Drs. Stephen Hursting and Jatin Roper (Duke University) to investigate adipose-derived inflammatory factors that may drive colorectal tumor progression in obesity.
Graduate Student, N. Krupenko Lab
Madeline joined the NRI in March 2019 and began her doctoral studies in fall 2020. She completed her undergraduate program at the University of Alabama, where she graduated in 2018 with a major in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Spanish. Madeline works with Dr. Natalia Krupenko to research the role of folate in promoting human healthy and preventing disease.
Research Dental Hygienist, Kohlmeier Lab
Neplus Hall joined the NRI in February 2022 as part of a new dental research study being led by the Kohlmeier Team. She has her dental assisting certification, is a certified emergency medical technician, and has an AAS in dental hygiene. She enjoys serving her dental community through prevention, dental therapy, and maintaining exceptional oral care. She is excited to embrace her journey into research. Neplus is very active in her church, enjoys teaching CPR, kayaking, and gardening.
Project Coordinator, Goode Lab
Tyisha Harper joined UNC Nutrition Research Institute in December 2021 as a Project Coordinator in the Goode Lab. She is originally for Milwaukee, WI and relocated to the Charlotte area with her new husband. She is excited to learn and develop her research career here. Tyisha likes to travel, go bowling, and spend lots of quality time with her family. Tyisha is motivated by spiritual affirmations and her favorite one is Psalm 46:5, “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”
Carolyn Harris rejoined the NRI on November 8, 2022 as Special Assistant with NRI’s Human Resources. In 2007, she joined the NRI as executive assistant to Institute Director, Steven Zeisel . She retired in 2018. Her previous work experience includes office management/administration and human resources within the Department of Defense and private sector organizations. In addition to her part-time employment, Carolyn spends her time traveling, trying various exercise programs, reading and volunteering with non-profit organizations. She is a graduate of Montreat College.
Julie Hasken, PhD, MPH
Research Associate, May Lab
Julie joined the NRI in 2012 as a Project Manager for Dr. Philip May focusing on the prevalence, child characteristics, and maternal risk factors of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in the United States and South Africa. She earned her doctorate from the UNC-CH Department of Nutrition in 2021 and is now a postdoctoral research associate with Dr. May. Julie earned her BS in Health Science from Truman State University and a Masters in Public Health, with a concentration in Health Education and Health Behavior, from UNC-CH. Julie is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.
Laboratory Technician, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill
Alyssa joined the Hursting Lab in May 2018 working at the NRI as a summer undergraduate research assistant. She then joined the Hursting Lab in Chapel Hill where her work focuses on targeting metabolic pathways through pharmacological and chemotherapeutic interventions to improve triple-negative breast cancer therapy. She obtained both her BSPH in Nutrition in May 2020 and her MS in Nutrition in May 2021 from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is now working as a Research Technician in the Hursting Lab and hopes to attend medical school in the future.
David Horita, PhD
Scientific Grant Writer
David Horita joined the NRI in 2013 as a grant writer. He assists faculty by identifying funding opportunities and writing/editing research proposals. David developed research and writing experience in metabolism and cell signaling during his 13 years as a faculty member in Biochemistry at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He did postdoctoral work at the NCI/NIH and obtained a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and a BA in chemistry from Carleton College.
Yanping Huang, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab
Yanping Huang is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Dr. Susan Smith’s Lab. She is from China where she earned her PhD degree. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and running.
Dental Research Assistant, Kohlmeier Lab
Chris joined the Nutrition Research Institute as a research assistant in February 2022 and brings over 20 years of professional experience to the NRI team. He holds degrees in Project Management and Software Development and is a U.S. Army veteran. As a native of Kannapolis, Chris strives to make a difference in his community. He has a deep appreciation for the city’s roots and is excited to be part of its future growth.
Sherry Irvin, LPN
Medical Laboratory Technician
Sherry has worked in the healthcare field for over 25 years as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Most of that time was spent in Internal Medicine. She is a graduate of Rowan Cabarrus Community College. She has lived in Kannapolis most of her adult life. She enjoys vacationing with her family and spending time outside.
Scott Jaworski joined the NRI in May 2008, where he serves as the Applications Analyst and IT Consultant. Scott brings years of experience in the University IT field, having worked in the IT Technical Support field both as a student and staff member at UNC Charlotte, where he graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science in 2001.
Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab
Faustina hails from south India. She completed her BS, in plant biotechnology from Stella Maris College in Chennai, India and her MS in biotechnology from Sathyabama University in Chennai, India. She eventually moved to US for her husband’s job and joined Rowan Cabarrus Community College to find a door that would lead to a career in research. She joined the Voruganti lab as an intern from RCCC in January 2019 and is now a PhD candidate in the same lab. Faustina is excited to be a part of NRI and the remarkable research that is happening here. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the beaches and mountains of the Carolinas with her husband and kids.
Research Technician, Voruganti Lab
Ketan went to school at East Carolina University, but grew up nearby in Concord, NC. He majored in Neuroscience and has previously worked in microbiology labs at ECU’s Dental School. Ketan wants to pursue a career in academia and perhaps pharmaceuticals. He loves working in labs and in his time at NRI he hopes to pick up new techniques and expand his repertoire. In the near future, he also hopes to learn more about genetic data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the cognitive processes that power them. In his free time, Ketan enjoys exploring Charlotte, which he describes as a vibrant city.
Shuttle Driver, Facilities Team
Martin grew up in Kannapolis and fell in love with this community, graduating from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College with an associate’s degree in science with a concentration in environmental biology. His interests include philosophy, history, cooking, video games. And raising his hens! As a local, Martin’s also an expert in the great debate between Sun Drop and Cheerwine! When you see him, ask which he prefers!
Community Health Outreach Coordinator, Goode Lab
Myneesha King is excited to join the team as the new Social/Clinical Research Specialist. Myneesha is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University’s Professional Theatre Department. Her background includes Education, Social Services, Pilot Program Management and Human Resources. Myneesha taught middle and high school theatre in both Charlotte Mecklenburg and Cabarrus County Schools. Her passion remains for community outreach and the development of underserved populations. Myneesha enjoys spending time with her family and exploring cultural events in her spare time.
Research Assistant, Tate Lab
Addison joined the NRI in December 2023 as a research technician for All of Us (AoU) and Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH). While growing up in Hickory, NC, Addison developed a love for science in medicine, leading her to graduate from NCSU in 2023 with a BS in Human Biology. Addison hopes to continue onto PA school one day but is excited to gain clinical lab experience at NRI. Outside of work and school, Addison enjoys playing with her schnauzer, crocheting, and cooking.
Monia joined the NRI in September 2021 as a member of the Finance and Grants team. She graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a bachelor of science degree in Marketing. Monia is excited to be part of the team at NRI. In her spare time, Monia enjoys reading, photography, and painting.
Business Services Coordinator
Pang joined the NRI in January 2023 as a Human Resource intern. She did her undergraduate at Meredith College in 2010 and earned a Bachelor’s in International Studies with a minor in Dance. She decided on a career change and has a planned graduation date of October 2023 with a AAS in Human Resource Management from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. In her free time, she is an avid reader and loves taking long walks with her dog
Anju Lulla, PhD
Research Associate, Meyer Lab
Anju Lulla, PhD joined the NRI as a Research Associate in August 2018. She received her Phd from St. John’s University, NY, in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a focus in pharmacology. Prior to joining NRI, Anju was a research assistant at UNC Charlotte in the Bioinformatics Department. She brings with her expertise in bioinformatics and statistical analyses of genomic and microbiome data. She is working with Dr. Katie Meyer to study associations between nutritional metabolites, gut microbiome and cardiovascular health.
Research Assistant, Tate Lab
Katherine "Kate" Machen received her Bachelor of Science degree with a Cell and Molecular Biology concentration and a Chemistry minor from Appalachian State University in 2019. The following fall, her studies continued with neurobiology research as a master's student at Appalachian State University. In May 2022, Kate graduated from the graduate program, receiving a Master of Science degree. As a constant learner, she has recently taken a research assistant position at the NRI to expand her knowledge and interest in all things biological.
Chrysa Mahoney, MS, RD, LDN
Research Assistant, Tate Lab
Chrysa Mahoney is a Research Assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). She joined the NRI in 2023 to work with Dr. Tate on the All of Us (AoU) Research Program and the Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH) study supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Chrysa has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of therapeutic areas and especially enjoyed working on therapies for T2DM and obesity.
Graduate Student, Hursting Lab-CH
Hannah received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Exercise from Virginia Tech in May 2018. She is currently a MPH-Nutrition student at Gillings and works in the Hursting Lab. Hannah is excited to research the impact of obesity and chronic disease on metabolism. In her free time, Hannah likes to spend time outside and bake desserts.
Research Specialist, Voruganti Lab
Baba graduated from Gambia College School of Education with an AS in science and mathematics. He taught Junior Secondary School science for three years before migrating to the U.S. to pursue higher education. Baba joined the Voruganti lab as a student intern from RCCC before officially joining the team as research technician in July 2015.
Research Assistant, Goode Lab
Katherine is a recent graduate of North Carolina State University, where she studied social work. As an undergraduate, she engaged in research surrounding burnout and vicarious trauma; she is excited to join Dr. Goode’s lab as a research assistant. Katherine is passionate about increasing healthcare equity, social justice, and individual and community well-being, and she hopes to pursue a career engaging in research around disordered eating. In her free time, Katherine enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and playing guitar.
Jonathan, a local resident, joined the NRI in late July 2021. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry and a Minor in Health and Society from UNC Chapel Hill in May 2021.
Research Technician, Mooney Lab
Madison joined the Nutrition Research Institute in early Fall of 2020, transferring from the NCSU Plants for Human Health Institute to complete an internship as part of her education and training. As a local of Rowan County Madison went to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and graduated with an Associate’s degree in Biotechnology. Their Work-Based Learning program is what led Madison to the Mooney lab where she hopes to refine her skillset before pursuing a Master’s degree in Microbiology or Ecology. Madison is thrilled for the opportunity the Mooney Lab presents in her early research career.
Susan McRitchie, MA, MS
Program Manager, Sumner Lab
Susan McRitchie, MA/MS has over 10 years of experience conducting biostatistics in the field of metabolomics, and has over 15 years of experience using biostatistics in clinical and epidemiology investigations. She is the lead biostatistician and program manager for the NIH Common Fund Metabolomics and Clinical Assay Center (PI, Susan Sumner) for the Nutrition for Precision Health study, for the NIEHS Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource program (MPI, Sumner/Du/Fennell), and for the Metabolomics and Exposome Laboratory at the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute (Director, Sumner). In these roles, she participates in working groups of the NIH consortium involving data management, data quality, and omics analysis, and leads data analysis. She has trained over 20 students, postdoctoral fellows, early career and senior faculty to conduct statistical and multivariate analysis in metabolomics investigations. Susan McRitchie earned a MA in mathematics from UCLA and a MS in Biostatistics from UNC Chapel Hill.
Food Services Supervisor, Café
Tim is currently the Research Chef for the University of North Carolina metabolic kitchen in Kannapolis. He also is the Food Service Supervisor for the Lettuce Eat Café at the Nutrition Research Institute. He brings more than 30 years’ experience in food service and nutrition to our team. Tim is a local resident who relocated to the area after a successful career in the resort hospitality industry. Since returning to the area, he has been the Executive Chef of The Club at Irish Creek and was the owner of Chef’s Choice Gourmet Pastries. In 2014 he was provided the opportunity to work with the University of North Carolina to offer personalized nutrition. His passion for nutrition is evident in the food he creates.
Assistant Laboratory Manager, Sumner Lab
Sabrina graduated from UNC Charlotte with a degree in biology, working in a bioinformatics lab during her time there. She began as a student intern in the Sumner lab and is now working as the Assistant Laboratory Manager. She is very excited to continue working with all the amazing people at the NRI. In her spare time, Sabrina enjoys cooking, kayaking, fishing, and dirt biking.
Bryan Munoz, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, S. Krupenko Lab
Bryan Munoz joined the S. Krupenko lab in February 2022 as a postdoctoral research associate. Dr. Munoz attended EARTH University in Costa Rica majoring in Agricultural Sciences, then continued his graduate career at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and North Carolina State University, where he earned his doctoral degree in Nutrition and Horticultural Sciences. Dr. Munoz has worked with plants his entire life, and is interested in learning new techniques in molecular biology and animal models in his appointment in the S. Krupenko lab.
Research Specialist, Mooney Lab
Carolyn Munson graduated in 2015 from Rowan Cabarrus Community College with an AAS in biotechnology. She is working as a research technician in the Surzenko Lab at the NRI. Much of her work is directed by Dr. Natalia Surzenko performing immunohistochemistry work.
Undergraduate Research Assistant, Goode Lab
Wehazit Mussie is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying Medical Anthropology on a Pre-Dental track in hopes of becoming a pediatric dentist. She serves as a Research Assistant in Dr. Goode’s lab where she can contribute to research that she is truly passionate about regarding issues that have long been underrepresented for people of color. Wehazit enjoys making pottery, practicing yoga, and reading in her spare time.
Policy and Procedure Writer, HRC
Michelle Nanney joined the Human Research Core of the NRI in 2023 as a Policy and Procedure Writer. Her past experience includes clinical trial process improvement, manufacturing process management & operations, ISO 9001 quality development, and technical writing. Her educational background includes a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University along with an MBA and MS in Strategic Management from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Kendra Lynn Nelson, MPH, RD
Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab
Kendra joined the Voruganti Lab at the NRI in August 2019 where they focus on the role of nutrition and genetics in obesity and cognitive decline. In May 2016 they received their undergraduate degree in Nutrition from Southern Utah University. There they conducted research focusing on the accuracy of consumer fitness trackers and their value as an assessment tool in dietetics practice and future nutrition research. Kendra worked as a public health sanitarian prior to attending UNC's MPH/RD program from which they graduated in December 2019, earning their registered dietitian credentials shortly afterward.
Events and Programs Coordinator
Carsyn graduated from Wingate University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in biology. After returning to North Carolina, she joined the NRI as a Lab Animal Coordinator in the Cheatham Lab. She conducted research on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure when coupled with choline and DHA supplementation. Now Carsyn is the NRI's Event and Programs Coordinator working closely with the Advancement team.
Evan Paules, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab
Evan Paules joined the NRI in August 2016 as a doctoral student under the mentorship of Dr. Zeisel. Following his graduation, Evan joined the lab of Dr. Hursting where he is now a postdoctoral researcher. Evan is currently investigating the determinants of heterogenic responses to dietary interventions in individuals. Evan attended Rider University where he graduated with a double major in Biochemistry and Behavioral Neuroscience. He was also a member of Rider University’s Division 1 swim team for all four years while he attended Rider.
Betty has served Lettuce Eat Café customers with a positive attitude and a smile since joining the NRI in 2016! She is a career service industry professional. Betty is a North Carolina native, growing up in the eastern part of the state, then raising her family locally. In her spare time, Betty enjoys classic titles from her extensive movie collection, and enjoying time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren!
Graduate Student, Mooney Lab
Hannah obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and Dietetics in May 2022 from Texas Tech University. She joined the NRI and began her doctoral studies in Fall 2022. She works in the Mooney Lab to research fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Research Technician, Mooney Lab
Nathan graduated from UNC at Greensboro in May 2023 with a BS in Psychology and a Minor in Statistics. He is from Gold Hill, NC and has family from Kannapolis. Nathan is excited to join Dr. Mooney’s lab and to learn all that he can during his time at the NRI. In his free time, he enjoys gardening, spending time with his dogs, and kayaking.
Research Technician, S. Krupenko Lab
David Raines graduated from The College of Wooster in May 2014 with a bachelor’s in biology. He’s very excited to be working as a laboratory technician in Sergery Krupenko’s lab. David enjoys spending his free time outdoors herping for reptiles and amphibians; hiking, and backpacking.
Recruitment Assistant/Chamber Monitor
Molly has many interests. She is a foodie and enjoy trying new dishes. She likes to travel and tends to focus on the museums, architecture, and of course the food. Molly's hobby umbrella covers things she can create using fabric, yarn, embroidery floss, or paint. She also loves reading and watching movies. Her Netflix watch list is a mile long and her Kindle queue stays full!
Research Technician, Hursting Lab - NRI
Ariana joined the NRI in November 2021 as a research technician in the Hursting lab. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2021 with a BS in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Health and Society. She's excited to work as a research technician and gain lab experience. In her free time, Ariana enjoys playing video games and creating art.
Lab Manager, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill
Research Assistant, Cheatham Lab
Mandi graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY in May 2023 with a BA in Neuroscience with a Biology Emphasis and a Minor in Sociology. Originally from New Holland, PA, she is excited to be living in warmer weather and to have the opportunity to work in the Cheatham Lab. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exercising, staying in touch with her friends and family, and is learning to crochet.
Research Technician, Goode Lab
Julian is a Kannapolis native who is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Religious Studies. He is a Chancellor's Science Scholar and worked at the NRI as an undergraduate. Julian is a research assistant in Dr. Goode's lab where he is engaging in qualitative research around eating disorders and engaging in the community. He is interested in exploring a possible career in research, but would like to go to medical school to become a pediatric oncologist. Some of Julian's interests include reading, riding motorcycles, hiking, and being a positive impact.
Tim joined the NRI as our Morning Shuttle Driver after retiring from a 26-year career at the Kannapolis Police Department. He worked in community policing, vice narcotics, and criminal investigations during his tenure there. As a native of Columbia, Missouri, Tim has lived in Kannapolis for 28 years. He served our country in the US Navy for 11 years including deployment to Beirut, and in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In his spare time, Tim runs an average of 3-4 miles every day. He works part time at the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers Stadium, greeting guests and providing customer service to all who attend games, he is excited about serving our community at the NRI as well!
Hansuk Ryu, MD, PhD
Visiting Scholar, S. Krupenko Lab
Hansuk Ryu joined the S. Krupenko lab in September 2023 as a visiting scholar. Dr Hansuk earned a Bachelor of Medicine at Hanyang University in South Korea. He received his doctoral degree from Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea. He is a pathologist and plans to work with cancer and metabolism in Dr. Sergey Krupenko’s Lab
Clinical Study Coordinator
Tom Sawyer joined the CRC in May 2023 as a Clinical Study Coordinator. He earned an AAS in Medical Laboratory Technology from Central Piedmont Community College and worked for 5 years in immunotherapy cancer research. He is excited to move into nutrition research and gain new experiences.
Jon Shea joined the Nutrition Research Institute in the summer of 2017. He is a graduate of UNC Charlotte’s Bioinformatics Master's program. He has worked in several areas in the NRI including project manager, study coordinator, lab manager, and research core administration before settling into the Finance team as a Budget Analyst.
Jorge Silva-Gomez, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Trujillo Lab
Jorge Antonio Silva-Gomez earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in Medicine and Human Nutrition at the University of Guadalajara. He conducted research on cell signaling related to carcinogenesis, chronic inflammatory processes for cancer development, and the impact of unbalanced dietary patterns in fatty acids. He is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the NRI with Dr. Isis Trujillo, investigating the effects of choline on neurodevelopmental disorders. In his spare time, he enjoys running and exercising
George Slebioda, a resident of North Carolina since 1989, moved here to work for Turf Grass Construction and Management for River Run C.C. in Davidson, NC. Retiring from sales in 2019, George has been working part-time for the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers as the mower operator for their ballfield. He also works part-time for the Swanee Theater in downtown Kannapolis. He enjoys casual bike riding several days a week, along with the outdoors, old cars, and old music.
Graduate Research Assistant, Meyer
Jessie received her BS in Chemistry with a minor in Biology from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2020. She continued her education in the online Masters of Public Health program in Nutrition at UNC, which she completed in 2022. In the fall of 2022, Jessie began her doctoral studies under the guidance of Dr. Katie Meyer. In her free time Jessie enjoys working out, going out to eat, reading, and watching reality TV.
Project Manager, Tate Lab
Julie joined the NRI in 2009 with Dr. Carol Cheatham’s Nutrition & Cognition Lab where she helped launch some of the first human studies completed on the NCRC. In her time with the NRI, she has had the pleasure of working with Dr. Philip May on his Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) research and founding director, Dr. Steven Zeisel, on his choline biomarker study. She has coordinated studies with babies, toddlers, school age children, and adults. Julie earned a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications and a Masters in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Julie is currently working on multiple projects, including the Nutrition for Precision Health study. After living in Chapel Hill, Boston, Niger, and Asheville, Julie is a returned Kannapolis native who has enjoyed watching the area’s residents grow and learn in partnership with the research being conducted.
Research Assistant, Hursting Lab-CH
Ashlee is a medical student at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine and is pursuing a scholarly concentration in nutrition. She recently joined Dr. Hursting's lab to study obesity-cancer associations and how these translate to a clinical setting. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and creating recipes for her food blog, running, road biking, traveling to new places and cheering on the Tar Heels! Ashlee is from Lenoir, NC and completed her BS in Biology at UNC Chapel Hill.
Sai Sravani Vennam
Research Associate, Voruganti Lab
Sai Sravani Vennam is from the southern part of India. She joined the Voruganti Lab in March 2023. She completed her master's degree in bioinformatics and genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which has provided her with a deep understanding of biological systems and their complexities. She is currently working as a Research Associate in the Voruganti Lab at NRI, where she is able to put her knowledge into practice. Her work involves utilizing computational tools and techniques to analyze and interpret complex biological data, with a focus on understanding disease mechanisms and developing innovative treatment strategies. She describes herself as a committed and passionate professional who is determined to enhance the fields of bioinformatics and genomics through cutting-edge research and innovative concepts.
Craig joined the NRI in 2016 as our shuttle driver, assisting our students, faculty, and staff with necessary travel between Kannapolis and Chapel Hill. A native of Concord, he is proud to work at the NRI and help in its mission. Craig also helps the NRI with our front desk duties and setting up conference rooms for meetings. In addition, drawing from his background in food preparation within the healthcare industry, Craig lends a hand in our Lettuce Eat Café from time-to-time. He is a valued member of our team, who is always smiling and always willing to help out our visitors and colleagues
Research Technician, Smith Lab
Thomas is from Chattanooga, TN. He graduated in May 2022 from Grove City College with a BS in Biochemistry.
Rebecca Witkowski, RN
Medical Laboratory Specialist
Rebecca is an RN with almost 30 years of experience in nursing, including 13 years coordinating and managing clinical trials for a community cancer center, and six years of performing quality assurance for cancer registry data submitted to the state registry. She is excited to be a part of the research going on at the NRI and to work with participants in the Human Research Core.
Student Research Assistant, Sumner
Braden Yorke is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pursuing a degree in Nutrition Science and Research. Braden is an intern in Dr. Sumner’s lab at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute where he hopes to explore the field and learn as much as possible.