Directory

Leadership

Stephen D. Hursting, PhD, MPH : Institute Director and Professor of Nutrition

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

hursting@email.unc.edu
Susan M. Smith, PhD : Professor of Nutrition and Deputy Director for Science

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.

susan_smith@unc.edu
Eddie Serrano : Deputy Director, Research Business and Operations

Eddie Serrano

Deputy Director, Research Business and Operations

Eddie joined the NRI in March 2018 as the Deputy Director of Research Business and Operations. Eddie has over eighteen years working in academic research administration supplemented with operational leadership experience, in depth knowledge of eRA systems, and a strong research compliance perspective. Eddie joined us from Huron Consulting Group and was fortunate to work at many top universities and hospitals on interim staffing positions and transformational projects during his time as a consultant.  These engagements have proven to be invaluable opportunities which have molded him into well-rounded research administration professional.  Eddie received his Masters of Science in Information Systems Engineering at Florida International University.

eduardo_serrano@unc.edu
Suzanne Dane : Director of Development and Community Outreach

Suzanne Dane

Director of Development and Community Outreach

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.

suzanne_dane@unc.edu
Brandi Childers : Assistant Director for Training, Programs and Partnerships

Brandi Childers

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.

brandi_childers@unc.edu

Faculty

Ximena Bustamante-Marin, PhD : Assistant Professor, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Ximena Bustamante-Marin, PhD

Assistant Professor, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Dr. Bustamante-Marin earned her PhD in Biological Sciences with mention in Physiology from Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. After completing a Research Scholar training at Duke University and a postdoctoral appointment in the Cystic fibrosis Department at UNC, Dr. Bustamante-Marin joined the Gillings School’s Department of Nutrition in July 2019 as a Research Assistant Professor. Her research focuses on comprehending the effects of obesity on the function of the primary cilium in breast cancer cells and the consequences of the enrichment of cilia on the tumor microenvironment, metabolic reprogramming, and metastatic potential. She is also investigating the impact of obesity on the composition of extracellular vesicles derived from mammary tumors, and how the content of extracellular vesicles can modify metabolic pathways. Understanding the effects of obesity on the function of the primary cilium and in the composition of extracellular vesicles could generate opportunities for early detection and clinical interventions during breast cancer development.

xmbmarin@med.unc.edu
Carol L. Cheatham, PhD : Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience

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

carol_cheatham@unc.edu
John E. “Jef” French, PhD : Professor, Nutrition

John E. “Jef” French, PhD

Professor, Nutrition

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.

jfren43@email.unc.edu
Rachel Goode, PhD, MPH, LCSW : Assistant Professor of Social Work and Psychiatry, Visiting Fellow

Rachel Goode, PhD, MPH, LCSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work and Psychiatry, Visiting Fellow

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.

rwgoode@email.unc.edu
Martin Kohlmeier, MD, PhD : Professor, Nutrition

Martin Kohlmeier, MD, PhD

Professor, Nutrition

Joining the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in 2010, Dr. Martin Kohlmeier serves as faculty and primary investigator in the NRI Nutrigenetics Laboratory. He focuses on laboratory diagnostics and nutritional genetics. With more than thirty years of experience in nutrition research, he has developed novel biochemical methods for the assessment of dietary intake and nutrient adequacy. Dr. Kohlmeier’s research explores how to help individuals safely navigate daily food choices and how those choices might affect cancer risk. Learn More.

mkohlmeier@unc.edu
Natalia Krupenko, PhD : Associate Professor of Nutrition

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 

natalia_krupenko@unc.edu
Sergey A. Krupenko, PhD : Professor of Nutrition

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 

sergey_krupenko@unc.edu
Yuan Li, PhD : Assistant Professor of Nutrition

Yuan Li, PhD

Assistant Professor of Nutrition

Yuan Li, PhD is the manager of the mass spectrometry facility in the Sumner-Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute (NRI).  Dr. Li oversaw the development of the Sumner-Lab untargeted analysis workflow for the NIEHS-funded Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) program, and serves as the technology core leader for untargeted analysis for the North Carolina Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource Untargeted Analysis Laboratory (NC HHEAR UAL). Learn more.

yuanyli4@unc.edu
Philip May, PhD : Professor of Nutrition

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.

philip_may@unc.edu
Katie Meyer, ScD : Assistant Professor of Nutrition

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.

ktmeyer@email.unc.edu
Sandra M. Mooney, PhD : Associate Professor of Nutrition

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.

sandra_mooney@unc.edu
Wimal Pathmasiri, PhD : Assistant Professor of Nutrition

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.

wimal_pathmasiri@unc.edu
Blake Rushing, PhD : Assistant Professor of Nutrition

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.

blake_rushing@unc.edu
Delisha Stewart, PhD : Assistant Professor of Nutrition

Delisha Stewart, PhD

Assistant Professor of Nutrition

Delisha Stewart, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute. Dr. Stewart has over 10 years of experience using genomics, metabolomics and high-throughput molecular bioassays to investigate mechanisms involved in cancer and inflammation. Dr. Stewart’s primary research includes a portfolio of studies aimed at understanding the impact of diet (high fat, high carbohydrate) on weight gain, and breast cancer endpoints. She uses both in vitro and in vivo model systems of genetic diversity to gain insights into health disparities associated with cancer endpoints. Learn More 

delisha_stewart@unc.edu
Susan Sumner, PhD : Professor of Nutrition and Pharmacology

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.

susan_sumner@unc.edu
Isis Trujillo-Gonzalez, PhD : Assistant Professor of Nutrition

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).

isis_trujillo@unc.edu
Saroja Voruganti, PhD : Associate Professor of Nutrition

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.

saroja@unc.edu
Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD : Professor of Nutrition and Pediatrics, Founding Director of the NRI

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

steven_zeisel@unc.edu

Staff

Jody Albright : Research Technician, Hursting Lab

Jody Albright

Research Technician, Hursting Lab

Jody Albright, a former business owner from Salisbury, is a 2011 graduate of Rowan-Cabarrus Comunity College with AS and AAS in Biotechnology degrees. He has recently joined the NRI in Dr. Bennett's lab as a laboratory technician. Jody is excited to use his recent education to develop several new protocols for the laboratory .

jodyalb@email.unc.edu
Numair Attaar : Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Numair Attaar

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.

numa1r@email.unc.edu
Emmanuel Baah, MD, MPH : Postdoctoral Research Associate, HRC

Emmanuel Baah, MD, MPH

Postdoctoral Research Associate, HRC

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.

ebaah@unc.edu
Jenna Baker : Executive Assistant to the Director

Jenna Baker

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.

jenna_baker@unc.edu
Keri Barron, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, N. Krupenko Lab

Keri Barron, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, N. Krupenko Lab

Keri Barron joined the NRI in August 2014 as a doctoral student in the Nutrition department at UNC Chapel Hill. She completed her undergraduate and masters programs at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. She graduated in May 2014 with her BS and MS in Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism. She successfully defended her thesis on how ceramics, a group of bioactive lipids, respond to folate in April 2020. Dr. Barron is looking forward to more work on this study, which is so large the data collection alone took a full year. In the future, she would like to teach, as she loves nutrition and talking about nearly every aspect of it.

kab154@email.unc.edu
Jamie Beach : Property Security Officer

Jamie Beach

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.

beachjam@unc.edu
Lauren Roppolo Brazell : Data Analyst, Voruganti Lab

Lauren Roppolo Brazell

Data Analyst, Voruganti Lab

Lauren joined the NRI in March 2020 as a data analyst in the Voruganti Lab. She has recently completed her Master of Science degree in Bioinformatics and Genomics, and will begin her Ph.D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics this fall. She is assisting the Voruganti Lab group with data analysis for the Viva La Familia study at NRI, and she is also working on an urban microbial metagenomics study at UNCC. Outside of the lab, she enjoys spending time with family, friends, and traveling.

lroppolo@unc.edu
Walden Cash : Technology Support Technician

Walden Cash

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.

walden_cash@unc.edu
Catherine Cedeno : Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Catherine Cedeno

Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Catherine is an undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill and is pursuing a BS in Biology with Minors in Chemistry and Medical Anthropology. She has recently rejoined Dr. Hursting’s lab and will be studying the effects of hypoxia in cancer cells with Dr. Kiesel. In her free time, she enjoys baking, hiking, traveling, and finding the best foodie spots around town. Her long-term plans are to attend medical school and become a primary care physician or a cardiologist.

cathy25@live.unc.edu
Rachel Coble : Research Technician, Sumner Lab

Rachel Coble

Research Technician, 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.

rachel_coble@unc.edu
Michael Coleman, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Michael Coleman, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Mike completed his PhD in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the University College Cork in Ireland, where his work examined the role of growth factor signaling in mitochondrial homeostasis. He joined the Hursting lab for postdoctoral training in 2017 to explore systemic and cellular metabolic determinants of cancer therapy outcomes. He is now based in Chapel Hill, but fondly remembers the first half of his postdoctoral training at the NRI.

mcoleman@unc.edu
Ryan Dayvault : Facilities and Special Projects Coordinator

Ryan Dayvault

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.

ryan_dayvault@unc.edu
Emily Devericks : Doctoral Student, Hursting Lab-CH

Emily Devericks

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.

emilydev@live.unc.edu
Malick Dieng : Business Manager

Malick Dieng

Business Manager

Malick's career experience in program administration began in 1995 with managing research projects for Fulbright Fellows, academics, and others working in his home country of Senegal.  He comes to us with more than 18 years of experience in the following areas: extensive experience in grants administration, particularly US government grants, and has worked on various projects at the Children’s Research Institute, University of Massachusetts Institute for Community Inclusion, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Neurologic Diseases, Northeastern University’s Graduate School of Engineering and the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health,  (to name but a few).

"The sum of my background and experience has prepared me for the Research Business Manager and I am confident that I will contribute to the very important work of NRI."

malick_dieng@unc.edu
Victoria Fabry, MS : Clinical Study Coordinator, HRC

Victoria Fabry, MS

Clinical Study Coordinator, HRC

Victoria joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in September 2021 as a Clinical Research Specialist. She recently completed her Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Rural Development from Ghent University. Victoria has nearly a decade of experience assisting clinical trials and population-based surveillance studies, and she is passionate about nutritional epidemiology and food security. Her career ambition is to promote equitable access to health and nutrition. Victoria will work with Dr. Martin Kohlmeier and assist the projects headed at the Human Research Core.

victoria_fabry@unc.edu
George Flentke, PhD : Research Specialist, Smith Lab

George Flentke, PhD

Research Specialist, 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.

gflentke@email.unc.edu
Halle Fogle : Graduate Student, S. Krupenko Lab

Halle Fogle

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.

halle_fogle@unc.edu
Walter Friday : Research Technician, Zeisel Lab

Walter Friday

Research Technician, Zeisel 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.

walter_friday@unc.edu
Elaine (Elle) Glenny, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

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.

eglenny@unc.edu
Emma Grindstaff : Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Emma Grindstaff

Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Emma joined the Hursting Lab in Chapel Hill in spring of 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Ximena Bustamante-Marin. She is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in the Nutrition program through the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Languages and Cultures and a minor in chemistry. Emma is excited to become more familiar with laboratory techniques and to learn more about the world of research in Dr. Hursting's lab, and she hopes to attend medical school following her undergraduate career.

emmajoy@live.unc.edu
Savanna Hagler : Research Technician, Zeisel Lab

Savanna Hagler

Research Technician, Zeisel Lab

Savanna Hagler joined the NRI in May 2021 as a research technician in the Zeisel Lab. She is a native of Kannapolis and a 2017 graduate of A.L. Brown HS. In 2020 Savanna graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Exercise and Sport Science and a minor in neuroscience. She plans to continue her educational career in the coming years after gaining valuable research experience at the NRI with Dr. Zeisel and his remarkable team. In her free-time, Savanna enjoys spending time with her friends and family, hiking, traveling, and walking her dog around the new downtown Kannapolis.

savannan@ad.unc.edu
Madeline Hall : Graduate Student, N. Krupenko Lab

Madeline Hall

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.

madeline_hall@unc.edu
Julie Hasken, PhD, MPH : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Project Manager - May Lab

Julie Hasken, PhD, MPH

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Project Manager - 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.

 

jhasken@email.unc.edu
Kaylee Helfrich : Doctoral Student in Nutrition, Smith Lab

Kaylee Helfrich

Doctoral Student in Nutrition, Smith Lab

Kaylee Helfrich joined the NRI as a doctoral student in nutrition in August 2016, and is now a fifth-year doctoral candidate in Nutritional Biochemistry. She completed her BS degree in Biochemistry at Clemson University in December 2015, where her research focused on signaling mechanisms that controlled energy expenditure in plants. Kaylee’s current research with Dr. Susan Smith focuses on how prenatal alcohol exposure affects iron levels in babies and whether giving iron supplements to the mothers will improve the babies’ health. When not working in the lab, she enjoys reading, dancing, and trying new recipes.

khelfri@live.unc.edu
Grace Hersey : Research Assistant, Cheatham Lab

Grace Hersey

Research Assistant, Cheatham Lab

Grace graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Spanish. She is working at the Nutrition Research Institute as a research assistant in the Cheatham Lab, researching infant nutrition and cognitive development. In her free time Grace loves traveling, going to the beach, and painting.

grace_hersey@unc.edu
Alyssa Ho : Research Technician, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Alyssa Ho

Research 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.

alyssaho@live.unc.edu
Rick Hoffärth : Communication Specialist

Rick Hoffärth

Communication Specialist

Rick joined the NRI in 2017 as a communication specialist in Development and Outreach. He earned a BS in Criminal Justice Sciences at Illinois State University and was a juvenile probation officer and program developer for three years. He earned his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ and was a full time pastor for 27 years. After retiring, Rick added a degree in Digital Design from the Art Institute of Charlotte in 2014 . He works with Suzanne Dane to interpret the work of the NRI to current and potential donors.

rick_hoffarth@unc.edu
David Horita, PhD : Scientific Grant Writer

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.

david_horita@unc.edu
Sarah Hreyo : Development Associate

Sarah Hreyo

Development Associate

Sarah is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, and is a few classes away from completing a graduate degree at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. In Sarah’s spare time, she loves reading, cooking, baking, and spending time outdoors (especially at the Whitewater Center). Sarah loves trivia and once appeared on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire!

sarah_hreyo@unc.edu
Tanner Hyatt : Research Technician (Lab Animal Coordinator), Cheatham Lab

Tanner Hyatt

Research Technician (Lab Animal Coordinator), Cheatham Lab

Tanner joined the NRI in August 2021 as a Laboratory Animal Coordinator in the Cheatham Lab. She graduated from Western Carolina University in 2019 with a BS in Biology. While attending WCU she worked as a seasonal research technician studying Mississippi’s endangered dusky gopher frog and temporarily resided in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s facilities to assist with captive-rearing and mark-recapture surveys. From here, she gained great interest in both research and laboratory work, especially dealing with animals.

tanner_hyatt@unc.edu
Scott Jaworski : Applications Analyst

Scott Jaworski

Applications Analyst

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.

scott_jaworski@unc.edu
Faustina Jeyaraj : Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab

Faustina Jeyaraj

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.

ftherase@ad.unc.edu
Martin Jordan : Shuttle Driver, Facilities Team

Martin Jordan

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!

charles_m_jordan@unc.edu
Violet Kiesel, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Violet Kiesel, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Violet works as a postdoctoral researcher for Dr. Stephen Hursting. Her research focuses on metabolic perturbations that arise in cancer cells and how these perturbations change throughout the course of metastatic progression, particularly in the context of hypoxia. She earned her doctorate and masters degrees from the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University, and her bachelors in biological sciences from the University of Delaware.

vkiesel@unc.edu
David Kirchner, MS : Research Associate, Sumner Lab

David Kirchner, MS

Research Associate, Sumner Lab

David Kirchner, MS is a Research Associate in the Sumner-Lab at NRI. He uses his training in mass spectrometry to analyze proteins and metabolites in biospecimens. Mr Kirchner has over 20 years of experience working in laboratories to conduct studies using genetic, molecular and cell biology, bioanalytical chemistry and bioinformatics approaches. He will contribute his knowledge to studies conducted for the Sumner-Lab.  Mr. Kirchner earned a MS in Biochemistry from Indiana University of PA in 2010.

david_kirchner@unc.edu
Monia Logan : Accounting Technician

Monia Logan

Accounting Technician

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.

monia_logan@unc.edu
Anju Lulla, PhD : Research Associate, Meyer Lab

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.

anju_lulla@unc.edu
Michael Mackin : Lead Accounting Technician

Michael Mackin

Lead Accounting Technician

Michael Mackin joined the Nutrition Research Institute in March 2016 as an Accounting Technician.  As a local native, Michael once worked at the Pillowtex plant, before it ceased operations, where the NRI was later built.  He enjoys spending time with his daughter, walking, and watching sports.

michael_mackin@unc.edu
Blanca Castro Magdonel, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Trujillo Lab

Blanca Castro Magdonel, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Trujillo Lab

Blanca Castro Magdonel, PhD joined the NRI in September 2021 as a postdoctoral research associate in the Trujillo Laboratory, where she is working on choline molecular mechanisms involved in autistic brain development. Dr. Castro Magdonel earned her Doctor of Science degree in Pharmacology from the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV) in Mexico City, Mexico. Her studies included work on mechanisms involved in chemoresistance and microRNAs as biomarkers in Retinoblastoma. Dr. Castro Magdonel taught pharmacology and molecular biology classes for undergraduate and graduate programs in Medicine and Nursing programs at Universidad de Guanajuato in Celaya, México before joining the NRI. Dr. Castro Magdonel views her scientific research as her contribution toward helping those facing health problems.

magdonel@unc.edu
Hannah Malian : Graduate Student, Hursting Lab-CH

Hannah Malian

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.

hmalian@email.unc.edu
Baba Mass : Research Technician, Voruganti Lab

Baba Mass

Research Technician, 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.

bmass@live.unc.edu
Jonathan McCormac : Research Technician, S. Krupenko Lab

Jonathan McCormac

Research Technician, S. Krupenko Lab

Jonathan, a local resident, joined the NRI in late July 2021 as a Research Technician in Dr. Sergey Krupenko’s Lab. 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. Jonathan’s plan is to gain some lab experience and then further his education in the next couple of years.

jparkerm@email.unc.edu
Victoria (Tori) McFarlane : Graduate Student, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Victoria (Tori) McFarlane

Graduate Student, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Tori graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in May 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and a Minor in Chemistry, completing an Honors Thesis investigating the microbial and metabolic impacts of surgical and dietary weight loss interventions for obesity in a preclinical breast cancer model. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Chapel Hill Hursting Lab within the Gillings School of Global Public Health, where she studies the interaction between gut microbiota composition and immunotherapy response in the context of basal-like breast cancer.

torilynn@live.unc.edu
Madison McNew : Research Technician, Mooney Lab

Madison McNew

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.

mmcnew@email.unc.edu
Susan McRitchie, MA, MS : Program Manager, Sumner Lab

Susan McRitchie, MA, MS

Program Manager, Sumner Lab

Susan McRitchie, MA, MS, is the lead biostatistician in the Sumner-Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). She has over 20 years of experience using statistics and modeling approaches to associate survey data and laboratory measures from basic, clinical, and epidemiology investigations with a wide variety of health outcomes.  She served as the Program Coordinator for the NIH-Common Fund Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Core (ERCMRC, 2012-2019), and contributed to working groups on data analysis and visualization, and promotion and outreach. She is currently the Program Coordinator for the North Carolina Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource Untargeted Analysis Laboratory (NC HHEAR UAL) that was established in August 2019.  Ms. McRitchie’s research interest lies in understanding how diet, and nutrients, can mitigate against adverse effects from exposures to drugs, medications, and environmentally relevant chemicals. Ms. McRitchie earned a MA in Mathematics from UCLA and a MS in Biostatistics from UNC Chapel Hill.

susan_mcritchie@unc.edu
Jenna Merlino : Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Jenna Merlino

Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Jenna is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is pursuing a BSPH in Nutrition through the Gillings School of Global Public Health with a minor in Chemistry. She is a research assistant in Dr. Hursting's lab and has been working under Dr. Bustamante-Marin to help research the connection between obesity and breast cancer. Jenna hopes to attend medical school and pursue a career in Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which is inspired by her local and global volunteer work. In her free time, she enjoys painting, being outdoors and playing with her pets.

jenmer@live.unc.edu
Tim Mills : Food Services Supervisor, Café

Tim Mills

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.

tmills29@email.unc.edu
Sabrina Molina : Research Technician, Sumner Lab

Sabrina Molina

Research Technician, 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 a research technician, with a goal of pursuing a masters or doctoral degree in nutrition. She is very excited to continue working with all the amazing people at the NRI. In her spare time, Sabrina enjoys cooking, kayaking, and dirt biking.

sabrina_molina@unc.edu
Carolyn Munson : Research Specialist, Mooney Lab

Carolyn Munson

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.

camunson@email.unc.edu
Nicolas Murgueitio : Doctoral Student, Cheatham Lab

Nicolas Murgueitio

Doctoral Student, Cheatham Lab

Nicolas joined the Cheatham Lab in 2021 as a Ph.D. student in Developmental Psychology. He examines the impact of nutrition, psychosocial adversity, and other stressors on child development, focusing on the biological mechanisms (e.g., gut microbiome, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, hypothalamic-pituitary axis activation) that modify this relation. His research program aims to use nutrition to ameliorate the effects of psychosocial adversity on development. Nicolas earned his B.A. in Psychology from Universidad San Francisco de Quito, in Ecuador.

jnicolas@email.unc.edu
Brea Correll Nance : Research Technician, Voruganti Lab

Brea Correll Nance

Research Technician, Voruganti Lab

Brea received her Associate’s in Applied Science in Biotechnology at RCCC. She was an intern for the Voruganti lab from May 2017 until being hired July 2017. Brea’s focus is helping to recruit for studies and helping manage the Precision Nutrition Core, as well as, lab work. She also learned and became certified in phlebotomy while working at NRI. Brea is from Advance, NC and when she is not at work, she enjoys time with her family, dogs, fishing, and going to the beach.

brea_correll@unc.edu
Kendra Lynn Nelson : Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab

Kendra Lynn Nelson

Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab

Kendra joined the Voruganti Lab the NRI in August 2019 where she focuses on the role of nutrition and genetics in obesity and neurodegenerative diseases. In May 2016 she received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition from Southern Utah University where she 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 she graduated in December 2019, earning her registered dietitian credentials shortly afterward.

klnelson@live.unc.edu
Mayuri Patel : Data Analyst, Voruganti Lab

Mayuri Patel

Data Analyst, Voruganti Lab

Mayuri joined the NRI in September 2021, as a data analyst in the Voruganti Lab. She recently completed her Master’s degree in Bioinformatics and Genomics. She previously worked as an Intern at the NRI in 2020. She will be assisting the Voruganti Lab in the analysis of Nutrigenomics data involving genomics, metabolomics and lifestyle variables. In leisure time, Mayuri enjoys traveling with her family, trying new food recipes and relaxing with friends.

mayuri@email.unc.edu
Carsyn Patton : Lab Animal Coordinator, Cheatham Lab

Carsyn Patton

Lab Animal Coordinator, Cheatham Lab

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. Here she will be conducting research on the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure when coupled with choline and DHA supplementation.

carsyn_patton@unc.edu
Evan Paules : Graduate Student, Zeisel Lab

Evan Paules

Graduate Student, Zeisel Lab

Evan Paules  joined the NRI in August 2016 as a doctoral student. He is studying the effects of choline on embryonic neurogenesis under the mentorship of Dr. Zeisel. 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. Following his prospective graduation, Evan hopes to obtain a post-doctoral position to further his pursuit of obtaining a career in academia.

paulese@live.unc.edu
Betty Peterson : Cashier, Café

Betty Peterson

Cashier, Café

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!

betty_peterson@unc.edu
Laurel Petri : Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Laurel Petri

Research Assistant, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Laurel is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is pursuing a BS in Biology and a minor in Studio Art, with hopes of earning a BSPH in Nutrition. She joined Dr. Hursting’s lab at the Gillings School of Public Health and is studying the metabolic links between obesity and ferroptosis in breast cancer under Emily Devericks. Laurel hopes to attend medical school and pursue a career as a clinician.

laurelpetri@unc.edu
Alex Pfeil : Graduate Student, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Alex Pfeil

Graduate Student, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Alex joined the Hursting lab as an undergraduate during his sophomore year and is now completing an MS in Nutrition from the Gillings School of Global Public Health. He completed an undergraduate honors thesis investigating the metabolic and microenvironmental response to genetic knockdown of pyruvate carboxylase in triple-negative breast cancer models. Building upon his previous findings, Alex is contributing to a study investigating the impact of pyruvate carboxylase knockdown on response to immunotherapies. He is also currently applying to medical school with the hopes of a career in academic medicine.

pfeilal@live.unc.edu
William Pressel III : Graduate Student, Hursting Lab

William Pressel III

Graduate Student, Hursting Lab

Before getting a B.S. in Biology from UNC Charlotte, Bill completed an A.A.S. in Biotechnology at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and worked with protein-polyphenol aggregates as a technician in Dr. Lila's lab at PHHI.  After graduating, their interests in the intersections of Nutritional Biology and Social Ecology have led their work/study through diverse occupations such as greenhouse management, restoration agriculture, community organizing, and worker cooperatives (currently they are involved in an exploratory group to build natural houses and pools, and do permaculture landscaping).  They are also very excited to be back in a lab environment and interested in continuing their education by entering a graduate program in the near future.

william_pressel@unc.edu
Yunzhi “Grace” Qian : Doctoral Student, Sumner Lab

Yunzhi “Grace” Qian

Doctoral Student, Sumner Lab

Grace (Yunzhi) joined the NRI in August 2020 as a doctoral student in the Nutrition Department. She received her B.S. in Human Biology from the University of California, San Diego and an MPH in Biostatistics from Columbia University. Grace works with Dr. Susan Sumner to research in metabolomics investigations in nutrition, environmental exposures, and metabolic variation.

yunzhi.qian@unc.edu
David Raines : Research Technician, S. Krupenko Lab

David Raines

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.

daraines@unc.edu
Nivetha Ramasamy : Research Assistant, Hursting Lab-CH

Nivetha Ramasamy

Research Assistant, Hursting Lab-CH

Nivi is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is pursuing a BSPH in Nutrition and a BS in Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry. She is a research assistant in Dr. Hursting’s lab at the Gillings School of Public Health and is helping to research the connection between obesity and colon cancer. She hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a research-based career in the future. In her free time, she enjoys doing bhangra (an Indian style of dance) and playing her violin or guitar.

nsr1123@live.unc.edu
Ariana Reid : Research Technician, Hursting Lab - NRI

Ariana Reid

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.

arianar@email.unc.edu
Erika Rezeli : Lab Manager, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Erika Rezeli

Lab Manager, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Erika joined the CH lab in Feb 2015 and works to facilitate lab operations. She loves getting the opportunity to work with lab members on their different projects. She graduated from NC State with a degree in Animal Science.  A native of Raleigh, NC, she enjoys crafting, reading, and cooking.
erika_rezeli@unc.edu
Dane Ricketts : Research Technician, Mooney Lab

Dane Ricketts

Research Technician, Mooney Lab

Dane received his BS in Marine Biology from UNC Wilmington in 2012.  After graduating he spent 3 years abroad working and traveling in Australia, where he worked as a Dive Master on the Great Barrier Reef; in Fiji, where he became a SCUBA Instructor and helped start a coral transplanting project; working and backpacking in New Zealand, and working as a SCUBA Instructor in Thailand.  Dane moved back to the United States in October of 2015 and decided to return to the lab, leading him to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to earn an AAS in Biotechnology in May of 2018.  He worked as a contractor at DHMRI in the Analytical Science lab over the summer and in September 2018 became a part of Dr. Mooney’s lab as a Research Technician.

dane_ricketts@unc.edu
Olivia Rivera, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab

Olivia Rivera, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab

Olivia completed her PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Penn State University, where she investigated the role of the micronutrient zinc in mammary gland development and the influence of genetic variation on lactation outcomes. Olivia joined the NRI in July 2019 to focus on nutrient-gene interactions and precision nutrition during development. As a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Smith’s lab, she will explore epigenetic mechanisms to understand how alcohol disrupts fetal development.

olivia_rivera@unc.edu
Nipun Saini, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab

Nipun Saini, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab

Nipun Saini joined the NRI in the summer of 2017 for her second postdoctoral position and will be 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.

nipun_saini@unc.edu
Madison Schroder : Research Technician, Sumner Lab

Madison Schroder

Research Technician, Sumner Lab

Madison joined the Sumner lab in July 2020. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in May 2018 with a B.S. in Chemistry. She hopes to attend graduate school soon to learn more about analytical chemistry and its application to metabolomics. Madison enjoys running, spending time with her dog, and volunteering at the animal shelter.

madison_schroder@unc.edu
Mark Sfeir : Research Technician, Hursting Lab - NRI

Mark Sfeir

Research Technician, Hursting Lab - NRI

Mark joined the Hursting Lab in November 2021 as a research technician. He is new to the area after studying computational biology at William and Mary College and modeling bodily chemical exposure at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Durham, NC.

mark_sfeir@unc.edu
Jaspreet Sharma, PhD : Research Scientist, S. Krupenko Lab

Jaspreet Sharma, PhD

Research Scientist, S. Krupenko Lab

Jaspreet Sharma joined the NRI in the summer of 2017 in the S. Krupenko’s Lab to investigate the role of folate-metabolizing enzymes in cancer progression and metastasis. She received her PhD from the Graduate Program in the Department of Gastroenterology, PGIMER, Chandigarh (India). Her graduate studies focused on prevention of colon cancer by dietary supplements. She has received her postdoctoral training in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Colorado, Denver, working on the receptor-mediating signaling in tumorigenesis.

 

sharmaj@email.unc.edu
Jon Shea : Research Services Coordinator

Jon Shea

Research Services Coordinator

Jon Shea joined the Nutrition Research Institute in the summer of 2017. He is a graduate of UNC Charlotte’s Bioinformatics program.  He has worked in several labs working on research in single cell sequencing studying the transcriptomic changes in yeast and c. elegans as well as plant metabolites using HPLC and mass spectrometry.

jon_shea@unc.edu
Susie Smith : Programs and Operations Specialist

Susie Smith

Programs and Operations Specialist

Susie Smith joined the Nutrition Research Institute in March 2016. As Programs and Operations Specialist she works with human resources matters and Institute programming such as symposia, workshops, and invited seminar speakers. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Her work experiences include Social Work, Hospice Care, Business and Marketing. She is married with two grown children. In her spare time she enjoys reading, cycling and traveling. She is pleased to be a part of the NRI.

 

susie_smith@unc.edu
Julie Stegall : Study Coordinator, Zeisel Lab

Julie Stegall

Study Coordinator, Zeisel 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 also enjoyed working with Dr. Phil May to learn more about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). She and has worked on research studies with babies, toddlers, school age children, and adults of all ages.  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’s current project is coordinating the Choline Status Study for Dr. Zeisel’s lab.

julie_stegall@unc.edu
Ashlee Taylor : Research Assistant, Hursting Lab-CH

Ashlee Taylor

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.

ashlee_taylor@med.unc.edu
Melissa VerHague, PhD : Lab Manager, Hursting Lab

Melissa VerHague, PhD

Lab Manager, Hursting Lab

Melissa VerHague earned her PhD in molecular pathology from Wake Forest University. Her dissertation investigated the impact of apolipoprotein A-IV on triglyceride secretion and lipoprotein particle expansion associated with hepatic steatosis. A native of Buffalo, NY, she joined the NRI as a postdoctoral research associate in September of 2014. Currently, her research focuses on genetic links in obesity, nutrition, and cancer using genetically diverse mice. In addition to managing the Hursting Lab at the NRI, she is the manager of the NORC Animal Metabolism Phenotyping Core in Kannapolis.

melissa_verhague@unc.edu
Manjot Virdee : Research Associate, Smith Lab

Manjot Virdee

Research Associate, Smith Lab

Manjot joined the NRI in June 2019 as a research associate, conducting statistical analyses for the lab. He received his MS in Bioinformatics from the University of Birmingham in England where he focused on machine learning methods in Genomics and Metabolomics. His long-term interests are in how science policy will integrate new technologies and discoveries from genomics into healthcare. In his spare time, Manjot enjoys debating philosophy, playing chess, and reading fantasy.

manjot_virdee@unc.edu
Kathleen Walter, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Mooney Lab

Kathleen Walter, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Mooney Lab

Katie joined the NRI in August of 2019. She is a nutritional immunologist and received her PhD in Animal Science from North Carolina State University. Her dissertation focused on long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation as a means to dampen immunosuppressive effects of respiratory pathogens. She is now investigating impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome on Alzheimer-related pathologies and behavioral impairments.

kathleen_walter@unc.edu
Craig Watson : Shuttle Driver

Craig Watson

Shuttle Driver

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

Mikyoung You, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, S. Krupenko Lab

Mikyoung You, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, S. Krupenko Lab

Mikyoung You joined the Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) in Oct 2020 as a postdoc researcher in Dr. Sergey Krupenko's lab to identify the role of folate-metabolizing enzymes in liver disease. She received her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Mokpo National University in South Korea. She also received her postdoctoral training in the Department of Nutrition at the Massachusetts Amherst and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, working on the relationship of iron metabolism and beige adipocyte development.

mikyoung_you@unc.edu