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. This work is supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Dr. Mooney received her Ph.D. from the University of Otago in New Zealand.
The overall theme of Dr. Mooney’s research is to understand normal brain development, how exposure to alcohol (and other drugs or experiences) disrupts this, what the behavioral outcomes are, and whether simple nutrition-based interventions can improve outcomes. Developmental exposure to ethanol profoundly affects development of the nervous system. Indeed, fetal alcohol exposure is described as the primary known cause of mental retardation, and recent estimates suggest that 2-5% of US children can be diagnosed with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Research Technician, Mooney Lab
Elanaria “Lana” Billings joined the Mooney Lab in December 2021. A trick for remembering how to pronounce her name is to rhyme it with banana, as in “Lana Banana”. Lana has a BS in Biology from Appalachian State University and defines herself as a fervid conservationist.
Matthew joined the NRI in August 2022 as a Research Technician in the Mooney Lab. He recently completed his undergraduate studies at UNC Chapel Hill, earning a BS in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Medical Anthropology. Matthew decided to stay in the Tar Heel family and to continue his research journey with the Mooney Lab. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, hiking, tennis, and watching Carolina basketball.
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.
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.
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 Dr. Mooney's lab to research fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
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.
Functional Connectivity and Metabolic Alterations in Medial Prefrontal Cortex in a Rat Model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A Resting-State Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and in vivo Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study.