Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D. : <h4>Institute Director</h4>

Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D.

Institute Director

Lab Website
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.

Jana Harrison : <h4>Institute Deputy Director</h4>

Jana Harrison

Institute Deputy Director

Ms. Harrison is an experienced research administrator. Prior to joining the Nutrition Research Institute, she was the Senior Associate Director of the Urban Institute at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and was responsible for oversight and management of daily Institute operations. Ms. Harrison earned an M.A. and A.B.D. degree in International Political Economy from the University of Southern California.

Suzanne Dane : <h4>Director of Community Outreach and Development</h4>

Suzanne Dane

Director of Community Outreach and Development

Suzanne joined the NRI in May 2014 as the director of development and community outreach. She brings more than 20 years of nonprofit development experience, having worked previously at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte, and with the National Main Street Center and Historic Hotels of America at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. Suzanne is a graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.


Carol Cheatham, Ph.D. : <h4>Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience</h4>

Carol Cheatham, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience

Lab Website
Dr. Carol Cheatham is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, she earned her Ph.D. in child psychology and neuroscience in 2004. She will be 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.

Stephen Hursting, Ph.D., M.P.H. : <h4>Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Stephen Hursting, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Professor, Nutrition

Dr. Stephen Hursting is interested in diet-gene interactions relevant to cancer prevention, particularly the molecular and hormonal mechanisms underlying energy balance-cancer associations. Learn More 

Folami Ideraabdullah, Ph.D. : <h4>Assistant Professor, Genetics and Nutrition</h4>

Folami Ideraabdullah, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Genetics and Nutrition

Folami Ideraabdullah, Ph.D., joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) in January 2013 as an Assistant Professor of Genetics in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Her long-term research goal is to understand the role of gene-environment interactions in phenotypic variation and disease. Learn More.

Martin Kohlmeier, M.D., Ph.D. : <h4>Research Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Martin Kohlmeier, M.D., Ph.D.

Research Professor, Nutrition

Martin Kohlmeier’s expertise is in laboratory diagnostics, nutritional genetics and the use of computers for professional and lay nutrition education, with doctorates in medicine, biochemistry and clinical biochemistry from the universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. He is director of the Nutrition in Medicine project, which provides comprehensive online nutrition education to medical students, physicians and other healthcare providers worldwide. Dr. Kohlmeier searches for small genetic differences that change how much of a nutrient people need for optimal health. He is developing online computer programs that use genetic and other personal information to guide individual food choices in a safe and effective way. He expects that personalized nutrition can make a major impact on the big killer diseases, such as reducing breast cancer risk by a third or more. Learn More.


Natalia Krupenko, Ph.D. : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Natalia Krupenko, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Natalia Krupenko, Ph.D., joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) in April 2014 as Assistant Professor. Dr. Krupenko’s research is focused on the role of folate (vitamin B9) in promoting health and preventing disease in humans. Learn more 

Sergey A. Krupenko, Ph.D. : <h4>Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Sergey A. Krupenko, Ph.D.

Professor, Nutrition

Sergey A. Krupenko, Ph.D., joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) in 2014. Dr. Krupenko’s research focuses on vitamin folate and its role in liver function and cancer disease. Learn more 

Philip May, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Philip May, Ph.D.

Research Professor, Nutrition

Philip A. May, PhD, joined the NRI on April 1, 2011 as Research Professor and is an expert in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Dr. May has conducted extensive research on the epidemiology and risk factors for FASD, including alcohol use and abuse, and how FASD relates to mental health and deviance. Dr. May’s specialty areas also extend to demography and medical sociology, focusing much of his research on community-wide prevention of the disorder. Learn More.

Wimal Pathmasiri, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition </h4>

Wimal Pathmasiri, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Wimal Pathmasiri, Ph.D. joined the NRI in March 2017 as a Research Assistant Professor. Dr. Pathmasiri is interested in identifying biomarkers for the early detection of disease and monitoring nutritional intervention. His efforts at UNC NRI will focus on understanding the impact of diet and naturally occurring molecules in diet on gut microbiome related metabolism. Learn More

Delisha Stewart, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition </h4>

Delisha Stewart, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Dr. Delisha Stewart received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She joined the Nutrition Research Institute in March 2017 as a Research Assistant Professor, relocating with the ERCMRC and continues to lead all cancer and immunology-focused studies. Learn More 

Susan Sumner, Ph.D. : <h4>Professor of Nutrition </h4>

Susan Sumner, Ph.D.

Professor of Nutrition

Susan Sumner, Ph.D. joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute on December 1, 2016, as a Professor of Nutrition. Dr. Sumner is working to make personalized medicine a reality through metabolomics, the science of measuring thousands of chemicals in a small sample of a person’s blood. Metabolomic analyses provide a more comprehensive view of a patient’s metabolism than the limited measurements of glucose and cholesterol that doctors employ today. Learn More.

Natalia Surzenko, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Natalia Surzenko, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Natalia Surzenko, PhD, joined the NRI in August of 2013 as a Research Scientist. Dr. Surzenko’s studies focus on understanding how nutrient availability affects brain and eye development. Dr. Surzenko received her PhD in Neurobiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010. Her graduate research work was focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms of neural progenitor cell maintenance. During her postdoctoral studies at the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Surzenko worked towards understanding the strategies employed by neural progenitor cells of the retina to generate neuronal cell diversity. At the NRI, Dr. Surzenko combines mouse genetic tools with a variety of cellular assays to assess the roles of distinct nutrient molecules in the regulation of neurogenesis in the developing and adult central nervous system. Learn More 

Jomari Torres, M.D. : <h4>Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Jomari Torres, M.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Dr. Jomari Torres recently joined the Nutrition Research Institute in July 2015 as the Human Research Core Medical Director. She received her M.D. Diploma from the Medical College of Wisconsin and completed her residency training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Hospital of Bethesda. She brings 15 years of clinical experience in the medical field to the NRI. She is very excited about integrating her medical expertise with the human research field to optimize research subjects experience and care.

Saroja Voruganti, Ph.D. : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Saroja Voruganti, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Saroja Voruganti, Ph.D., joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in November 2013 as an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Voruganti’s long-term research goal is to understand the genetic and environmental factors that affect complex human diseases using a combination of statistical, molecular and bioinformatics (network/pathway analysis) techniques. Learn More.


Manya Warrier, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Manya Warrier, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Manya Warrier, Ph.D., joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) in 2015 as assistant professor. Her research focus is the “browning” of fat and its effects on metabolism and obesity. Dr. Warrier specializes in cell signaling, cell biology, protein expression, biochemistry and metabolic syndromes. She is a member of the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Endocrine Society. Dr. Warrier earned her Master of Science in Biotechnology at the University of Mysore (India) and received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Toledo. Learn More 

All Staff

Abrar Al-Shaer : <h4>Research Assistant, Smith Lab</h4>

Abrar Al-Shaer

Research Assistant, Smith Lab

Abrar Al-Shaer joined NRI as a research assistant in Dr. Susan Smith's lab in Summer 2017 and is pursuing her PhD in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill starting August 2017. She graduated from UNC Charlotte in May 2017 with a BS in Computer Science - Bioinformatics Concentration, and Biology minor. Her previous research focused on metagenomics data analysis and statistical genomics analysis and visualization. Her research interests include nutrigenomics and metabolic pathway analysis with fetal-alcohol exposed cells and their relationships with particular nutrients.

Jody Albright : <h4>Research Technician, Hursting Lab</h4>

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 .

Robyn Amos-Kroohs, Ph.D. : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate</h4>

Robyn Amos-Kroohs, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Robyn Amos-Kroohs received her Ph.D. in Molecular and Developmental Biology from the University of Cincinnati in 2014.  After doing dissertation work intersecting the fields of behavioral neuroscience and developmental toxicology, she moved into the alcohol field by joining Dr. Susan Smith’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There her work concentrated on prenatal alcohol exposure and its association with increased risk for obesity and metabolic dysfunction in a mouse model. Having moved to North Carolina with the lab to finish her postdoctoral training, her research interests continue to reflect the multifactorial nature of obesity, investigating abnormal feeding behaviors and appetite regulation in children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Andrea Armer : <h4>Recruiter, Cheatham Lab</h4>

Andrea Armer

Recruiter, Cheatham Lab

Andrea earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from Appalachian State University, then taught third grade for several years in the public school system. She recently completed graduate school and earned a Masters in Health Education and Promotions from East Carolina University. In the Cheatham Lab, she is able to combine her love for children with her love for health and nutrition. As a new mom, she is eager to learn all she can about how maternal and infant nutrition affects the brain.

Keri Barron : <h4>Nutrition Graduate Student, N. Krupenko Lab</h4>

Keri Barron

Nutrition Graduate Student, 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. Her research interests include the genetic variation in risk for cardiovascular disease and underlying mechanisms.

Joshua Baulch : <h4>Research Technician, Smith Lab</h4>

Joshua Baulch

Research Technician, Smith Lab

Joshua received his B.S. in Biology in May of 2016 from High Point University in High Point, NC. His undergraduate research focused on the phylogenetic differences of parasitic wasps in the piedmont area. His previous work at the NRI consisted of assisting the research of the Ideraabdullah lab during the summer of 2015. He joined the NRI in September 2016 where he currently assists the Smith lab with their research of ethanol and the impacts it has upon fetal neurological growth and development.

Jackie Black : <h4>Business Officer</h4>

Jackie Black

Business Officer

Jackie Black joined the NRI in January 2013, where she serves as the Business Officer. She brings more than 10 years of experience in academic research, having worked at Wake Forest University School of Medicine as a finance and research administrator in various divisions, most recently in the Division of Surgical Sciences. A native of southwestern Virginia, she now resides with her family in Winston-Salem. She is currently pursuing a B.S. in Public Health from UNC-Greensboro.

Tondra Blevins : <h4>Medical Lab Technician</h4>

Tondra Blevins

Medical Lab Technician

Tondra Blevins is the Institute's medical laboratory and clinical services technician. She works with research subjects for the NRI's human research studies and clinical trials. Tondra also serves as the Institute’s phlebotomist. Tondra has more than 20 years of medical laboratory experience and has been employed by the Nutrition Research Institute since 2009.

Frances Bramlett : <h4>Research Assistant, Warrier Lab</h4>

Frances Bramlett

Research Assistant, Warrier Lab

Frances Bramlett, a native from Davidson, NC, joined NRI in August 2016 as a lab assistant under Dr. Warrier.  She graduated from Furman University in Greenville, SC, with a BS in Biology in May 2016.  She is excited to work with Dr. Warrier on her research regrading the "browning" of fat and aspects of its cell signaling pathway.

Grant Canipe : <h4>Psychology Graduate Student, Cheatham Lab</h4>

Grant Canipe

Psychology Graduate Student, Cheatham Lab

Grant Canipe is a native of Concord.  He started at UNC with Dr. Cheatham in August of 2013.  In the past, Grant has focused on dopamine signaling along various pathways using nutritional and exercise interventions.  He hopes to continue expanding his knowledge in areas of development, particularly brain aging, using nutritional interventions.  As a graduate of Appalachian State University in May 2013, Grant will always call the Blue Ridge Mountains his second home.  He loves the outdoors!  You are likely to find Grant hiking, mountain biking, playing tennis, or riding his motorcycle.

Walden Cash : <h4>Technology Support Technician</h4>

Walden Cash

Technology Support Technician

Walden joined the NRI in September 2015, in the role of Technology Support Technician. Walden 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.

Brandi Childers : <h4>Office Manager/Human Resources Manager</h4>

Brandi Childers

Office Manager/Human Resources Manager

Brandi Childers serves as the office manager for the NRI administration. She has more than eight years experience in administration and community partnership management. Prior to coming to work for the Nutrition Research Institute, Brandi worked in local government. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she is a native of Kannapolis, where she has chosen to raise her young family.

Geetha Chittoor, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Scientist, Voruganti Lab</h4>

Geetha Chittoor, Ph.D.

Research Scientist, Voruganti Lab

Dr. Geetha Chittoor’s main research interests are focused on genetic epidemiology of complex diseases such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other chronic kidney disease (CKD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Since the days of her undergraduate biology program in India, she developed a special interest in health-related research. As part of her Master’s thesis, she examined the profiles of obesity and blood pressure in two endogamous populations of the Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh, India. As part of her Ph.D. program in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, she addressed similar issues, but with emphasis on genetic epidemiological investigation of blood pressure and its correlation with metabolic syndrome-related traits in children. Her postdoctoral training at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, San Antonio, with initial two years of support provided by a Cowles Postdoctoral Fellowship provided her an opportunity to work in the field of genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics. She is conducting research on the genetic risk of CKD and CVD in minority populations, and further investigating the gene-by-environment interaction influences (e.g. diet, physical activity, socio-demographic factors, ethnicity) on CKD/CVD outcomes.

Ryan Dayvault : <h4>Facilities and Special Projects Coordinator</h4>

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.

Marwa Elnagheeb : <h4>Nutrition Graduate Student, Ideraabdullah Lab</h4>

Marwa Elnagheeb

Nutrition Graduate Student, Ideraabdullah Lab

Marwa is from Charlotte, NC and received her B.A. in Biology in 2014 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  During her undergraduate career, she interned at NRI learning about the genetic architecture of dystrophic cardiac calcinosis. Marwa joined the Ideraabdullah lab as a student intern before joining the team as a lab assistant in January 2016.

Rose Ewald : <h4>Graduate Research Assistant</h4>

Rose Ewald

Graduate Research Assistant

Rose received her BS in Nutrition Science with a minor in Biology from UNC Greensboro in 2016. She is a doctoral student in the Nutrition Department at UNC Chapel Hill, working in Dr. Voruganti’s lab at the NRI. Her undergraduate research focused on risk factors for hypertension and obesity in low-income, immigrant, and minority adolescents; her research interests also include nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics, and metabolic disorders.

George Flentke, Ph. D. : <h4>Research Specialist, Smith Lab</h4>

George Flentke, Ph. D.

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.

Walter Friday : <h4>Research Technician, Zeisel Lab</h4>

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.

Carolyn Harris : <h4>Executive Assistant to the Director</h4>

Carolyn Harris

Executive Assistant to the Director

A Kannapolis native, Carolyn Harris is the administrative assistant to Dr. Steven Zeisel, Director of the Nutrition Research Institute. She has over 15 years providing administrative support and office management in the healthcare field with the Department of Defense, as well as in the private sector. She received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Montreat College.

Julie Hasken : <h4>Project Manager, May Lab</h4>

Julie Hasken

Project Manager, May Lab

Julie earned a BS in Health Science from Truman State University and a Masters in Public Health, with a concentration in Health Education and Health Behavior, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a Certified Health Education Specialist, her prior work focused on tobacco prevention and control. At the NRI, Julie works with Philip May, Ph.D., on the administrative and programmatic implementation of community-based Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders studies worldwide.


Kaylee Helfrich : <h4>Graduate Student, S. Krupenko lab</h4>

Kaylee Helfrich

Graduate Student, S. Krupenko lab

Kaylee Helfrich joined the NRI as a UNC nutrition doctoral student in August 2016. She completed her BS degree in Biochemisty at Clemson University in December 2015. Her research focused on signaling mechanisms that controlled energy expenditure in plants. Kaylee will be working with Dr. Krupenko on folate metabolism and its link with disease.

David Horita, Ph.D. : <h4>Scientific Grant Writer</h4>

David Horita, Ph.D.

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 Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. in chemistry from Carleton College.

Ruixue Hou : <h4>Graduate Research Assistant</h4>

Ruixue Hou

Graduate Research Assistant

Ruixue received her M.S. in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition from Tufts University. She joined the NRI and Dr. Voruganti’s lab in September 2015 as a doctoral student in the Nutrition Department at UNC Chapel Hill.

Thomas Jackson : <h4>Lab Animal Coordinator, Cheatham Lab</h4>

Thomas Jackson

Lab Animal Coordinator, Cheatham Lab

Thomas is a North Carolina native who joined the NRI and Cheatham Lab as the Laboratory Animal Coordinator in November of 2014. During his undergraduate career at North Carolina State University, Thomas researched the health risks associated with exposure to environmental endocrine disrupting compounds at a neurobiological level. He hopes to gain a better foundation in the possibilities that nutritional interventions offer to ameliorate fetal alcohol effects and to expand his knowledge of brain development through his work here on a fetal alcohol model.

Scott Jaworski : <h4>Applications Analyst</h4>

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.

Kristen Jeffries, Ph.D. : <h4>Postdotoral Research Associate, N. Krupenko Lab</h4>

Kristen Jeffries, Ph.D.

Postdotoral Research Associate, N. Krupenko Lab

Kristen Jeffries received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of South Florida in May of 2015. Her dissertation focused on the metabolism of long-chain fatty acid amides, a family of cell signaling lipids. Dr. Jeffries joined the NRI as a postdoctoral research associate in Natalia Krupenko’s lab in 2015 and her research is focused on the functional connection between folate and sphingolipid metabolism.

Kanika Kanchan, Ph.D. : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ideraabdullah Lab</h4>

Kanika Kanchan, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ideraabdullah Lab
Kanika Kanchan earned her PhD in Human Genetics and Infectious Diseases from CSIR-Central Drugs Research Institute, Lucknow, India. Her research goal was to analyze the association of genetic polymorphisms in human genes and their association with susceptibility/resistance to Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Indian population. She joined Folami Ideraabdullah's lab at the NRI as a postdoctoral research associate in February 2016. Her research focus is to study the gene-nutrient interactions that influence the maternal health and outcome, using mouse models and human cohorts.

Qasim A. Khan, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Scientist</h4>

Qasim A. Khan, Ph.D.

Research Scientist

Qasim earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. He received postdoctoral training at the US National Cancer Institute, NIH, in Frederick, Maryland. Prior to joining the NRI, Qasim worked as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, RUTGERS in New Jersey and served as an Associate Research Scientist at the Biodesign Institute in Tempe, Arizona. At the NRI, he will serve as Research Scientist in Sergey Krupenko’s lab. Qasim’s area of research is molecular mechanisms of cell cycle progression and apoptotic cell death in human cancer cell lines.

Daniel Lupu, M.D. : <h4>Nutritional BioChemistry Student</h4>

Daniel Lupu, M.D.

Nutritional BioChemistry Student

Dr. Daniel Lupu studied medicine in Romania and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since joining the NRI in November 2008 he has been involved in multiple projects related to his interests in nutriepigenetics. He is currently studying how disrupting the methyl flow at the intersection of choline and folate pathways is triggering hepatocellular adenoma and carcinoma.

Michael Mackin : <h4>Accounting Technician</h4>

Michael Mackin

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.

Baba Mass : <h4>Research Technician, Voruganti Lab</h4>

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.

Susan McRichie : <h4>Program Manager, Sumner Lab </h4>

Susan McRichie

Program Manager, Sumner Lab

Susan McRitchie joined the Nutrition Research Institute in January 2017 as the Program Manager for the Sumner Lab.  She is the program coordinator for the NIH Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core (ERCMRC) (Sumner, PI), and is co-chair of the NIH Common Fund Promotion and Outreach Working Group. Ms. McRitchie received her MA in Mathematics from UCLA and her MS in Biostatistics from UNC-CH, and leads the data analysis of UNC NRI metabolomics studies as well as serving on the NIH Common Fund Data Analysis and Visualization Working Group.

Carolyn Munson : <h4>Research Technician, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Carolyn Munson

Research Technician, Zeisel 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 Zeisel lab at the NRI. Much of her work is directed by Dr. Eneda Pjetri conducting behavioral studies and Dr. Natalia Surzenko performing immunohistochemistry work.

Stephen Oreña : <h4>Research Associate, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Stephen Oreña

Research Associate, Zeisel Lab

Stephen Oreña received his B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an M.S. degree from Harvard Medical School, Boston. He went on to do drug discovery research in the areas of diabetes and obesity at Pfizer, Inc. Stephen has extensive experience in cell biology, molecular biology and animal research with expertise in the design and execution of a variety of in vitro and in vivo assays for both screening and mechanistic purposes. Stephen is currently working on a phytochemical screen for activation of the anti-oxidant response pathway.

Jennifer Owen : <h4>Research Technician, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Jennifer Owen

Research Technician, Zeisel Lab

Jennifer Rhinehart Owen attended East Carolina University and received a BS in Biology and an MS in Cell Biology. Her work there focused on characterizing Mesenchymal stem cells in human breast tissue. She is very excited about working at the Nutrition Research Institute as a research technician focusing on molecular biology techniques.

Anandita Pal : <h4>Nutrition Graduate Student, Ideraabdullah Lab</h4>

Anandita Pal

Nutrition Graduate Student, Ideraabdullah Lab

Anandita Pal is currently pursuing a PhD from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She received her MS in Biotechnology from St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta, India in June 2015.

Evan Paules : <h4>Graduate Student, S. Krupenko Lab</h4>

Evan Paules

Graduate Student, S. Krupenko Lab

Evan Paules joined the NRI in August 2016 as a doctoral student in the Nutrition Department at UNC Chapel Hill. He completed his undergraduate program at Rider University located in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  He graduated with his BS in May 2016 with a double major in Biochemistry and Behavioral Neuroscience. His research interest includes folate metabolism with relation to its role within the central nervous system, as well, as cellular homeostasis. Evan was a 4-year member of Rider University’s Division 1 swim team.  Outside of the lab, you are likely to find Evan at the pool or enjoying the outdoors either running or biking.

Edward Pietryk : <h4>Laboratory Assistant, Ideraabdullah Lab</h4>

Edward Pietryk

Laboratory Assistant, Ideraabdullah Lab

Eddie graduated in 2014 with a B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He first came to the Nutrition Research Institute as an intern in Dr. Ideraabdullah's lab before transitioning into his current position. He is excited to continue his role in the investigation of gene-environment interactions and disease susceptibility.


Eneda Pjetri, Ph.D. : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Eneda Pjetri, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Zeisel Lab

Eneda Pjetri earned her MD at Marmara University, Turkey and her PhD in neuroscience at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Her dissertation focused on the role of genetic and environmental interaction in an animal model of anorexia nervosa. During her PhD she also worked at the Section of Eating Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, United Kingdom. Dr. Pjetri joined the NRI as postdoctoral researcher in September 2013. Her research focus is to further study choline's role in behavior using knockout mouse models.

Debby Reed : <h4>Research Technician, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Debby Reed

Research Technician, Zeisel Lab

Debby Reed received her BS in biochemistry and her MS in plant physiology from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Debby has worked with several research labs using analytical methods such as gas and liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry to develop metabolic profiles of biological samples. She is working with the Zeisel lab to perform lipid analysis for ongoing diabetes research at the Nutrition Research Institute.

Susie Smith : <h4>Business Services Coordinator</h4>

Susie Smith

Business Services Coordinator

Susie Smith joined the Nutrition Research Institute in March 2016. 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.


Joe Squires : <h4>Accounting Technician</h4>

Joe Squires

Accounting Technician

Joseph Squires joined the NRI in May 2013 as an Accounting Technician. Prior to joining NRI, he served as the Director of Restore Operations for Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County. Joseph is a 21-year Air Force veteran and holds a B.S. in Accounting. A native of New Bern N.C., Joseph and his family relocated to Concord in 2007.

Julie Stegall : <h4>Research Assistant, May Lab</h4>

Julie Stegall

Research Assistant, May Lab

Julie earned a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications and a Masters in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her work with children and families spans a variety of locations and settings. She works directly on research studies with children and adults, as well as managing other lab responsibilities. She enjoys all aspects of her work - educating potential participants, administering cognitive tests, working wit helectrophysiology, and problem solving the daily challenges involved in research studies. Julie is a native of Kannapolis.

Steven Talbert : <h4>Research Technician</h4>

Steven Talbert

Research Technician

Steven, a native of Concord and former Park Ranger, graduated in 2015 with an AAS in Biotechnology from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.  He interned with Dr. Cheatham’s lab where he helped with a study on the ability of nutritional interventions to ameliorate fetal alcohol effects on brain development and behavior before joining Dr. Hursting’s team in June of 2016.  He enjoys the martial arts and spending time outdoors whenever possible.

Isis Trujillo, Ph.D. : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Isis Trujillo, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Zeisel Lab

Isis Trujillo received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Her research was focused on the role of metabolic proteins associated with biotin in transcriptional regulation. She also collaborated on breast cancer research projects. Her interests include nutrigenomics, epigenetics and metabolism. She is now investigating how bioavailability of choline affects epigenetics neural progenitor cells.

Itzel Vazquez-Vidal, Ph.D. : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Voruganti Lab</h4>

Itzel Vazquez-Vidal, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Voruganti Lab

Itzel received her Ph.D. in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in June 2014. Her doctoral research focused on the impact of Fatty Acid Desaturase (FADS) genotypes on the relationship between serum lipids and dietary fat intake in young Mexican college students. In Voruganti's lab her primary research work focus is investigating the gene-by-nutrient interactions on the risk of chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease in minority populations.

Melissa VerHague, Ph.D. : <h4>Research Associate, Hursting Lab</h4>

Melissa VerHague, Ph.D.

Research Associate, Hursting Lab

Melissa VerHague earned her Ph.D. 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. Her primary research focus is understanding the role of CD44 in atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.

Jing Xue, Ph.D. : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ideraabdullah Lab</h4>

Jing Xue, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ideraabdullah Lab

Jing Xue earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Nutrition at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.  She joined Folami Ideraabdullah's lab at the NRI in May 2014 as a postdoctoral research associate to investigate the effects of maternal nutrition in epigenetic reprogramming in germ cells, as well as the heritability and difference in susceptibility for the effects using the collaborative cross mouse models.

Xinruo Zhang : <h4>Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab</h4>

Xinruo Zhang

Graduate Student, Voruganti Lab

​Xinruo Zhang joined the NRI in August 2015 as a graduate student in the Nutrition Department at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her B.S. Degree from the University of Maine Orono, with a concentration in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, and a minor in Molecular Biology.