Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD : <h4>Director</h4>

Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD


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.

Eddie Serrano : <h4>Deputy Director for Research Administration</h4>

Eddie Serrano

Deputy Director for Research Administration

Eddie joined the NRI in March 2018 as the Deputy Director for Research Administration. 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.

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

Suzanne Dane

Director of Development and Community Outreach

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.

Brandi Childers : <h4>Assistant Director for Training, Programs and Partnerships</h4>

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.


Carol L. Cheatham, PhD : <h4>Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience</h4>

Carol L. Cheatham, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience

Lab Website
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.

John E. “Jef” French, PhD : <h4>Visiting Professor, Nutrition</h4>

John E. “Jef” French, PhD

Visiting Professor, Nutrition

John E. French, Ph.D. joined the Nutrition Research Institute as a Visiting Professor in September 2017.  His research interests focus on identifying the gene x environment interactions (including nutrients) and the underlying mechanisms that aid explanation of inter-individual differences in susceptibility and resistance to disease. Current NRI collaborative research projects in development using new genetically-diverse mouse models include the genetics of increased risk for basal-like breast cancer associated with obesity and resistance to carboplatin chemotherapy (Stephen Hursting Lab) and the genetics of maternal-fetal alcohol toxicity and the potential for dietary intervention (Susan Smith Lab).

Stephen D. Hursting, PhD, MPH : <h4>Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Stephen D. Hursting, PhD, MPH

Professor, Nutrition
(704) 250-5059 or (919) 966-7346

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

Martin Kohlmeier, MD, PhD : <h4>Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Martin Kohlmeier, MD, PhD

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, PhD : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Natalia Krupenko, PhD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Natalia Krupenko, PhD, joined the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in April 2014 as an 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, PhD : <h4>Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Sergey A. Krupenko, PhD

Professor, 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. Learn more 

Philip May, PhD : <h4>Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Philip May, PhD

Professor, Nutrition

Philip A. May, PhD, joined the NRI on April 1, 2011 as a Professor in Nutrition, 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.

Katie Meyer, ScD : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Katie Meyer, ScD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Dr. 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 recipient of a Research Scientist Development Award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the gut microbiota, nutrient metabolites, and cardiovascular disease in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study.

Sandra M. Mooney, PhD : <h4>Associate Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Sandra M. Mooney, PhD

Associate Professor, Nutrition

Dr. Mooney joined the NRI in August 2018. 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). Sandra Mooney received her Ph.D. from the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Wimal Pathmasiri, PhD : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition </h4>

Wimal Pathmasiri, PhD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Wimal Pathmasiri, PhD joined the NRI in March 2017 as an Assistant Professor in Nutrition. 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, PhD : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition </h4>

Delisha Stewart, PhD

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 an Assistant Professor in Nutrition, relocating with the ERCMRC and continues to lead all cancer and immunology-focused studies. Learn More 

Susan Sumner, PhD : <h4>Professor, Nutrition </h4>

Susan Sumner, PhD

Professor, Nutrition

Susan Sumner, PhD 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, PhD : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Natalia Surzenko, PhD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Natalia Surzenko, PhD joined the NRI in 2013. Her studies focus on understanding how nutrient availability during pregnancy affects brain and eye development. Dr. Surzenko received her PhD in Neurobiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her graduate research 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 investigated 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 and molecular assays to assess the roles of distinct nutrient compounds in the regulation of neurogenesis in the developing central nervous system. Learn More 

Saroja Voruganti, PhD : <h4>Assistant Professor, Nutrition</h4>

Saroja Voruganti, PhD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

Saroja Voruganti, PhD, 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.


All Staff

Maricela Lara-Segura : <h4>Research Technician, Meyer Lab</h4>

Maricela Lara-Segura

Research Technician, Meyer Lab

Maricela came to the Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) as an intern student from RCCC. She was hired in May 2018 as a research technician by Dr. Meyer. Her work involves the diet of rodents and primates. The research focuses on how the Gut Microbiome relates to health.

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 .

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.

Jenna Baker : <h4>Executive Assistant to the Director</h4>

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.

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 15 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 Clemmons.

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.

Liz Breitwise : <h4>Nutrition Obesity Research Center Managing Director</h4>

Liz Breitwise

Nutrition Obesity Research Center Managing Director

Liz Breitwise is the Nutrition Obesity Research Center’s (NORC) Managing Director. She has over twelve years of experience in higher education that has culminated in a strong background in university operations, research administration, grant writing, budget planning and management, project management, financial reporting, and visual analytics. Under the direction of Dr. Steven Zeisel and Dr. Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Liz manages the day-to-day operations of the NORC’s Administrative Core. Liz has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University at Buffalo. She is pursuing her MBA at NC State.

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.

Michael Coleman, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Hursting Lab</h4>

Michael Coleman, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Hursting Lab

Michael Coleman joined the NRI in the Hursting Lab in the summer of 2017. He completed his PhD in 2017 under the supervision of Prof. Rosemary O'Connor in University College Cork in Ireland.  His thesis work examined the role of an IGF-1 regulated mitochondrial protein, Pyrimidine Nucleotide Carrier 1 (PNC1), and mitochondrial homeostasis in cancer.  Michael joined Dr. Steven Hursting's group at the NRI working on the connection between obesity and cancer.

Edith Collins : <h4>Human Resources Representative</h4>

Edith Collins

Human Resources Representative
(704) 250 5074

Edith Collins joined the Nutrition Research Institute in August 2018. She received her Bachelor’s from the University of North London in England, where she majored in Human Resources Management and Marketing Communications. Edith has previously held a variety of Human Resources positions for both national and international organizations. Notably, she spent some years working as a Human Resources Specialist for the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government in Washington, DC. She is excited to serve the NRI.

Brea Correll : <h4>Research Assistant, Voruganti Lab</h4>

Brea Correll

Research Assistant, Voruganti Lab

Brea received her degree in biotechnology from Rowan Cabarrus Community College in May 2017. Brea has been an intern in the Voruganti lab since May 2017, and joined the team as a research assistant in July.

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.

Kristen Duncan : <h4>Research Technician, N. Krupenko Lab</h4>

Kristen Duncan

Research Technician, N. Krupenko Lab

Kristen joined the Nutrition Research Institute in May 2017 as an intern for S. Krupenko’s lab. She was later offered a job working in N. Krupenko’s lab. Kristen graduated Catawba College in May 2018 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and minors in both Chemistry and Psychology.

George Flentke, PhD : <h4>Research Specialist, Smith Lab</h4>

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.

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.

Reza Ghanbari, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab</h4>

Reza Ghanbari, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab

Dr. Reza Ghanbari, PhD, joined the NRI in the Sumner Lab in the summer of 2017. He received his PhD in Molecular Medicine, and is an Assistant Professor at the Tehran University of Medical Science, Iran. Dr. Ghanbari is working in the Sumner Lab as a NIDA INVEST Fellow, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He is experienced in cancer biology, and will receive training in the use of metabolomics for oncology and drug addiction research.

Julie Hasken : <h4>Doctoral Student in Nutrition, UNC-CH; Project Manager, May Lab</h4>

Julie Hasken

Doctoral Student in Nutrition, UNC-CH; 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, PhD, on dataset management, quality assurance, data analysis, and manuscript preparation on the epidemiology of FASD in the United States and South Africa.


Jaina Hattabaugh, MPH : <h4>Clinical Studies Coordinator - Human Reseach Core</h4>

Jaina Hattabaugh, MPH

Clinical Studies Coordinator - Human Reseach Core

Jaina joined the UNC NRI in June 2018 as a Metabolic Chamber Monitor and in August moved into a new role as the Clinical Study Coordinator. She completed her undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at Indiana University - Kokomo in 2015 and her master’s degree in Public Health at UNCC in May of 2017. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and photography.

Dixie Marie Hedrick : <h4>Research Assistant - May Lab</h4>

Dixie Marie Hedrick

Research Assistant - May Lab

Dixie Hedrick joined the NRI in April 2018 as a research assistant in the May lab. Prior to joining NRI, she worked as a Dietetic Technician for 2 years at Park Ridge Health Hospital in Hendersonville, NC. She earned a BS in Nutrition and Foods, with a focus in Dietetics, from Appalachian State University and a Masters in Public Health, with a concentration in Community Health, from Lenoir-Rhyne University. Dixie is a native of Western North Carolina.

Kaylee Helfrich : <h4>Doctoral Student in Nutrition, Smith Lab</h4>

Kaylee Helfrich

Doctoral Student in Nutrition, Smith Lab

Kaylee Helfrich joined the NRI as a doctoral student in nutrition in August 2016. She completed her BS degree in Biochemistry at Clemson University in December 2015. Her research focused on signaling mechanisms that controlled energy expenditure in plants. Kaylee works with Dr. Susan Smith to research prenatal alcohol exposure and its interaction with iron metabolism in the mother and infant.

Rick Hoffärth : <h4>Communication Specialist</h4>

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.

David Horita, PhD : <h4>Scientific Grant Writer</h4>

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.

Ruixue Hou : <h4>Doctoral Student in Nutrition, Voruganti Lab</h4>

Ruixue Hou

Doctoral Student in Nutrition, Voruganti Lab

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.

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, PhD : <h4>Postdotoral Research Associate, N. Krupenko Lab</h4>

Kristen Jeffries, PhD

Postdotoral Research Associate, N. Krupenko Lab

Kristen Jeffries received her PhD 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.

David Kirchner, MS : <h4>Research Associate, Sumner Lab</h4>

David Kirchner, MS

Research Associate, Sumner Lab

David Kirchner joined the Sumner Lab at NRI as a Research Associate in August, 2018 from DHMRI where he was a Staff Scientist for 5+ years in the Analytical Sciences division doing projects in mass spectrometry based Proteomics and Metabolomics.  Prior moving to NC, he worked in biomedical research focused on comparative discovery Proteomics of cancer and cardiovascular disease.  He earned a MS in Biochemistry from Indiana University of PA in 2010, and has over 20 years of research laboratory experience in several areas including genetics, molecular and cell biology, bioanalytical chemistry and bioinformatics.

Cecilia Kwan, PhD, RD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab</h4>

Cecilia Kwan, PhD, RD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab

Cecilia received her PhD in molecular nutrition from Cornell University. Her dissertation project focused on the effect of maternal choline supplementation during mouse pregnancy on placental function and offspring development. While at Cornell University, Cecilia also completed the dietetic internship and is currently certified as a Registered Dietitian. Cecilia joined the NRI in the fall of 2017 to work with Dr. Smith where she will conduct studies examining how maternal nutritional status interacts with alcohol consumption to modulate placental development and offspring health. This understanding will facilitate the development of dietary interventions to improve outcomes in children who are prenatally exposed to alcohol.

Yuan Li, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab</h4>

Yuan Li, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab

Yuan Li, Ph.D. joined the NRI in the summer of 2017 as a postdoctoral research associate, relocating with the ERCMRC. She earned her PhD in biochemistry from City University of Hong Kong in 2014. She also gained extensive experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in her bachelor's and master's training. Dr. Li’s research interest focuses on prevention and management of metabolic syndromes, including obesity, diabetes, and their complications, through nutritional approaches and herbal remedies. She combines cutting-edge research methodologies (such as lipidomics, metabolomics, and drug metabolism) with her knowledge of TCM to understand the mode of action of herbs on metabolic syndromes.

Anju Lulla, PhD : <h4>Research Associate, Meyer Lab</h4>

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.

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.

Hossein Maleki, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab</h4>

Hossein Maleki, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab
(681) 285-7070

Hossein Maleki, PhD, joined the NRI in the Sumner Lab in the summer of 2018. He received his PhD in Analytical Chemistry from West Virginia University. He is experienced in complex mixture analysis using different instrumentation techniques. Dr. Maleki will receive training in the use of metabolomics for medical research.

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 McRitchie : <h4>Program Manager, Sumner Lab </h4>

Susan McRitchie

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, Surzenko Lab</h4>

Carolyn Munson

Research Technician, Surzenko 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.

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.

Chinmayee Panda, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Voruganti Lab</h4>

Chinmayee Panda, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Voruganti Lab

Dr. Chinmayee Panda is passionate about research that benefits human health. She earned her PhD in Plant Biology from NCSU in August 2017, with a focus in genetics and molecular biology. She joined NRI thereafter as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Voruganti Lab to investigate the interaction between genetic and environmental factors in influencing renal-cardiovascular disease risk. She is currently involved in a project that aims to characterize the nutrigenetic and nutrigenomic determinants of obesity and related comorbidities in children. She also hopes to characterize key phenotypes and environmental factors that increase susceptibility to metabolic diseases in genetically isolated population like Parsis in North America. In her spare time, she dabbles in food photography and blogging. She enjoys travelling with her husband.

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

Evan Paules

Graduate Student, S. Zeisel Lab

Evan Paules joined the NRI in August 2016 as a doctoral student in the Nutrition Department. He completed his undergraduate program at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. He received his BS in 2016 with a double major in Biochemistry and Behavioral Neuroscience. His research interests include 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.

Peter Pediaditakis, PhD : <h4>Research Scientist, N. Krupenko Lab</h4>

Peter Pediaditakis, PhD

Research Scientist, N. Krupenko Lab

Dr. Peter Pediaditakis joined UNC Nutrition Research Institute in 2015 as a research scientist in the N. Krupenko Lab after several years in an academic setting.  His work involves understanding how folate metabolism affects hepatocytes and how those hepatocyte effects influence the whole body. Additionally, Dr. Pediaditakis is creating specific genetic mutants in immortalized cultured hepatocytes to more clearly understand the role of the liver using metabolomics-based methods. Dr. Peter Pediaditakis received his PhD in Cellular and Molecular Pathology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002. His thesis work was in the laboratory of Dr. George Michalopoulos where he explored the role of hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor in liver homeostasis and regeneration. Upon completion of his doctorate, Dr. Pediaditakis joined the laboratory of Dr. John Lemasters at UNC Chapel Hill where he received an individual Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. The focus of his post-doctoral work explored the role of protein kinases A and G in the protection of hepatocytes from mitochondrial-induced cell death. After his fellowship, Dr. Pediaditakis worked as a scientist at various institutions and private companies where he continued his work on human and mammalian hepatocyte isolation and metabolism. Dr. Pediaditakis left the laboratory for several years and taught biology, anatomy and physiology, and chemistry at both the high school and college level.

Brandon Presswood : <h4>Research Technician, Smith Lab</h4>

Brandon Presswood

Research Technician, Smith Lab

Brandon received his B.S. in Biology in August of 2018 from the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.  His undergraduate research focused on investigating long non-coding RNAs in translation and ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis.  Before that he was in the US Air Force from January 2007 to January 2016.  Brandon joined the NRI in August 2018 where he currently assists the Smith lab with their research of ethanol and the impacts it has upon fetal neurological growth and development.

Dane Ricketts : <h4>Research Technician, Mooney Lab</h4>

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.

Nipun Saini, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Smith Lab</h4>

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.

Jaspreet Sharma, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, S. Krupenko Lab</h4>

Jaspreet Sharma, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, 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.


Jon Shea : <h4>Research Associate, Meyer Lab</h4>

Jon Shea

Research Associate, Meyer Lab

Jon Shea joined the Nutrition Research Institute in the summer of 2017 as a research associate. 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.  He is currently studying the gut microbiome and its connection to cardiovascular health with Dr. Katie Meyer.

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>Study Coordinator, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Julie Stegall

Study Coordinator, Zeisel Lab

In January 2018, Julie took on a new role as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Zeisel Lab. She joined the NRI in 2009, and has worked on research studies with babies, toddlers, school age children, and adults, as well as managing other lab responsibilities. She was drawn to the NRI in 2009 by the opportunity to work with Carol Cheatham, PhD as a recruiter for her studies with children.  She quickly became a research assistant and lab manager during her 5 years with the Cheatham team.  An opportunity presented itself for her to focus in a different area with Philip May, PhD.  As a result of her past experiences with children diagnosed with a FASD, Julie became engrossed in May's research to understand more about this challenging problem. 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. Julie is a native of Kannapolis.

Isis Trujillo, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Zeisel Lab</h4>

Isis Trujillo, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Zeisel Lab

Isis Trujillo received her PhD 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.

Melissa VerHague, PhD : <h4>Research Associate, Hursting Lab</h4>

Melissa VerHague, PhD

Research Associate, 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. Her primary research focus is understanding the role of CD44 in atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.

Megan Wunsch : <h4>Social Media Intern, Development Office</h4>

Megan Wunsch

Social Media Intern, Development Office

Megan joined the NRI in Fall of 2018 as a Social Media Intern in the Development Office. She is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, pursuing a dual-bachelors degree in Health Systems Management and Sociology with a minor in Public Health. Megan is a native of Charlotte, NC and spends most of her free time on Lake Norman or hiking with her two dogs, Riley and Ella.