Susan Sumner, PhD


Professor of Nutrition
Differences in metabolic profiles

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. Using metabolomics, Dr. Sumner assesses differences in the metabolic profile of individuals that correlate with states of wellness or disease. She is identifying responses to treatment in areas such as obesity, drug-induced liver injury, infectious disease, and reproductive and developmental biology.

For the past 12 years, Dr. Sumner has worked at the Research Triangle Institute as Director of the NIH Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core, and as a Senior Research Scientist in the Center for Estimating Human Health Risks from Exposure to Nanoparticles. Her research activities span several domain areas in Personalized Medicine, Metabolomics and Biomarkers Research, Obesity, and NanoHealth. She has led projects designed to identify biomarkers for the early detection of disease, to monitor disease progression or therapeutic intervention, and to gain insights into mechanisms of response. Dr. Sumner has served as the PI of a grant funded through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to use metabolomics to reveal noninvasive markers of drug-induced liver injury. She also leads several research efforts that involve using metabolomics to reveal mechanistic insights related to the impact of environmental exposure in utero or early in life on reproductive and developmental outcomes.

“My expertise in metabolism and metabolomics, and broad applications in studies of diet, smoking, cancer, diabetes, obesity, cognitive development, liver disease, natural products, maternal and child health, and the environmental influence of disease complements the nutrigenomics research at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute. Metabolomics provides a means to determine the link between genes and nutrition requirements, and to understand how nutrition impacts gene function.

In addition to contributing metabolomics expertise to NRI projects being led by other investigators, I am interested in bringing new projects to the institute for expanded collaborations, specifically in the areas of pregnancy complications, early-life chemical exposure and health outcomes, maternal and child health, diabetes and kidney disease, and human variation in metabolism.”

With Dr. Sumner’s arrival in Kannapolis, the NRI became home to the Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core. This is one of six centers in the United States that work together to establish national standards for metabolomics, and increase national metabolomic capacity in clinical and translational research.

Dr. Sumner received her BS and PhD degrees from North Carolina State University.

 


 

Research Team

 

Kristine Kay, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab</h4>

Kristine Kay, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab

klkay@email.unc.edu
704-250-5067

Kristine Kay, PhD joined the Sumner-Lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2019.  Her research interests focus on improving human health through characterization of bioactive compounds and structure-function relationships within cellular pathways. Dr. Kay has over 10 years of experience using NMR and Mass Spectrometry for the detection and identification of small molecules, peptides, and proteins. She earned a PhD in inorganic biochemistry in 2017 from The University of East Anglia (UEA, Norwich, UK), where she developed intact protein mass spectrometry and molecular spectroscopy methods to characterize highly conserved copper-binding proteins.  Prior to completing a PhD, Dr. Kay conducted research at the Quadram Institute, UK, where she used mass spectrometry and biomolecular NMR to design peptidomimetic therapeutics for proteins and receptors involved in pathways upregulated in cancer.  Dr. Kay will use her training to conduct metabolomics analysis for the Sumner-Lab.



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

David Kirchner, MS

Research Associate, Sumner Lab

david_kirchner@unc.edu
704-250-5037

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.



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

Yuanyuan Li, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab

yuanyli4@unc.edu
704-250-5069

Yuanyuan 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).  She has extensive experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and incorporates that knowledge in her research at NRI which focusses on prevention and management of metabolic syndromes, including obesity, diabetes, and their complications, through nutritional approaches and herbal remedies. Dr. Li  earned a BS in 2003 Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China and a PhD in biochemistry from City University of Hong Kong in 2014.



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

Susan McRitchie

Program Manager, Sumner Lab

susan_mcritchie@unc.edu
704-250-5067

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.



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

Wimal Pathmasiri, PhD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

wimal_pathmasiri@unc.edu
704-250-5069

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).  Dr. Pathmasiri develops and applies metabolomics to reveal metabolic pathway perturbations associated with disease states, therapeutic treatments, and environmentally relevant exposures. He has contributed to research in the areas of cancer, childhood obesity, early-life exposure to antibiotics, environmental exposure, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, rare diseases, and toxicology.  Dr. Pathmasiri earned a BSc and MPhil from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and a Licentiate of Philosophy from the Uppsala University, Sweden. He earned a PhD in Chemistry from Uppsala University and conducted postdoctoral research at UNC Chapel Hill, and at RTI International.



Blake Rushing, PhD : <h4>Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab</h4>

Blake Rushing, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sumner Lab

blake_rushing@unc.edu
(704) 250-5069

Blake Rushing, PhD, is a postdoctoral research associate 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. Dr. Rushing earned BS in Chemistry for Catawba College, a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology in 2018 from East Carolina University. Dr. Rushing will use his background in drug/chemical metabolism and toxicology to contribute to the identification of unknown signals in untargeted analyses for the Sumner-Lab.



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

Delisha Stewart, PhD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition

delisha_stewart@unc.edu
704-250-5068

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. Since 2012, she has worked with the Sumner-Lab to provide oversight for cancer and immunology studies conducted by the NIH Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core (ERCMRC), and will continue in this role for the North Carolina Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource Untargeted Analysis Laboratory (NC HHEAR UAL) that was established in August 2019. Dr. Stewart earned a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and conducted postdoctoral research at UNC-Chapel Hill and at RTI International.