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

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.

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.

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.

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