Faculty and Research
The world-class faculty in Penn State’s Nutritional Sciences Department actively engage in cutting-edge research that expands the body of knowledge in our field, while also acting as mentors to our graduate students.
In keeping with our innovative and interdisciplinary mission in Nutritional Sciences, the research possibilities here are extensive and diverse, covering domains such as nutritional epidemiology, public health issues in low-income and middle-income countries, food marketing and childhood obesity, best practices in online and hybrid learning — and much more.
Cindy Adams, PhD
Instructor and Academic Advisor
Rita Castro, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Homocysteine metabolism; genetic and non-genetic determinants of hyperhomocysteinemia; and the molecular mechanisms through which hyperhomocysteinemia causes endothelial dysfunction and vascular disease
Xiang Gao, MD, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Director of Nutritional Epidemiology Lab
Research Interests: Nutritional epidemiology; sleep disorders; neurological diseases; aging; and global health and stress, using data from several large international ongoing prospective cohorts — including the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, and the Kailuan Cohort — in which ~500,000 men and women have been followed regarding their lifestyles and health conditions
Alison D. Gernand, PhD, MPH, RD
Ann Atherton Hertzler Early Career Professor in Global Health, Assistant Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences
Research Interests: Micronutrient deficiencies (in particular, vitamin D); pregnancy and prepregnancy maternal nutritional status; placenta (growth, vascular development and angiogenesis, pathology); adverse pregnancy outcomes (fetal growth restriction and SGA, preeclampsia, preterm birth); plasma volume and biomarker concentrations; public health issues in low-income and middle-income countries.
Kathleen L. Keller, Ph.D.
Associate Professor / Department of Nutritional Sciences / Department of Food Science
Research Interests: Eating behaviors in children; neural mechanisms of taste preference and eating behaviors in children; food marketing and childhood obesity; genetic and neural influences in taste in children
Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., RD
Distinguished Professor of Nutrition
Research Interests: Effects of diet on established and emerging risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Denise Conforti Lawson, MS, RD
Dietetic Internship Director and Instructor
Jennifer Meengs, MS, RD
Instructor of Foods Lab
Laura E. Murray-Kolb, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Professor-in-Charge of the Graduate Program
Research Interests: Micronutrient deficiencies (primarily iron); mother-child interactions; child development; cognition and affect; biofortification
Muzi Na, PhD, MHS
Assistant Professor in Nutritional Epidemiology, Department of Nutritional Sciences
Research Interests: Maternal and child nutrition; infant and young child feeding practices; food insecurity; innovative quantitative methods in nutrition research
Gina Pazzaglia, PhD, RDN
Director of the Online Master's Program Instructor of Nutritional Sciences Outreach Associate Professor
Research Interests: Pedagogy; best practices in teaching and learning; cultural competence and diversity skills; best practices in online and hybrid learning; nutrition education and health in the Latino population
Connie J. Rogers, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Research Interests: Role of changes in energy balance and related nutritional factors on inflammation; immune regulation and cancer risk using both animal models and human subjects
Barbara J. Rolls, Ph.D.
Helen A. Guthrie Chair and Professor
Research Interests: Psychological and environmental controls of food intake and food selection in normal weight and obese humans; dietary strategies for weight management
A. Catharine Ross, Ph.D.
Professor and Occupant of Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair and Department Head
Research Interests: Vitamin A/retinoid metabolism; hepatic retinoid function and gene expression; Vitamin A in infection and immunity; Vitamin A and lung development in neonatal period
Gregory Shearer, PhD
Research Interests: The consequences of over-nutrition and the stress of "western diets" related to lipid mediators and a global shift of dietary fatty acids; identifying markers of disease and better ways to prevent or manage disease
Matam Vijay-Kumar (Vijay), PhD
Research Interests: Host metabolic adaptations to inflammation; the interplay between intestinal inflammation and metabolic disorders; innate immunity-gut microbiotal interactions in metabolic diseases; understanding the mechanisms by which the innate immune response helps in the gut microbiotal homeostasisct against insults such as chemicals, viruses and radiation; Lipocalin 2 - mediated iron homeostasis in inflammation
Jennifer Savage Williams, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor; Director, Center for Childhood Obesity Research
Research Interests: Developing individualized, adaptive prenatal and postnatal interventions to promote health across the lifespan; examining the effects of responsive parenting on children’s development of eating behaviors and health outcomes; building community partnerships to develop efficient and effective interventions that use electronic-health, multimedia technology to target low-income mothers to reduce children’s intake of “empty calories”