Kimberly O'Brien


Kimberly O'Brien

230 Savage Hall
Phone: (607) 255-3743 Fax: (607) 255-1033
View Cornell University Contact Info
Biographical Statement:

Kimberly O’Brien received her B.S. in Biology from the University of New Hampshire and her PhD in Nutrition from the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Her professional training included fellowships with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Laboratory of Theoretical and Physical Biology/Section for Metabolic Analysis and Mass Spectrometry and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine. Professor O'Brien joined the faculty in the Division of Nutritional Sciences after wroking for 10 years as a faculty member in the Center of Human Nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Professor O’Brien’s research has centered on studies designed to better understand mineral metabolism and bone health in infants, children, and pregnant and lactating women in both developed and developing countries. To address issues of calcium metabolism, she has undertaken metabolic studies in groups including children from osteoporotic families, pregnant and lactating adolescents, and children with chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and HIV infection. Her current research focuses on the impact of adolescent pregnancy, particularly among minority populations, on maternal and fetal bone health, risk of anemia, vitamin D insufficiency and risk of infections, birth outcomes and nutritional status in women carrying multiples. Partitioning of nutrients between the mother and fetus is addressed at the cellular level by assessing placental mineral transporters in relation to maternal and neonatal status.

To allow for kinetic studies of human mineral metabolism, a mass spectrometry laboratory has been added to the existing resources in the Human Metabolic Research Unit. This laboratory includes instrumentation for high-sensitivity mineral stable isotope analysis using a  Triton TI magnetic sector thermal ionization mass spectrometer. This laboratory also provides analytical services through collaboration with other academic institutions in the country.

Teaching and Advising Statement:



I teach an undergraduate Human Anatomy and Physiology course and co-teach a graduate course on micronutrient metabolism. I am committed to promoting hands-on, investigative, opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in clinical research. Our laboratory group also actively involves undergraduates; many of whom are co-authors on the research generated. Scientific writing is emphasized and facilitated with weekly undergraduate and graduate writing groups and with weekly meetings for all on-site and off-site study personnel.  Graduate and post-doctoral students gain mentoring experience by providing guidance in methods development and data analysis to undergraduate laboratory students.

Current Professional Activities:

Adjunct Professor, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rochester, NY

Current Research Activities:

Calcium Metabolism and Bone Health; Maternal and Neonatal Anemia, Control of Maternal/Fetal Nutrient; Partitioning and Placental Mineral Transport;  Mineral Metabolism in Pregnant Adolescents and in Women Carrying Multiples, Vitamin D Kinetics during Pregnancy


NRSA Fellowship 1993-1995 - Baylor College of Medicine, Children's Nutrition Research Center, Houston, TX

IRTA Fellowship - 1991-1993 - National Institutes of Health, Section on Metabolic Analysis and Mass Spectrometry, Bethesda, MD

PhD - 1991     University of Connecticut, Nutrition

BS   - 1985     University of New Hampshire, Biology

Courses Taught:

NS3410 - Human Anatomy and Physiology
NS6310 - Micronutrients (Primary Instructor Charles McCormick)

Related Websites:

O'Brien Laboratory

Selected Publications:
  1. Thomas CE, Guillet R, Queenan RA, Cooper EM, Kent TR, Pressman EK, Vermeylen FM, Roberson MS, O’Brien KO. Vitamin D Status is Inversely Associated with Anemia and Serum Erythropoietin During Pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015; 102(5):1088-95.
  2. DelaValle D, Glahn R, Shaff J, O’Brien KO. Iron Absorption from Intrinsically-Labeled Lentils. J Nutr 2015; 145(10):2253-7. 
  3. Lee S, Guillet R, Cooper E, Westerman M, Orlando M, Kent T, Pressman E, O’Brien KO. Prevalence of Anemia and Associations Between Neonatal Iron Status, Hepcidin and Maternal Iron Status Among Neonates Born to Pregnant Adolescents. Pediatr Res 2015; Sep 18 doi:10.1038/pr.2015.183
  4. Cao C, Pressman EK, Cooper EM, Guillet R, O’Brien KO. Pre-pregnancy Body Mass Index and Gestational Weight Gain Have a Limited Impact on Maternal Hepcidin but no Significant Impact on Maternal or Neonatal Iron Status. Repro Sci 2015; Sep 29 DOI:10.1177/1933719115607976  
  5. Ye K, Cao C, O’Brien KO, Gu Z. Natural Selection on HFE in Asian Populations Contributes to Enhanced Non-heme Iron Absorption. BMC Genet. 2015 Jun 10;16:61. doi: 10.1186/s12863-015-0223-y.
  6. Sirichakwal PP, Kamchansupasin A,  Akoh CC,  Puwastien P, Kriengsinyos W, Chareonkiatkul S,  Komindr S, O’Brien KO. Vitamin D Status is Associated with Calcium Absorption among Postmenopausal Thai Women with Habitually Low Calcium Intakes. J Nutr. 2015 May;145(5):990-5. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.207290. Epub 2015 Mar 25.
  7. Whisner CM, Young BE, Queenan RA, Cooper EM, Pressman EK, O’Brien KO. Maternal Diet but not Gestational Weight Gain Predicts Fetal Fat Accretion in Utero. In Press; International J of Obesity (Lond). 2015 Apr;39(4):565-70.doi: 10.1038/ijo.2014.202. Epub 2014 Dec 3.
  8. Finkelstein JL, Pressman EK, Cooper EM, Kent TR, Bar HY, O’Brien KO. Vitamin D Status Impacts Serum Metabolomic Profiles in Pregnant Adolescents. Reproductive Sciences 2015 Jun;22(6):685-95. doi: 10.1177/1933719114556477. Epub 2014 Nov 2.
  9. Cao C, Thomas C, Insogna KL, O’Brien KO. Duodenal Absorption and Tissue Utilization of Dietary Heme and Non-Heme Iron in a Rat Model of Iron Overload. J Nutr 2014; 144:1710-1717.
  10. Lumish RA, Young SL, Lee S, Cooper E, Pressman E, O’Brien KO. Gestational Iron Deficiency is Associated with Pica Behavior in Adolescents. J Nutr. 2014 144:1533-39.
  11. Lee S, Cooper EM,  Pressman EK, Queenan RA, McIntyre AW, Guillet R, O'Brien KO.  Determinants of Anemia and Iron Deficiency among Pregnant Adolescents. J Nutr. 2014; 144:1524-32.
  12. Smith SM, Castaneda-Sceppa C, O’Brien KO, Abrams SA, Gillman P, Brooks NE, Cloutier GJ, Heer M, Zwart SR, Wastney ME. Calcium Kinetics during Bed Rest With Artificial Gravity and Exercise Countermeasures. Osteoporosis International 2014; 25:2237-44. 
  13. Cao C, Pressman EK, Cooper EM, Guillet R, Westerman M, O’Brien KO. Placental heme receptor, LRP1 correlates with the heme exporter FLVCR1 and neonatal iron status. Reproduction 2014; 148:295-302.
  14. Whisner CM, Young BE, Witter FR, Harris ZL, Queenan RA, Cooper EM, O’Brien KO. Reductions in Heel Bone Quality Across Gestation Are Attenuated in Pregnant Adolescents with Higher Prepregnancy Weight and Greater Increases in PTH Across Gestation. J Bone Miner Res 2014; 29(9):2109-17.
  15. Smith SM, Abrams SA, Davis-Street JE, Heer M, O’Brien KO, Wastney ME, Zwart SR. 50 Years of Human Space Travel: Implications for Bone and Calcium Research. Annu Rev Nutr 2014; 34:1.1-1.24.
  16. Lee S, Essley BV, Cooper EM,  Pressman EK, Queenan RA, McIntyre AW,   Guillet R, O'Brien KO. Pregnant Adolescents Consume Diets Deficient in Calcium and Iron. Infant Child and Adolescent 2014; 6:152-159.
  17. Young BV, McNanley TJ, Cooper EM, McIntyre AW, Witter F, Harris ZL, O’Brien KO. Placental Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) Expression is Related to Neonatal Vitamin D Status, Placental Ca Transfer and Fetal Bone Length in Pregnant Adolescents. FASEB J. 2014 May 28(5):2029-37.
  18. O’Brien KO, Li S, Cao C, Kent B, Young BV, Queenan RA, Pressman EK, Cooper EM. Maternal and Neonatal Vitamin D Status and Regulation of CYP27B1 and CYP24A1 Expression in Human Placental Tissue. 2014 J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2014 Apr 99(4):1348-56.


Selected Keywords:
Maternal and Child Health,Calcium,Iron, Anemia,Stable isotopes,Pediatric nutrition,Placenta,Pregnancy,Osteoporosis, Biomedical Mass spectrometry,Bone,Minority Health,Vitamin D

The information on this bio page is taken from the CHE Annual Report.