New Faculty, 2019-2020

New faculty: Figueroa, Loebach and Zhong

Roger Figueroa

Assistant professor
Division of Nutritional Science

What is the primary focus of your research?

My research combines concepts and methods across disciplinary boundaries to examine interconnections between the social and behavioral determinants of health, with a particular focus on children’s energy-balance behaviors in underrepresented and low-income communities.

What attracted you specifically to Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and your department?

I was truly impressed by the breadth of disciplines and fields represented in both CHE and DNS. As an interdisciplinary scholar, it encouraged me to be part of a supportive environment for conducting research that is cognizant of the importance of “contexts” that shape human health.

How would you say your research is improving lives, a core mission of Human Ecology?

Our interdisciplinary work improves lives by conducting rigorous academic research that informs prevention efforts toward childhood obesity and health disparities in underserved communities. As a new faculty member returning to the Land-Grant environment, I am eager to leverage the assets that transcend boundaries across disciplines and sectors within the College, and at Cornell broadly, to continue improving people’s lives.

Janet Loebach

Assistant professor
Design + Environmental Analysis

What is the primary focus of your research?

My research focuses on understanding the relationship between contemporary children and youth and their everyday environments, including their home, school and community. This includes examining how children perceive, use and interact with the built and natural environment, and how this interaction supports or hinders their development, health and well-being.

What attracted you specifically to Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and your department?

The commitment to research and outreach that genuinely aims to improve the lives and health of people and communities. I also appreciated the College’s interdisciplinary structure and approach. I am also grateful to be working with such a diverse group of colleagues in D+EA who are using innovative strategies to better understand how we can design environments and products that can support, ease or enrich lives.

How would you say your research is improving lives, a core mission of Human Ecology?

I actively work to honor the rights and address the needs of children and youth by investigating how built and natural environments can support healthy development and by ensuring that their voice is heard within research and decision-making processes. My research is also continuously seeking innovative approaches that are well-suited to young people, and which can powerfully illustrate children’s environmental behavior and interests such as child-produced videos, design plans or community maps.

Victor Wenze Zhong

Assistant professor
Division of Nutritional Science

What is the primary focus of your research?

The overarching goal of my research is to advance our understanding of the etiology, progression, and management of cardiometabolic diseases including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Highly interdisciplinary approaches are used spanning the following disciplines: nutrition, epidemiology, omics and health informatics.

What attracted you specifically to Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and your department?

Human Ecology and the Division provide exceptional administrative, professional and startup support for junior faculty to ensure their success. Further, the organic integration of a variety of disciplines and diverse faculty expertise within and across College departments provides an ideal environment for someone like me who focuses on utilizing multidisciplinary knowledge to solve pressing nutrition problems locally and globally.

How would you say your research is improving lives, a core mission of Human Ecology?

Understanding the association between diet and cardiometabolic diseases and identifying optimal diet at individual and population level for preventing and managing cardiometabolic diseases are public health research priorities. My research uses large sample-size and high-dimensional data sets to investigate dietary associations with cardiometabolic diseases and underlying mechanisms. Findings will contribute new knowledge to informing people to adopt healthy dietary behaviors, ultimately improving people’s health.

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