Meet our graduate students

katherine baker

Katherine Baker, Community Nutrition
Katherine is a PhD student in Community Nutrition. Originally from Milwaukee, she earned her BA from New York University and her MS in Human Nutrition from Columbia University, where she focused her thesis on using social media to improve nutrition knowledge and self-efficacy among college-aged students, and volunteered as a nutrition and cooking educator in New York City elementary schools. During her MS, Katherine became fascinated with the intersections of climate change, environmental health, and nutrition. She next got her MPH with a certificate in climate and health from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. Katherine is passionate about eliminating health disparities, helping communities prevent chronic disease, and hopes to integrate her environmental health science background towards creating sustainable, just, and nourishing solutions to nutrition-related problems. Katherine also loves to bake, write, and hang out with her rescue dog, Millie.

alexa barad

Alexa Barad, Molecular & Human Nutrition
Alexa Barad was born and raised in Costa Rica. In 2013, her desire to become an expert in nutrition led her to Texas A&M University’s undergraduate program in Nutrition and Dietetics, and later in 2017 to University of Florida’s Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetic Internship program. From rising to the level of international competition as a dancer to moving to a foreign country to pursue her studies in nutrition, Alexa has has always committed to the choices she makes in pursuit of excellence. Alexa is now pursuing a PhD in Nutrition with the ultimate goal of helping discover underlying mechanisms of disease processes that could lead to more effective therapies. She hopes to make valuable contributions to the field of nutrition as a competent and productive research scientist.

jamie blum

Jamie Blum, BS, PhD Candidate
Jamie is interested in the relationship between dietary intake and metabolic/age-related disease with a focus on intracellular metabolism and cross-organ metabolite exchange. In the Thalacker-Mercer lab, she studies the role of intracellular metabolic proteins (PKM2, SIRT5) and circulating nutrients (serum factors, impact of dietary interventions) on muscle stem cell function. Jamie’s research is supported by a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation. In the future, she is planning to continue research as a postdoctoral fellow.  

jesse brinkman

Jesse Brinkman, Human Nutrition
Jesse has a B.S. in Dietetics from the University of Vermont and is currently a first year student in the PhD-RD combined program at Cornell. She’ll be completing the Dietetic Internship next year. In lab Jesse works with Barb Strupp investigating the role of prenatal choline supplementation on cognitive outcomes in infants. Ultimately, Jesse aspires to work as a NICU dietitian while congruently researching nutrition interventions aimed at optimizing health outcomes for premature neonates.

faith carter

Faith Carter, Molecular & Human Nutrition
Faith was born and raised in North Carolina. As an undergraduate, she attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she obtained a B.S. in Chemistry with a Biology minor. Faith's undergraduate research focused on characterizing phospholipid and cholesterol interactions. Immediately after undergrad, Faith joined the NIH sponsored Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at Virginia Tech. As a post-bac student, she was given the opportunity to expand her skill set and studied how mitophagy influences adipocyte differentiation. Faith plans to apply her diversity in research experiences by using a unique approach to studying nutrition research. Outside of academics, Faith enjoys reading and taking her dog on trail walks.

luisa fernanda castillo

Luisa Fernanda Castillo, Molecular & Human Nutrition
Luisa was born in the border town of Juarez, Mexico to a lovely middle class family. She graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) with a BS. in Chemistry and a minor in Anthropology. Luisa's passion is to improve people's health and quality of life through nutrition. 



elizabeth centeno tablante

Elizabeth Centeno Tablante is a biologist trained at the University of Carabobo in Venezuela. She holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Trials from University of Seville, Spain and a Master’s in Biomedicine from University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain. Prior to joining the Mehta Research Group Elizabeth was working as full-time consultant for the World Health Organization conducting evidence assessment and systematic reviews for informing global guidelines related to nutrition policies, HIV/AIDS and child health. Elizabeth is now conducting a field study in Ecuador studying the relationship between infectious diseases and micronutrients. 


Reah Chiong

Reah Chiong, Community Nutrition
Reah is a PhD student in Community Nutrition and an aspiring dietitian. She recently completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics and Food Administration with a Minor in Child Development and Family Studies at California State University - Long Beach in the Spring of 2019. Her research career officially began two years prior when she was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to undergo research training through the BUILD program. Through a formal mentorship, she developed, instructed, and used a mixed methods approach to evaluate a nutrition and physical activity curriculum for parents and children focused on food parenting. Since then, she has immersed herself in various research roles, settings, and projects – from the development of cooking class modules for community health workers to the data input of pediatric patient food records. Her current research interest involves the interplay between food behaviors, the environment, and health. She hopes to utilize her background in nutrition research and her passion for the community to implement healthy and sustainable food-related policies and practices to address nutrition needs of families and children. Reah’s favorite pastimes include reading at a coffee shop, cooking, and enhancing her calligraphy skills.

fiona coleman

Fiona Coleman, B.S., is a second-year International Nutrition Ph.D. student working with Dr. John Hoddinott. Fiona has particular interest in nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions and how women’s empowerment impacts household nutrition. Accordingly, her dissertation research is focused on a program in Bangladesh that sought to improve nutrition through nutrition behavior change, women’s empowerment, and agricultural diversification.  Prior to Cornell, Fiona served as a food security specialist for Peace Corps Zambia and farm apprentice across 3 continents. Aside from academics, Fiona is an avid marathon runner and acrylic painter.  


janine comrie

Janine Comrie is a first-year Ph.D. student with a concentration in Molecular Nutrition. She grew up in South Florida, where her Jamaican family’s food culture greatly inspired her interest in food and nutrition. She now seeks to investigate the biochemical mechanisms underlying how diet affects health, particularly mechanisms involving the gut microbiota. With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences, she hopes to continue investigating nutrition through a biological lens throughout her career, while contributing to other food-system-related causes, such as food justice.


heather falise

Heather Falise, BS, RD, MS Candidate is a first year graduate student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. Heather completed the Cornell dietetic internship last year, and earned her registered dietitian credential over the summer. She intends to work with the Mehta Research group. Heather's research interests include micronutrient status, and the relationship between the gut microbiome and human health. 


Laura Galley

Laura Galley, BA, is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Lujan Lab within the Division of Nutrition Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. She is assessing the effectiveness of hypocaloric dietary intervention to restore ovulatory function and hormonal balance in women with PCOS. Her objective is to determine baseline clinical characteristics and dietary behaviors that predispose certain individuals to respond positively to hypocaloric dietary intervention. She is interested in clinical, translational research that impacts medical nutrition therapy given to women struggling with infertility and hirsutism related to PCOS.


navika gangrade

Navika Gangrade, R.D., Ph.D. Candidate, is a 4th year combined PhD-RD student and predoctoral trainee on the NIH Institutional Training Grant (T32) in Maternal and Child Nutrition. She is a student in community nutrition working with Dr. Tashara Leak. Navika's dissertation work focuses on designing and implementing a food advocacy program for minority, low-income adolescents at the Boys & Girls Club in New York City. 



heather guetterman

Heather Guetterman, MS, is a third year PhD student and has a background in nutrition -- earning her BS from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and her MS from Cornell University. Pairing her passions for nutrition and maternal and child health, her research focuses on micronutrient status and health among women of reproductive age in Southern India. Outside of research, Heather enjoys running and painting. 



cristina guitron leal

Cristina Güitrón Leal, International Nutrition
Cristina studied human nutrition in Mexico City and, after a 1-year internship at Instituto Nacional de Perinatología, she chose Cornell for her graduate studies. She completed her Master's at Cornell in May 2019 and is thrilled to be part of the Finkelstein lab for her doctorate studies, where she focuses on maternal and child nutrition. Outside of academics, Cristina enjoys crochet, reading, and singing.


camille elyse jones

Camille Elyse Jones, MPH, International Nutrition
Camille, a PhD Candidate, joined the Division of Nutritional Sciences as a Dean’s Excellence Graduate Fellow, then became a Trainee with the National Institute of Health in Maternal and Child Nutrition. Before attending Cornell University, she earned a Bachelor of Science from Howard University with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and business administration. She earned a Masters in Public Health from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine while working as a Masters International Peace Corps Volunteer in Mochudi and Gaborone, Botswana. Continuing her Peace Corps service with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Camille pioneered program design in supply chain management, working with local health professionals to provide antiretroviral medications and health commodities to patients throughout the country. As a result of her time working in communities, Camille became increasingly interested in investigating the determinants of maternal and child health outcomes, and sought avenues to take an epidemiological approach to investigate relationships between nutrition and disease.

wanhui kang

Wanhui Kang, BS, BE, Ph.D. Candidate, is a fourth year graduate student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Wanhui received a Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional sciences at Cornell and a Bachelor of Engineering degree in food science at China Agricultural University. She is a student in human nutrition whose current research projects focus on understanding how genetic components influence iron homeostasis in different racial groups. Wanhui was born and raised in China. Outside of academics, she likes reading and playing basketball and ping-pong.


blake mitchell

Blake Mitchell, AS, BS, is a first-year Ph.D. student from Waco, Texas.  Blake is a student in molecular nutrition with a wide range of interests centered around the role of dietary factors in the development of disease and the prevention of obesity and chronic disease.  He is a graduate of Texas A&M University.  


ximena palma molina

Ximena Palma Molina is a first year student at the PhD Program in International Nutrition, originally from Chile where she graduated as a Nutritionist from the University of Valparaiso and later earned her MSc from the University of Chile. Since the beginning of her career, she has been very interested in the relationship between food components and health but after becoming a mom, she has focused that interest towards child nutrition where she plans to work in obesity and micronutrient deficiency. During her free time she loves playing with her son, exercising and traveling.

krip rajagopalan

Kripa Rajagopalan
Kripa is a Doctoral student from India where she did her undergraduate and graduate education (B.Sc. Life Sciences-Mumbai University; M.Sc. Food Science and Nutrition-S.N.D.T. Women’s University). She worked in India with the marginalized communities before her Master of Science degree in Public Health (Human Nutrition-Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health). Her early experiences involve nutrition counseling to pregnant and lactating women, and mothers of low-birth weight babies and immunocompromised children (Foundation for Mother and Child Health-India). She has been involved in research projects such as PRACHITI (studying the relationship between diet, gut microbiome, and inflammation among HIV-infected and uninfected pregnant women based in India)—a project of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine-Division of Infectious Diseases. Her research interests include exploring risk factors, especially the modifiable ones such as poor nutrition, inflammation, and infection, to prevent diseases.

pratiwi ridwan

Pratiwi Ridwan, International Nutrition
Pratiwi is a first-year doctorate student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, with International Nutrition as a concentration. Her research interests include infectious disease and nutrition, especially in vulnerable population. Currently, she is a member of Mehta Research Group, whose current research focuses on Tuberculosis disease, micronutrients and the gut microbiome. During her free time, Pratiwi loves to travel, sleep and listening to the audiobook.



felicia setiono

Felicia Setiono, Community Nutrition
Felicia earned an MSPH in Human Nutrition from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a BS in Biological Sciences from Cornell University. Her main research interest is understanding how environmental and social factors impact dietary behaviors, especially in low-income communities. Felicia has been involved in several nutrition education interventions in the US, including in Maryland, New Mexico, and New York. She also interested in the role of nutrition education and participatory research in shaping health policies at both the local and national levels. Moving forward, Felicia would like to combine her interest in nutritional research and public health to pursue a career in nutritional policy/communication. In her free time, Felicia likes to experiment with making new baked goods and dishes.

alex vonderschmidt

Alexander Vonderschmidt, BS, BA, RDN is an MS candidate in Nutritional Sciences from Mission, Kansas. Alex completed the Cornell Dietetic Internship in the Summer of 2020, earning the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential. Alex is currently working with the Cassano Research Group on dietary patterns and lung function. His research interests include the relationship between diet and chronic disease, diet and environmental sustainability, and policy development. Outside of class, Alex also loves running, yoga, and traveling!

wing zhong

Yingyi (Wing) Zhong, BA, Ph.D. Candidate, is a fourth year graduate student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. She is an international student in human nutrition whose current research projects focus on the effect of daily self-weighing on prevention of age-related weight gain, working from the Levitsky Lab. She earned her bachelor degree in Oklahoma State University where she studied double majors of Hospitality and Nutritional Science. Wing is passionate about studying human behaviors that can promote health, running in the morning, and playing board games with friends. 

I am beyond appreciative for my mentors, research experiences and the URM initiative programs that have shaped my academic career and have led me to where I am today, both professionally and academically.  As a new current graduate student, I am extremely excited to be in the Nutritional Science program here at Cornell and I am looking forward to contributing to the nutrition field.

Faith Carter
PhD candidate in Molecular/Human/Community Nutrition

Graduate students not profiled above: Kara Beckman, Abigail Benvie, Jocelyn Boiteau, Tong Chen, Katherine Delaney, Sri Lakshmi Sravani, Kaydine Edwards, Amy Fothergill, Darius Fox, Brandon Gheller, Jenna Golan, Yifei Gu, Yitong He, Katarina Heyden, Sinwoo Hwang, Heesoo Jeong, Naiwen Ji, Dorothy Kim, Xu Lan, Ji Ye Lee, Yang Liu, Kathryn Merckel, Yuuki Nakayachi, Semira Ortiz, Ibukun Owoputi, Bonnie Patchen, Jennifer Peregoy, Nidhi Shrestha, Xin Shu, Benjamin Steiner, Kendra Tiani, Pei-Yin Tsai, Gargi Wable, Yuanyuan Wu, Yuwen Xiu, Siwen Xue, Jie Zhang, Jiaqi Zou