Research in the Division of Nutritional Sciences falls into several overlapping core areas: molecular nutrition, human nutrition and metabolism, systems approaches to nutrition, and nutrition and disease in populations.

The faculty, postdoctoral associates, technical staff, and graduate students have expertise in the physical, life and social sciences, and they are jointly committed to fundamental and multidisciplinary research and its translation to nutrition practice and policy.

Nutrition at Cornell is committed to knowledge generation, discovery and improving human health in the areas of: Precision Nutrition and Metabolism; Lifecycle Nutrition; Food and Nutrition Systems; and, Social and Behavioral Nutrition.

Faculty Profiles

Nutritional Chemistry; Biochemistry, Metabolism, Obesity Prevention

The overarching goal of Dr. Barre's research program is to reduce obesity and sarcopenic obesity in late life adults.

Professor Barrow's primary research focus is Mitochondrial disease. This group of diseases represents one of the most commonly inherited human diseases.

The Berry Lab focuses on understanding adipose tissue biology and systemic metabolism by studying adipose stem cells (ASC).

The overarching goal of the Cassano Lab's research is to understand the role of nutrition and its interaction with genome in the etiology of chronic disease.

Professor Caudill is internationally recognized for her work on folate and choline, and the intake levels required to meet metabolic requirements and improve physiological outcomes. She has published over 130 papers, reviews, and chapters in this area, and is frequently an invited speaker on topics related to the importance of choline nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.  Professor Caudill is also an editor on the popular graduate level nutrition textbook "Biochemical, Physiological, & Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition”.

Current research activities include assessing the effect of maternal choline supplementation during pregnancy on DHA delivery to the developing fetus.

Professor Dickin's work includes formative and implementation research to improve the effectiveness of maternal and child nutrition interventions and strengthen multisectoral nutrition capacity, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. She leads the CENTIR Group, focusing on community-based programs supporting low-income families' efforts to help children thrive.

  • Jamie Dollahite, PhD; Professor and Director, NE Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Center of Excellence, Food and Nutrition Education in Communities

Professor Dollahite's research fall into two broad categories of projects: 1. use of the socio-ecological model in research and practice and 2. program effectiveness.

  • David Erickson, PhD; Joint Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences; Sibley College Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Current research interests include smartphone-based nutrition and cholesterol analysis. Dr. Davidson is a co-founder of INSiGHT, along with Dr. Saurabh Mehta, Associate Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. INSiGHT is Cornell's Institute for Nutritional Sciences, Global Health and Technology.

Professor Field studies gene-nutrient-environment interactions, and underlying molecular mechanisms, that lead to development of pathology.  These efforts are currently centered around:  1) the role of nutrition in maintaining mitochondrial DNA integrity and mitochondrial function, 2) understanding the role of the blood-brain barrier in maintaining brain nutrient status, and 3) understanding the relationship between specific gene variants in defining genetic predisposition to weight gain. 

  • Julia Finkelstein, MPH, SM, ScD; Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition | The Follett Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow

The goal of the Finkelstein Laboratory is to determine the role of iron, vitamin B12, and folate in the etiology of anemia and adverse pregnancy outcomes, to inform the development of interventions to improve the health of mothers and young children. Major research projects include randomized trials, cohort studies, and surveillance programs in Southern India.

The Gu Lab investigates the evolution of mitochondrial functions and the role of mtDNA mutation in aging and various diseases, including but not limited to tumor, autism and neural degenerative diseases.

  • John F. Hoddinott, D.Phil; Babcock Professor of Food and Nutrition Economics and Policy

Professor Hoddinott's current research interests focus on the links between economics, food security and early life nutrition. He has ongoing collaborative projects in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Guatemala.

Research in the Johnson Lab focuses on how bioactive lipids from the diet influence the development of the microbiome in infants and how the production of lipids by the gut microbiome can influence host metabolism.

Professor Leak is a health equity researcher who conducts interventions that aim to improve dietary behaviors of culturally diverse, urban adolescents at risk for developing obesity-related chronic diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes). Learn more about the Leak Lab.

Professor Levitsky and his students are currently investigating (a) the efficacy of a weight monitoring program called Caloric Titration as a means of safely losing and maintaining weight loss (b) examining the effect of being weighed before eating on amount of food consumed at a meal in the laboratory, (b) examining the effect of being weighed before eating on amount and kind of foods purchased in the dining hall,(c) evaluate the effect of self-weighing on recalls of foods eaten (d) examine the priming effect of exercise and health on food consumption, (e) exam the effects of holidays on weight gain and the recover from the weight gain.

The focus of Lujan Lab relates to the interplay of nutrition and metabolic status with women’s reproductive health. Specific interests include elucidating mechanisms whereby diet, metabolism and adiposity impact ovulation; and developing use ultrasonographic features of ovarian morphology as point-of-care diagnostic indicators for ovulatory disorders, risk of concurrent comorbidities and response to diet intervention.

 

  • Saurabh Mehta, ScD;  Associate Professor of Global Health, Epidemiology, and Nutrition.

Dr. Mehta is a physician and an epidemiologist with expertise in infectious disease, nutrition, maternal and child health, and diagnostics. He is co-founder of INSiGHT with David Erickson. This collaboration seeks to reduce health care disparities through technology. 

The Mehta Research Group primarily works in India with a focus on vulnerable populations including mothers and children, and those suffering from infectious diseases such as HIV infection, Tuberculosis, Dengue virus infection, Zika virus infection, and Malaria.

  • Dennis Miller, PhD; Professor of Food Chemistry and Nutrition in the Department of Food Science at Cornell with a joint appointment in the Division of Nutritional Sciences.

The overall objectives of Professor Miller's research program are to increase knowledge about factor that influence the nutritional bioavailability of iron in foods. A variety of techniques are used including in vitro gastrointestinal digestion, cell culture, and animal models.

The main research interests of the O'Brien Lab focus on mineral dynamics (calcium, iron and vitamin D) and genetic determinants of mineral absorption. On-going research also addresses maternal and fetal nutrient partitioning and the mechanisms used to control nutrient flux at the level of the placenta.  

Professor Pelletier's research interests relate to the formulation, implementation and evaluation of nutrition policy, primarily in low and middle income countries. He approaches this work from a transdisciplinary, engaged and problem-oriented perspective, in which the key research questions and choice of methods emerges in the course of engaging with policy and program actors at global, national or sub-national levels. This approach is guided by robust theoretical frameworks and ensures that the research is responsive to real-world concerns and more likely to be understood, valued and used by those responsible for policies and programs.

Professor Pingali is the Founding Director of TCI and a Professor in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, with a joint appointment in the Division of Nutritional Sciences.

The goal of the Poole Lab is to elucidate the interactions between host genetics, dietary intake, and gut microbes in order to benefit host health. Current projects focus on  the amylase locus, a result of gene copy number variation, which encodes an enzyme involved in starch degradation.

The Qian Lab has a long standing interest in molecular mechanisms of translational control in mammalian cells; specifically, focusing on nutrient signaling, ribosome dynamics, mRNA modification, stress response, and their implications in human diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.

  • Kathleen Rasmussen, ScD; The Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professor of Maternal and Child Nutrition

Professor Rasmussen's focus is studying the relationship between maternal nutritional status during the reproductive period and short- and long-term maternal and child health outcomes.

  • David Sahn, PhD; International Professor of Economics in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Department of Economics

Professor Sahn's research is focused on issues of poverty, inequality, and the economics of health, nutrition, and education. His main academic interest is in identifying the solutions to poverty, malnutrition, disease and low cognitive ability in developing countries. Presently he is engaged in a major study that looks at the determinants and impacts of key demographic and economic transitions of young women in Madagascar and Senegal with a focus on understanding the importance of family background, community environment, and public policy (including school access and availability of social services) in determining early life course transitions such as leaving school, entering the labor market, childbearing, and the health and nutrition of infants and young children. In addition to teaching and mentoring of graduate students, he devotes considerable efforts to training and capacity-building of research institutions in Africa and working with government officials and international organizations to integrate research findings into policy.

The goal of the Seguin Research Lab is to improve population health through community-based nutrition and physical activity interventions for under-served populations (e.g. rural, low-income); civic engagement/citizen science interventions to catalyze social, built environment, and policy change; dissemination and implementation research for chronic disease and obesity prevention, and understanding key influences of food, social, and physical activity factors on behavior and health.

Professor Sobal's research focuses on marriage and body weight, food choice processes and food systems.

Professor Soloway's research activities are in the area of epigenetics and includes several separate sets of projects.  One of these seeks to characterize the mechanisms regulating the epigenetic phenomena of DNA and histone methylation in mice using the Rasgrf1 gene as a model.  These methylation events are potent regulators of gene expression and respond to environmental variables, including nutrition, in ways that are stable and inheritable.  A second set of projects in collaboration with Prof. Barbara Strupp to characterize epigenomic mechanisms by which maternal choline supplementation leads to improved cognitive outcomes in the progeny.  Recent advances in epigenomic methods make this project tractable.  

Professor Strupp's research activities include maternal choline supplementation research using animal models, maternal choline supplementation research with human subjects; investigating whether the lasting cognitive benefits of maternal choline supplementation in the Ts65Dn mouse model of Down syndrome and normal littermates are mediated by epigenetics effects due to choline's role as a methyl donor and; collaborating on a project with collaborators at UC Santa Cruz and the University of Illinois to investigate the lasting cognitive and neural effects of early developmental exposure to Manganese.

Professor Thalacker-Mercer's research activities in the Thalacker-Mercer Lab include characterizing primary human satellite cells/muscle progenitor cells; Identifying mechanisms/metabolic disturbances underlying impaired muscle regeneration; Identifying and characterizing metabolic disturbances underlying the aging skeletal muscle phenotype.

The Vacanti Lab's research interests include combining high-throughput proteomics, metabolomics, and bioinformatic analyses with targeted metabolic investigative methods including stable-isotope tracing and respirometry measurements to identify pharmaceutical or dietary interventions to correct/exploit metabolic dysfunctions.