The O'Brien Laboratory is located in room 2151 and 2152 of the Human Metabolic Research Unit (HMRU) in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall on the Cornell Ithaca campus.

Our main research interests in the laboratory focus on mineral dynamics with an emphasis on pediatric and pregnant populations. To undertake our research projects many of our studies utilize stable mineral isotopes as tracers. These tracers are measured using mass spectrometric instrumentation for high-sensitivity isotopic analyses. Our lab performs these analyses on a state of the art Thermoquest Triton TI magnetic sector thermal ionization mass spectrometer. Analytical services are also provided through collaboration with other academic institutions in the country.

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O'Brien Lab Equipment

The O'Brien Laboratory Triton was installed in the Human Metabolic Research Unit (HMRU) in September 2005 to measure stable mineral isotopes in biological samples. The Triton achieves very precise and accurate isotopic ratios for positive and negative ions and gives the ultimate precision for isotope ratio measurements on solid samples. It uses a proven thermal ionization source and has a unique variable multi-collector platform which can be configured with Faraday detectors and/or miniaturized ion counting detectors for smallest sample sizes. (Thermo Fischer Scientific, Inc., 2008)

The PerkinElmer AAnalyst™ 800 high-performance atomic absorption spectrometer has an automated motorized atomizer exchange that allows switching between flame and graphite furnace AA by a simple software command. The instrument is equipped with a high performance burner system, TotalFlow™ gas controls for flame AA and a Transversely Heated Graphite furnace (THGA) with longitudinal Zeeman-effect background corrector. The graphite furnace system includes True Temperature Control (TTC) and integrated platform tubes providing full Stabilized Temperature Platform Furnace (STPF) conditions for almost interference-free trace metal analysis. The built-in, high-capacity AS-800 autosampler adds exceptional productivity and flexibility. (PerkinElmer, 2008)

For Current O'Brien Lab Members

Lab Meetings take place Mondays at 8:00 a.m. Eastern via Zoom.

If you are interested in working in Professor O’Brien’s lab, please fill out the O'Brien Lab Application and email it to Dr. Kimberly O’Brien at

Undergraduate Students: Currently, the lab is full for the Spring 2023 semester for undergraduate students. Please reach out next semester for potential opportunities. 

Graduate Students: The lab is open to recruiting graduate students interested. Please email Dr. Kimberly O’Brien at for further information.

Participant recruitment is ongoing for the FeGenes study. The FeGenes Study, led by the O'Brien and Gu Labs, is seeking participants. This study seeks to understand population differences in iron absorption and status. Please fill out this form if you are interested in participating.

  • Eligibility: healthy, non-smoker, not pregnant or lactating, not a blood donor, 18-50-year-old East Asian or Northern European
  • Time Commitment: approx. 1 hour spread over 2 study visits
  • Study Location: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
  • Honorarium: $20 cash, genetic ancestry information, 2 packed meals
  • Email:
  • Tel: 607-254-5376
  • Katie Delaney successfully defended her degree on April 16, 2021 on Hormonal Regulation of Iron Partitioning During Pregnancy. Congratulations, Katie! Currently, she is a Program Officer in The Food and Nutrition Board at The National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine.
  • Wanhui Kang successfully defended her degree on July 2, 2021. on Physiological, Environmental and Genetic Influences on Iron Homeostasis. Congratulations, Wanhui! Currently, she is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hangzhou Institute for Advanced Study, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
  • Brendan Parent ‘22 will be conducting pancreatic cancer at the Dana-Farber Research Institute in Boston for two years before matriculating into medical school. 
  • Clara Deley ‘22 will be beginning her dietetic internship at UCSF Medical Center in August, which is the next step in her journey toward becoming a registered dietitian.
  • DeeDee Maizes ‘22 will be a medical asssitant for two years before pursuing either physican assistant school or medical school. 
  • Chloe Hasund ‘22 will be working at the NIH in Dr. Nancy Sullivan's Ebola lab for two years as an IRTA fellow, after which, I hope to pursue a PhD in Epidemiology. 
  • Claire Gao ‘22 will be conducting research on multiple myeloma at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute before attending graduate school.
  • Dr. Christine Akoh is studying at NYU medical school since Fall 2018.
  • Dr. Cora Best received her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences and is completing a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Andy Hoofnagle at University of Washington Medicine in Seattle.
  • Dr. Yuan Ru is now a postdoctoral associate at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.
  • Dr. Carrie Thomas is currently an Assistant Professor at Regis College.
  • Dr. Corrie Whisner is currently an associate professor at Arizona State University.

kimberly o'brien

Kimberly O'Brien, Ph.D.
230 Savage Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
(607) 255-3743