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Jenora Waterman Dissertation



Scholars Class 1

Scholars Class 2

Scholars Class 3





Scholars Class 1


Christine Bradish

Christine Bradish is a Master's student in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University.  Working under Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie and Dr. Gina Fernandez, Christine is using a metabolite profiling method to compare nutritional compounds in raspberries grown in varying environmental conditions.  Her research interest has been fueled by a love for plants and experience in the grocery industry.

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper is a PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Nutrition Department under the advisory of Dr. Rosalind Coleman. Having spent 5 years in the pharmaceutical industry studying mechanisms of neurogenesis post-ischemia, he is expanding his studies to the field of Nutrition. His current research is focused on fetal brain development and its effect on feeding behavior later in life.

Krista Kennerly

Krista Kennerly is pursing a Master’s of Science at Appalachian State University in Biology with a concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology under Dr. Dru A. Henson. Prior to entering graduate school, she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Pre-professional Biology and has always had a vested interest in the biomedical sciences. Her current area of research concerns the in vitro anti-inflammatory properties of quercetin, an antioxidant ubiquitously found in fruits in vegetables of the human diet, alone or in combination with other relevant bioactives. Her study could aid in the formulation of an advanced nutritional supplement that would support peak soldier and athletic performance by reducing post-exercise inflammation, and may even be relevant to “at risk” populations, including the obese, suffering from chronic inflammation.

Kyle Suttlemyre

Kyle Suttlemyre is a Masters student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics under Dr. Xuxia Du.  This Eagle Scout has also received a BS in biology and a minor in computer information systems, all which are strong bases for his current career pursuit in the transdisciplinarity field of bioinformatics.  He has had experience in programming C++, Java, Python, and R as well as formal training in wet lab environments.  His current area of research is in associating SNP profiles and Metabolomic profiles into cognitive applicable knowledge. (

Christa Watson

Christa Watson is a doctoral candidate in the Energy and Environmental Systems Program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University under the direction of Drs. Jenora Waterman and Leonard Williams of the Department of Animal Sciences and the Center of Excellence for Post Harvest Technologies, respectively.  Her research interests include nanobioscience and nanotoxicology. Her dissertation research project involves characterization of nanoparticle-induced oxidative stress and inflammation utilizing an in vitro airway epithelial cell model.  Ailments such as asthma and chronic bronchitis may be induced by the inhalation of biogenic and anthropogenic nanoparticles, which are of increasing concern due to occupational and environmental exposures.  In the Kannapolis Scholar’s Program, Ms. Watson is investigating novel phytochemicals as complementary and alternative therapies for patients with asthma and chronic bronchitis. 

Kelly Will

Kelly Will is a PhD student at UNC-Chapel Hill studying Developmental Psychology under Dr. Carol Cheatham. Her work with children in Washington DC on nutrition gave her an interest in how nutrition affects cognitive function and ultimately school performance. Kelly is excited to embark on research in the importance of fatty acids on cognitive development. Her main interest is in the role of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for executive function and in disorders such as ADHD and depression.

Amanda Draut is a Master’s student at North Carolina State University in the Department of Food Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences under Dr. Keith Harris. Her culinary and food science backgrounds have given her interest in nutritionally-minded food product development. Her current area of research is the study of muscadine grapes, with specific interest in the stability of their bioactive compounds through microwave processing. Amanda is also the Program Assistant for the Kannapolis Scholars Program.

Scholars Class 2


Adam Baxter is a Master's student at The University of North Carolina in Charlotte in the Department of Bioinformatics under the direction of Dr. Ann Loraine. Doing independent research post-undergrad, Adam found an interest in the biological sciences and works to apply his Computer Systems knowledge to analyze experiment data. His current area of research is the study of the anthocyanin pathways in blueberries and searching for the genes responsible for their production.

Josephine Drayton is a Master's student at North Carolina State University in the Department of Animal Science under the direction of Dr. Jack Odle. Her current research explores the use of novel fatty acids as anaplerotic substrates. Her study could help create an ergogenic supplement that would enhance endurance time in athletes.

Said Hayek is a Doctoral student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the Department of Energy and Environmental Science with the focus of Food Microbiology and Biotechnology and under the direction of Dr. Salam Ibrahim. His food science backgrounds have given him interest in food safety and microbiology research. His current research area on the lactic acid bacteria was to develop a laboratorial medium using the sweet potato as a basic component. He also has specific interest in finding natural antimicrobial products against E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella. Said will build more knowledge and skills during his participation in the Kannapolis Scholars Program.

Sai Lao is a Master’s student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of Nutrition under the direction of Dr. Steven Zeisel. He developed an interest in nutrition’s role in growth and development and disease prevention through his work as a Research Technician at the UNC-CH Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis. His current area of research is methylation and the nutrient choline and its metabolism.

Marcus Lawrence is a Master’s student in the Exercise Science Graduate Program at Appalachian State University, under the co-direction of Dr. R. Andrew Shanely and Dr. Kevin A. Zwetsloot in the Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science. His applied physiology and aging research backgrounds have given him a newfound interest in nutritional supplementation to combat age-related diseases such as sarcopenia (the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength). His current research investigates the efficacy of a purified extract of the plant Ajuga turkestanica, containing enriched bioactive phytochemicals, in combating sarcopenia and chronic, low-grade inflammation associated with aging.

Scott Neidich is a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Biology and Chemistry undergraduate programs, and currently a first year PhD student under the advisory of Dr. Melinda Beck. Scott's research under Dr. Beck is focused on determining the effects of host nutritional status on viral evolution.

Carla Perry is pursuing a Master of Science in Biology with a concentration in biomedical science at North Carolina Central University under the direction of Drs. Ju-Ahng Lee and TinChung Leung of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute. Prior to matriculating to graduate school, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and has maintained a zest for the biomedical sciences. Her current area of research utilizes zebrafish as a transgenic animal model to identify treatments for patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Scholars Class 3

Shante Adams
I received my bachelor's in Chemistry at Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, NC in May 2011. I am now pursuing my Master's degree in Chemistry at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC in Dr. Somnath's Mukhopadhyay's laboratory in the Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute. I am currently studying retinal angiogenesis using a zebrafish model at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis in Dr. TinChung Leung's laboratory in the Nutrition Research Institute.

Kevin Lambirth
Kevin is a born and raised Kannapolis native who has lived in the town his entire life.  After graduating from A.L. Brown High School in 2006, he attended Pfeiffer University where he received his B.S. degree in biology in 2010.  While at Pfeiffer, he worked closely with his undergraduate research mentor Dr. Dane Fisher to create transgenic soybean and tobacco plants in collaboration with Soymeds; a small spin-out company from the UNCC biology department.  Following graduation, Kevin worked for Soymeds for one year before joining the Ph. D program at UNCC under the guidance of Drs. Kenneth Bost and Kenneth Piller.  Kevin is currently working with Dr. Ann Loraine using Illumina next generation sequencing to determine possible gene expression differences between transgenic soybean and wild type soybean.

Chelsea Nehler

Chelsea is a Kannapolis Scholar and Dr. Carol Cheatham's graduate student. She is in her first year of her Ph.D. program in Developmental Psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she also plans to minor in neurobiology. Chelsea is originally from Olympia, Washington and earned a B.S. in Psychology from Seattle University. In her time there, she worked with underprivileged youth as a tutor and has sought opportunities to conduct research with this population. She plans to study the intersection of genes and environment and its influences on prenatal and childhood neuro-cognitive development.

Maryanne Perrin
Maryanne Perrin is a Doctoral student at North Carolina State University in the department of Nutrition Science under the co-direction of Dr. Jack Odle and Dr. Jonathan Allen. She has a strong interest in the functional properties of human milk and issues surrounding human milk banking. Her initial research focuses on how various oligosaccharide compounds impact the development of a beneficial gut microflora.  

Margaret Schneider
Margaret Schneider is a Master's student in the Department of Food Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at North Carolina State University.  Working under Dr. Mary Ann LIla, Dr. Allen Foegeding, and Dr. Andrew Swick, Margaret is using whey protein to complex poylphenols in hopes of creating a better functional ingredient, in respect to both health and food structure functionality.  

Brynn Seabolt
Brynn Seabolt is a first year PhD student in the Animal Science Department at NC State University under the guidance of Dr. Chad Stahl, Dr. Jack Odle, Dr. Sunny Liu and Dr. Michael McIntosh. She is working to develop a childhood obesity and diabetes model utilizing a Yucatan miniature pig. 

Rashin Sedighi
Rashin Sedighi is a PhD candidate in the Energy and Environmental Systems Program at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University under the direction of Drs. Keith Schimmel and Shengmin Sang. Her work as a registered nurse with people in long care clinic gave her an interest in how nutrition affects health. She was introduced to the field of nutrition and phytochemical during her Master program in Maternal and Child Nutrition at University of Davis California and has been hooked ever since. Her overall research goals are to study dietary exposure and to identify novel bioactive natural products that can be used in functional foods and dietary supplements to prevent chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. In the Kannapolis Scholar’s Program, Ms. Sedighi is investigating specific research such as purifying and identifying bioactive components from herbal medicine and functional foods; studying the bioavailability and biotransformation of bioactive natural products in animals and humans; studying the preventative effects of dietary flavonoids, such as soy and apple polyphenols on the development of diabetic complications using in vitro and animal model.



Mohamed Ahmedna
Dr. Mohamed Ahmedna’s research centers around health-promoting food components from fruits and vegetables, food safety, quality, stability, and new product development.
Dr. Ahmedna researches health-promoting food components from fruits and vegetables by isolation and characterization of bio-active compounds and development and testing of functional foods. He also works on improving food safety issues by developing rapid and effective methods to control spoilage and pathogenic bacteria through safe and minimal processing methods. Storage stability related to shelf-life and quality is studied through development of new technologies for predicting and extending shelf-life and quality along with the evaluation and minimization of the effect of storage and processing conditions on nutrients and bioactive compounds. He also works to develop new and value added products for food and non-food uses.

Jon Allen
Dr. Jon Allen studies the biochemistry and physiological aspects of human nutrition and milk.
Dr. Allen’s current research areas relate to biochemical and physiological aspects of human nutrition and milk. Specific interests include: milk producing, mammary gland biology and lactation; milk composition, chemistry and functional properties; mineral and vitamin nutrition and metabolism; food allergy; tissue cell transport; regulatory biology; nutrition education; diabetes and obesity; and glycemic index. Recent projects have developed methods to fortify low-fat foods with fat-soluble vitamins, measured interaction of water soluble forms of calcium and vitamin D on bone, investigated cultural and dietary factors related to type-2 diabetes and control of blood glucose, and developed internet resources for nutrition courses and diet analysis.

Kenneth Bost
Dr. Kenneth Bost’s research interests center around immune response, interaction of the nervous & immune systems, and the mechanisms of mucous membrane immunity.
Dr. Bost’s research can be divided into several areas.
1) Teenagers and young adults are the age group most likely to abuse a growing list of compounds known as “club drugs”. Ecstasy, or 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is currently one of the most popular club drugs of abuse, and we are just beginning to learn about the deleterious effects this drug can have on central nervous system function of these young adults. While we suspect there is a link between some diseases and club drug abuse, there have been no studies to investigate whether Ecstasy might have such a deleterious effect on immune function within the central nervous system or in the periphery during microbial diseases. These studies will define mechanisms by which the club drug, Ecstasy, can modulate inflammatory responses following infection, and represent the first effort to link the use of Ecstasy with exacerbated diseases of young adults.
2) A certain herpes virus causes a mononucleosis-like illness in infected rodents which mimics very closely the disease seen in humans. Since this model has only recently been described, we know very little about the immune response against this virus. The overall goal of this research is to define the host response against this virus and to investigate how this model of herpes virus infections might augment other disease states.
3) In collaboration with Dr. Piller, our laboratories are demonstrating the feasibility of expressing vaccines and other compounds in soybeans. If successful, this work will demonstrate the feasibility of an efficient expression system for production of large quantities of vaccines, etc which are cost-effective to produce, safe to administer, and can be shipped worldwide in a highly stable form (i.e. soybeans). The fact that extensive procedures for processing soybeans into human consumables already exist suggest that this work could be readily translated to the production of soybean-derived formulations useful for treating humans or animals.

Carol Cheatham
Dr. Carol Cheatham researches nutrition individuality and its effect on the development of cognitive and social behaviors.
Dr. Cheatham’s research focuses on the influences of nutrition on cognitive and social development. To explore questions of individual differences in development, she employs both behavioral (e.g., imitation & looking paradigms) and electrophysiological (i.e., ERP) methodology. Most recently, she has been asking if an omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) has an effect on declarative memory abilities. Her research program at the NRI will be a continuation of this research, but will encompass other nutrients that function within the hippocampus, a certain part of the brain, (i.e., choline, iron, and zinc). At the NRI, Dr. Cheatham will also explore, broadly speaking, the relation between an individual’s gene sequence and the utilization of nutrients and how this utilization manifests in individual differences in cognitive and social development.

Roz Coleman
Dr. Roz Coleman’s research interests involve fat metabolism in order to try to treat disorders including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Dr. Coleman studies fat metabolism, particularly triacylglycerol, fatty constituent, biosynthesis and its critical regulated pathways in liver and fat cells. Her laboratory is particularly interested in understanding the controls on triacylglycerol synthesis and acyl-CoA, an enzyme involved in fat metabolism, partitioning. Using enzyme derivatives, mice and cell culture models, members of her lab are identifying the regulatory control of enzymes that commit acyl-CoA to either beta-oxidation, break down of fatty acids for further uses, or to storage as complex fats. These studies will enable us to understand and treat disorders that involve disturbed fat metabolism, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Her recently published studies of mice have provided strong evidence that insulin resistance is caused by intermediates that impair insulin signaling. Her areas of pediatric expertise include inborn errors of carbohydrate and fat metabolism and abnormally high levels of fat in the blood.

Chris Daubert
Dr. Chris Daubert uses rheological behavior in order to explain physical chemistry, molecular-level interactions, and functionality of food systems in order to solve problems facing the food and pharmaceutical industries.
Dr. Daubert’s research program involves explanation of "chemistry through rheology (the study of flow of matter)". His interests are directed towards the explanation of the physical chemistry, molecular-level interactions, and functionality of food systems through an understanding of rheological behavior, while solving problems facing the food and pharmaceutical industries. A recent project involved the analysis of fluid foods used for diagnostic evaluation and rehabilitation of patients suffering from swallowing disorders, coupling rheology with medical therapy.

Xiuxia Du
Dr. Xiuxia Du works to develop methods in which individual human protein and metabolic compositions can be characterized.
Dr. Du’s current research focuses on developing novel algorithms to analyze and visualize large-scale proteomics, study of protein, and metabolomics, study of metabolism, data and to extract maximal amount of biologically meaningful information from the data. The long-term research goal is to integrate this data in order to predictive models of biological systems to contribute to nutrition.

Keith Harris
Dr. Keith Harris studies the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of plant foods.
Dr. Harris’s research interests involve the functional properties of plant foods. Specific interests include the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of flavonoids and related compounds.

Wei Jia
Dr. Wei Jia’s research interests include the identification and evaluation of bioactive ingredients from foods and traditional Chinese medicines for the preventive treatment of metabolic disorders.
Dr. Jia’s research interests include the identification and evaluation of bioactive ingredients from foods and traditional Chinese medicines for the preventive treatment of metabolic disorders. This includes the study of disorders, including diabetes, obesity, and colorectal cancer, in order to: identify the metabolite markers for disease diagnosis and stratification; understand how bioactive phytochemical compounds, either alone or in combination, interact with these metabolic pathways to restore the normal state of the disturbed metabolic regulatory network; and to determine the baseline metabolic signatures that will predict how individuals will respond to a specific nutritional intervention.

Todd Klaenhammer
Dr. Todd Klaenhammer studies the genetics of bacteria involved in food fermentation, as well a bacteria with potential health benefits (probiotics).
Dr. Klaenhammer’s program employs genetic approaches for the improvement and diversification of lactic acid bacteria that are used as starter cultures in food/dairy fermentations and as probiotics. Specific emphasis has been focused on investigating the molecular mechanisms through which bacteria protect themselves against viral attack and developing novel mechanisms that circumvent infection, prevent growth, or close genetic routes for evolution. Recent efforts in genomics are investigating the molecular mechanisms responsible for the survival and activity of probiotic Lactobacillus species in the gastrointestinal tract and use of this information to develop live bacterial delivery systems for bioactive compounds in vivo (e.g. vaccines, enzymes). Teaching interests include Food and Dairy Microbiology, Fermentation Bioprocessing, and Food Biotechnology with special emphasis on the application of fundamental molecular biology to practical issues facing the developing food and dairy industries.

Duane Larick
Dr. Duane Larick is the Dean of the Graduate School at NC State and has worked as a food scientist in the area of flavor chemistry.
Dr. Larick, Professor of Food Science and Animal Science, is Dean of the Graduate School at North Carolina State University. Duane has served on or chaired many committees concerned with undergraduate and graduate education at the national, university, college and departmental levels. Duane's scientific research has focused on flavor chemistry, primarily of animal food products, including dairy products, meat, and eggs. As Dean, he is responsible for oversight of Graduate School programs including: enrollment planning; chairing the Administrative Board of the Graduate School; development and approval of new graduate certificate programs and degree programs (both on-campus and distance education); training grant proposal (GAANN, IGERT, etc.) development and management; graduate program review; developing and coordinating student recruitment and retention programs; and supervising the daily operations of the 42 person staff of the Graduate School.

TinChung Leung
Dr. TinChung Leung uses zebrafish as a model to study genetic defects in order to suppress cardiovascular disease and to prevent cancer, and as a drug discovery tool for natural products and nutritional studies.
Dr. Leung started his research using the zebrafish model to study genetic defects and organ generation. He established a large-scale genome-wide project using the zebrafish model for drug target discovery. Using reverse genetics, he directed the functional genomic analysis of more than 3,000 genes in different disease-relevant areas, include formation of blood vessels, blood cellular components and Parkinson's disease. As an assistant professor at Kannapolis, he brings in expertise in zebrafish biology and starts to establish a research direction using the zebrafish model to exploit vertebrate genetics to identify potential therapeutics of drug-like small molecules to suppress cardiovascular diseases and to combat cancers. In addition, he will make zebrafish a headline for innovative high-throughput drug discovery tool for natural products and nutritional studies.

Mary Ann Lila
Dr. Mary Ann Lila’s work involves the study of plant compounds that may benefit health, especially with regard to anti-malarial effects.
Dr. Lila’s laboratory team is involved with discovery and pre-clinical characterization of bioactive plant compounds with benefits for human health, including hypoglycemic and stress resistant properties, or inhibitory against malaria. They conduct extraction/purification of bioactive plant compounds/phytochemicals (phytopharmaceuticals) from in vivo fruit or vegetative tissues, and in vitro cell and root cultures, with particular interest in food crops. Bioactivity assessment in vitro and in vivo; bioactivity-guided fractionation aimed to assess interactions within phytochemical mixtures.

Ann Loraine
Dr. Ann Loraine’s research uses techniques from molecular biology, genomics, programming, and statistics to answer questions in biology and computer science.
Dr. Loraine’s research uses techniques from molecular biology, genomics, programming, and statistics to answer questions in biology and computer science. This includes understanding how alternative splicing affects protein function and how the variety of splice forms arising from individual genes is regulated. They wrote a visualization tool called ProtAnnot that shows how alternative splicing patterns can affect conserved motifs in proteins. They are also exploring how mining large data sets, especially expression microarray data, can yield new insights and hypotheses regarding gene function and regulation. Together with colleagues from UAB, they operate an on-line tool for mining expression array data called CressExpress. In addition, they are investigating, at the gene sequence and gene expression level, elaborations on secondary metabolism that allow plant species to produce phytochemical compounds in seemingly unlimited diversity. To start, we are working with colleagues from the Plants for Human Health Institute to investigate the transcriptome and genetics of blueberry species. They are also interested in understanding why, how, and when visualization software in genomics leads to new insights and discoveries. We are focusing our efforts on developing, testing, and supporting The Integrated Genome Browser, a popular tool biologists use to view and explore genome-scale data sets. We are also developing the Genoviz SDK, a library for building visualization applications for genomes.

Elisabeth Mayer-Davis
Dr. Elisabeth Mayer-Davis focuses her research on the epidemiology and history or diabetes, along with possible interventions and improved quality of life for those afflicted.
Dr. Mayer-Davis has focused her career in the area of diabetes, including the epidemiology and natural history of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in children and adults. Her research addresses the many ways in which nutrition can impact the risk for development of diabetes, and the risk of complications of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Studies have typically included culturally and regionally diverse populations. Currently, her major focus is on childhood diabetes. Dr. Mayer-Davis is Principal Investigator for the Carolina site of the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, and she serves as the national chairperson for this large multi-center study. Recently funded studies will address nutritional factors that may improve prognosis for adolescents with type 1 diabetes. Other work involves research to develop, implement and evaluate interventions designed to facilitate improvement in diabetes self-management, metabolic status, and quality of life for individuals with type 2 diabetes who live in medically underserved communities.

Michael McIntosh
Dr. Michael McIntosh studies anti-obesity compounds, the anti-inflammatory role of compounds found in grapes and mangosteen, and the pro-inflammatory capacity of certain cells.
Dr. McIntosh uses cell models to research anti-obesity mechanisms, the anti-inflammatory role of bioactive components found in grapes and mangosteen, and the pro-inflammatory capacity of cells isolated from human fat tissue.

Deb Muoio
Dr. Deborah Muoio investigates the mechanisms of metabolic regulation in skeletal muscle, specifically involving the link between overnutrition and inactivity with insulin resistance.
Dr. Muoio is an Associate Professor in the Sarah. W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center, with appointments in the Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology & Cancer Biology. Her laboratory investigates mechanisms of metabolic regulation in skeletal muscle, with emphasis on molecular events that link overnutrition and inactivity to the development of insulin resistance. Her program features a multidisciplinary approach that combines integrative physiology and intermediary metabolism with cellular and molecular biochemistry, using model systems that range from primary human muscle cells to genetically engineered mice. Recent studies by her research team have tried to understand the interplay between cellular energy creation and insulin action. Emergent findings from this work suggest that obesity-associated glucose intolerance stems from excessive stress. Ongoing studies seek to identify signaling mechanisms that mediate crosstalk between muscle cell energy creation and glucose transport. Three main project areas of her laboratory include: 1) mechanisms that link lipid oversupply to mitochondrial malfunction and insulin resistance in skeletal muscle, 2) mechanisms through which exercise enhances mitochondrial function, lipid tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and 3) translational studies to examine the impact of diet and/or exercise interventions on metabolic regulation and mitochondrial function in human skeletal muscle.

Chris Newgard
Dr. Christopher Newgard’s research interests involve understanding metabolic regulatory mechanisms and applying this knowledge to gain insight into chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
Dr. Newgard has combined a strong basic science research program in metabolism with a new clinical research program focused on nutrition, metabolism, and obesity. To these programs he has added a comprehensive metabolic and biomarker profiling program. His laboratory focuses on understanding metabolic regulatory mechanisms and applying this knowledge to gain insight into chronic conditions and diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Key projects in the lab include the following: 1) mechanisms involved in the regulation of insulin secretion from cells by glucose and other metabolic fuels; 2) mechanisms involved in obesity-related impairment of pancreatic function; 3) development of methods for protection of pancreatic cells against environmental insults, including elevated fats and inflammatory mediators; 4) studies on spatial organization and regulation of systems controlling glucose balance; 5) studies on the mechanisms involved in fat-induced impairment of insulin action in obesity and diabetes.

Mihai D. Niculescu
Dr. Mihai Niculuscu’s research interests include the effects of diet on gene expression, specifically in a pregnant mother’s diet and the role that obesity and omega-3 fatty acids can play in fetal brain development.
Dr. Niculescu is an Assistant Professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). In addition to his appointment with the NRI, Niculescu will hold an appointment as Assistant Professor in UNC’s Department of Nutrition. At the Nutrition Research Institute, Dr. Niculescu will be studying epigenetics, changes in gene expression and nutrition. This kind of research is helping to explain how diet sets the “switches” that control gene expression. Specifically, Dr. Niculescu is investigating the role that a mother’s diet plays in how her fetus’ brain develops. His current interest focuses on the roles that maternal obesity and omega-3 fatty acids have upon the epigenetic regulation of fetal and postnatal brain development.

David Nieman
Dr. David Nieman researches exercise immunology, in addition to sport nutrition, obesity, aging, and nutritional assessment.
Dr. Nieman’s research focus during the past twenty years has been exercise
immunology, with a secondary emphasis on sports nutrition, obesity,
aging, and nutritional assessment.

Jack Odle
Dr. Jack Odle studies the neonatal pig as a way of understanding infant digestion and nutritition, especially with regard to fat metabolism.
Dr. Odle’s research involves molecular and metabolic regulation of fat digestion and metabolism; neonatal nutrition; intestinal growth and metabolism in normal and diseased states.

Penelope Perkins-Veazie
Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie’s research deals with the quality and nutritional value of fruit and vegetable crops.
Dr. Perkins-Veazie researches the quality and nutritional value of fruit and vegetable crops, especially with regard to shelf life. She pioneered studies on changes in lycopene in watermelon and established post harvest quality standards for fresh blackberries.

Trevor Phister
Dr. Trevor Phister research interests involve the interactions between yeasts and bacteria with respect to fermentation and food safety.
Dr. Phister’s primary laboratory interests involve the application of molecular biology and genomics, the study of genetic sequencing, techniques to the study of the ecology, physiology, and interactions between the yeasts and bacteria present in various environments relevant to fermentation and food safety. Current projects include using various methods to study the impact of lactic acid bacteria and the compounds they produce on Saccharomyces during fermentation, the development of rapid methods for the detection and enumeration of live spoilage organisms in wine fermentations and understanding the microbial ecology of agricultural water (water used for irrigation, frost protection and mixing pesticides) and the impact of these organisms on the transmission of harmful bacteria (pathogens) to fresh produce.

K.P. Sandeep
Dr. K.P. Sandeep uses food engineering in order to research thermal and aseptic processing, identifying processing parameters that will yield a commercially sterile product.
Dr. Sandeep’s primary research interest lies in the area of food engineering. Within food engineering, the major area of research is thermal/aseptic, sterile, processing of foods using conventional heat exchangers and microwaves. This includes various aspects of fluid mechanics and heat transfer. He also deals with mathematical modeling of velocity and temperature profiles during thermal processing, the development of sensors to monitor various aspects of the process, and the identification of optimum processing conditions in order to yield a safe and high quality product. All of these efforts are geared towards assuring commercial sterility of a product by use of microbiological validation.

Shengmin Sang
Dr. Shengmin Sang studies dietary markers in order to identify natural product that may be used in functional foods and in dietary supplements to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Dr. Sang’s overall research goals are to study dietary exposure and to identify novel bioactive natural products that can be used in functional foods and dietary supplements to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Specific projects in this lab involve: using dietary compounds to assess human dietary intake; studying how the human metabolite, a product of metabolism, profile is affected by dietary consumption; purifying and identifying bioactive components from herbal medicine and functional foods; standardization and quality control of herbal medicine and functional foods; studying the bioavailability and biotransformation of bioactive natural products in animals and humans; studying the preventative effects of dietary polyphenols, such as tea catechins and apple polyphenols on the development of diabetic complications using in vitro and animal models; and developing new cancer-preventing agents from dietary sources, such as gingerols and shogaols from ginger, pterostilbene from blueberries, theaflavins from black tea, and wheat bran oil from wheat bran using in vitro and animal models.

Andrew Shanely
Dr. Andrew Shanely’s research focuses on skeletal muscle biology, including nutritional countermeasures to age-related loss of muscle strength and mass.
Dr. Shanely is an assistant professor of exercise science in the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus. Dr. Shanely's research is focused on skeletal muscle biology with a specific interest in sarcopenia, the age-related loss of skeletal muscle strength and mass. His goal is to discover why we lose strength as we age and he targets his research on nutritional countermeasures as a means of preventing sarcopenia.

Sangita Sharma
Dr. Sangita Sharma focuses on nutrition, epidemiology, and interventions for disease in multi-ethnic populations.
Dr. Sharma's research experience combines nutritional sciences, epidemiology, and community-based interventions and especially the development of dietary assessment methodologies for multi-ethnic populations. Research, grants and/or publications have been multidisciplinary, multi-ethnic and included major chronic diseases: 1) development of dietary assessment methodologies for multi-ethnic populations for assessing dietary intake and determining dietary adequacy; 2) determining diet-disease associations for cancer, fatal Cardiovascular disease and mortality; 3) developing and evaluating dietary and lifestyle intervention studies for obesity and chronic disease prevention; 4) examining nutrient-gene interactions and risk of cancer in African Americans, Native Hawaiians, Latinos, Japanese Americans, Japanese Brazilians and Caucasians; 5) monitoring nutrition transition among indigenous populations. Over the past 17 years, data have been collected and analyzed for these populations: Cameroon (urban/rural), Jamaica, Barbados, Brazil (Japanese Brazilians), Indonesia, Nepal, Canada (Inuit, Inuvialuit, First Nations), England (African-origin, Pakistani, Indian), USA (Apache, Navajo, Latino, African American, Japanese American, Native Hawaiian, Caucasian).

Chad Stahl
Dr. Chad Stahl studies the interactions between nutrition and genetics, specifically with regard to bone health, and development of antimicrobials.
Dr. Stahl’s research focuses on the interactions between nutrition and genetics with an emphasis on bone health, and the development of novel protein based antimicrobials and expression systems.

Leonard Williams
Dr. Leonard Williams is working to develop rapid detection and characterization of food-borne pathogens.
Dr. Williams’s research focuses on developing rapid detection methods to identify and characterize food-borne pathogens, and understanding the role of bioactive components isolated from fruits and vegetables on the survival and virulence of food-borne pathogens using in vitro and in vivo animal and cell culture models.

Deyu Xie
Dr. Deyu Xie studies natural plant products in order to identify and further understand specific beneficial chemical compounds that exist within them.
Dr. Xie’s research interests focus on the understanding of the structure, origination, biosynthesis and regulation of natural plant products. Currently, his lab is working on two major groups of natural products, the flavonoids and sesquiterpenoids, both being plant compounds. They are using an approach that includes phytochemistry, metabolomics, molecular biology and biochemistry to understand the structures and growth of these compounds. They are applying their findings to modify plants (i.e. food and forage crops) to improve the production of important natural products or produce novel natural products through metabolic engineering. In addition, he is interested in establishing novel approaches to screen for natural anti-cancer and anti-malaria products.

Steve Zeisel
Dr. Steve Zeisel researches individual differences in nutrient metabolism, especially including the essential nutrient, choline.
Dr. Zeisel and his research team focus on the essential nutrient choline and individual differences in nutrient metabolism, using new approaches in nutrigenomics, the effects of foods on gene expression, and in metabolomics, the study of chemical cellular processing byproducts. The team works with humans, mice and cell culture model systems. Using human studies they discovered that there are very common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs; gene misspellings) that make humans require more dietary choline and that one of these is in the gene PEMT, preventing estrogen from inducing the gene. They are collaborating in a number of epidemiology studies that examine the relationship between diet, these gene SNPs, and risk for disease. After identifying a SNP of interest in humans, they make a mouse model.



Critics often assail Joan Didion with accusations of solipsism. At first glance, Didion’s writings regarding her time in Honolulu confirm such assertions. “I am a thirty four year old woman with long straight hair and an old bikini bathing suit and bad nerves sitting on an island in the middle of the Pacific waiting for a Tidal Wave that will not come,” Didion wrote in 1969.[1] Yet travelogues often hinge on this sort of alien, even alienated in Didion’s case, viewpoint. The Atlantic’sAdrienne Lafrance recently summarized this reality: “Travel writing is traditionally concerned with the writer’s sense of belonging, or lack thereof—the spectacle of being somewhere new, the sense of displacement one feels.” With this premise agreed upon, revisiting essays from Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979) shows that Didion did reveal some profound truths about America—though admittedly to a far lesser extent about Hawaii.

Before diving into her work on the city, we should discuss a couple of relevant points. No doubt, in some respects Didion falters; taken together her two essays – the first “Letter from Paradise, 21 19’ N., 157 52’ W.” and the second “In the Islands” – traverse more than a decade from 1966 to 1977. Throughout each, Didion failed to really illuminate native culture. While she does not completely ignore Hawaii’s racial and cultural complexity, it is only presented through the perceptions of whites. As we noted in our bibliography for the city, for mainland writers the islands function as means to discover who we are, rather than the archipelago’s own history. For better or worse, Didion perpetuates this tendency.

Some readers will argue her criticism of American consumerism feels rote. While it is true that reading critiques of mid century American consumerism from the twenty-first century feels more nostalgic than groundbreaking, this actually testifies to Didion’s power as a writer. Her dry but ruthless vision of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and its patrons defined the period so completely that watching the Season Six premiere of Mad Men, in which Don vacations at the Royal Hawaiian and pitches their director on a new ad campaign, feels cribbed from Didion’s account. In the end, two themes emerge: the power of tourism and the breadth of the military’s influence.

Tourist Trap

Unsurprisingly, Honolulu drew from Didion an almost ineffable response. “And so, now that it is on the line between us that I lack all temperament for paradise, real or facsimile, I am going to find it difficult to tell you precisely how and why Hawaii moves me, touches me, saddens and troubles and engages my imagination,” she confessed, “what it is in the air that will linger long after I have forgotten the smell of pikake and pineapple and the way the palms sound in the trade winds.”[2] For a writer who leaned toward skepticism and doubt for much of her life–as Eric Avila pointed out she rendered Los Angeles of the same period “the paranoid capital of the world”–this is no small feat.[3]

Of course, even in such moments of appreciation, Didion clearly embodies the fish-out-of-water, stranger-in-the-land lens of the travelogue. For Didion, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel–a Waikiki landmark–is not just a place to lay one’s head, but “rather a social idea, one of the few extant clues to a certain kind of American life.” Of course, all great hotels, she concludes, operate as “flawless mirrors to the particular societies they service.”[4] The hotel’s opening in 1927 “made all things Hawaiian–leis, ukuleles, luaus, coconut leaf hats, and the singing of ‘I Wanna Learn to Speak Hawaiian’–a decade’s craze at country club dances across the United States,” she writes. The Royal, a haole creation, reflected Hawaii through an Anglo lens for an Anglo culture; a territorial influence cast across a continent an ocean away, but defined by American occupiers rather than native peoples.

From its establishment to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the hotel catered to a certain crowd. The kind of people who sunbathed behind the exclusive ropes of the hotel’s reserved beach space discovered that “their nieces roomed in Lungita at Stanford the same year, or that their best friends lunched together during the last Crosby.”[5] Midwestern newlyweds, Seattle Mayors, and San Diego magnates rub elbows with “Australian station owners, Ceylonese tea planters, [and] Cuban operators.”[6] This vision of Hawaii, more or less “a big rock candy mountain in the Pacific,” was conveyed to the mainland through newspaper photos of “well fed Lincoln Mercury dealers relaxing beside an outrigger….”[7] The tumult of the 1960s, according to Didion, never reached Honolulu shores: “the cataclysms of the larger society disturb it only as surface storms disturb the sea’s bottom, a long time later and in oblique ways.” This last statement rings false; the mid-1970s witnessed a resurgence of Hawaiian cultural pride and protest, which goes largely unmentioned in her work.

War and Peace

Though it remains unclear she would define it as such, Didion pushes out into the waters of American imperialism. Amidst the Vietnam War, the island’s ties to European and American imperial ambitions and global conflict seem overwhelming and obvious, but according to Didion, Hawaiians viewed war differently. WWII “cracked the spine” of the Big Five (a handful of families/companies that dominated Hawaiian business and social affairs), opened up a closed economy, and brought new people and new ideas from the mainland. “War is viewed with a curious ambivalence in Hawaii,” Didion noted, “because the largest part of its population interprets war, however unconsciously, as a force for good, an instrument of social progress.”[8]

The way Didion sees it, for Hawaiians the war released them from the bondage of sugar plantation feudalism and brought investment. It also opened up society in other ways. The elite Punahou School, once reserved for missionaries and their children’s children, now served a far broader swath of the population; nearly one third of its students came from Asian and Asian American homes. Chinn Ho, a local boy climbed his way up to millionaire status; he started at the bottom and worked his way into the power elite.

Haoles prided themselves on the island’s cultural “melting pot”, though racism lay just beneath the surface. For example, when one woman informs Didion that some white Hawaiians did mingle with local Asians she framed it in less than noble terms. “The uncle of a friend of mine … has Chinn Ho to his house all the time,” the acquaintance confided; Didion characterized this as akin to saying “‘some of my best friends are Rothschilds.’” Even progressives used dodgy logic when one island teacher grabbed the arm of a pretty Chinese girl, exclaiming to Didion, “‘You wouldn’t have seen this here before the war. Look at those eyes.’” The truth is sugar cane brought diversity to the islands; the military brought a collision between Jim Crow America and its newly acquired territory, soon to become state.[9] “The Orientals are–well, discreet’s not really the word, but they aren’t like the Negroes and the Jews, they don’t push in where they’re not wanted,” another haole resident tells her.[10]


Decades after World War II, Didion returns to Schofield Barracks, the setting of James Jones’ classic novel From Here to Eternity, and records what has changed and what has persisted. For her, large parts of Honolulu belong to Jones, a sentiment that at first sounds inspiring but then condescending. For native Hawaiians, the idea that Jones, who spent time at Pearl Harbor during the war before shipping out to fight at Guadacanal, could ever “own” Hawaii must grate. Yet, Jones’s vision of Oahu’s various military installations – Pearl Harbor actually refers to a constellation of military bases – for boomers like Didion remains a somber, quasi-religious place. She visits the memorial and cries. “All I know about how other people respond is what I am told: that everyone is quiet at the Arizona.”

Honolulu’s Hotel Street had not changed, only the destination of its patrons. Young men barely out of their teens swarmed its bars and brothels: “And the sailors get drunk because they are no longer in Des Moines and not yet in Danang.”[11] Men in search of companionship, women in search of a dollar, and military police officers in search of infractions circle one another.

At the National Memorial Cemetery, a site more silent than the Arizona and home to over 19,000 dead from World War II through the Vietnam War, the dead from America’s engagement in Southeast Asia had begun to arrive. “The graves filled last week and the week before that and even last month do not yet have stones, only plastic identification cards, streaked by the mist and splattered with mud,” she wrote. “The earth is raw and trampled in that part of the crater, but the grass grows fast, up there in the rain cloud.” [12]

Graves devoted to Vietnam make up a fraction of the whole and are placed in the memorial’s outer rings, most often for “local boys.” However, many mainland families choose to bury their fallen in Honolulu. “A father or an uncle calls me from the Mainland and he says they’re bringing their boy here,” the superintendent of the memorial tells her. “I don’t ask why.” [13] She attends a burial service for one such soldier killed in action; a desultory event punctuated by the superintendent’s resigned admission: “Fill, cover, get the marker on. That’s the one thing I remember about my training.”[14]

Her opinions about war might have been better couched more specifically. She never really delves into Hawaiian attitudes toward Vietnam, her examples of war bringing change stem almost exclusively from the Second World War. She witnesses the military build up connected to Vietnam and related businesses dependent on such developments, but how natives and locals feel regarding American action in Southeast Asia never comes through. If one reads letters to Hawaii’s then congresswoman, Patsy Mink, residents opposing America’s involvement in Vietnam outnumber those in favor by large numbers. Later in the mid-1970s, Hawaiians protested the military’s use of the archipelago’s smallest island, Kaho’olawe as a bombing site. Though the military and U.S. aggression abroad continued to shape Hawaii – politically, economically, and even culturally – how it was viewed locally as the century progressed remains debatable.

Writing decades later and from a much different perspective, Lisa Lowe aptly describes the most glaring aspect of Honolulu, and broader Asian American life, that Didion missed. The collective memories of Asian American and Pacific Island culture demonstrates the fragmented nature of history and experience, as it is a past “always broken by war, occupation and displacement,” notes Lowe. “Asian American culture ‘re-members’ the past in and through the fragmentation, loss, and dispersal that constitutes the past.”[15]

When Didion notes that there is also a Hawaii that deals only with the “past and with loss,” she does so from the perspective of a missionary’s descendent; as someone from the kind of family that believed Hawaii had been in decline since economic development and tourism reached the islands, never mind the intrusion of the missionaries. To her credit, she seems aware of this, but she never fully breaks from its mindset.

Still, for all its failings, Didion’s reflections on Honolulu remain spellbinding, profound, fluid, and flawed all at once. Mid-century America, arguably the height of the middle class, drank deeply of consumerism, tourism, and war. The California writer captured this better than most.


[1] Joan Didion, “In the Islands,” The White Album, (New York: Farrar, Stroux, and Giroux, 1979), 135; See also Joan Didion, “Letter from Paradise, 21 19’ N., 157 52’ W.”, in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, (New York: Farrar, Stroux, and Giroux, 1968), 187: “In an essay three years earlier also written from Honolulu, she traversed similar territory. “Because I had been tired too long and quarrelsome too much and too often frightened of migraine and failure and the days getting shorter, I was sent, a recalcitrant thirty one year old child, to Hawaii, where winter does not come and no one fails and the median age is twenty three.”

[2] Joan Didion, “In the Islands”, 188.

[3] Eric Avila, “Essaying Los Angeles” in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Los Angeles, Ed. Kevin R. McNamara, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 184.

[4] Joan Didion, “In the Islands”, 137.

[5] Joan Didion, “In the Islands”, 137.

[6] Joan Didion, “In the Islands”, 138.

[7] Joan Didion, “Letter from Paradise”, 189.

[8] Joan Didion, “Letter from Paradise”, 198.

[9] Joan Didion, “Letter from Paradise”, 209.

[10] Joan Didion, “Letter from Paradise”, 202.

[11] Joan Didion, “Letter from Paradise”, 194.

[12] Joan Didion, “Letter from Paradise”, 193-194.

[13] Joan Didion, “In the Islands”, 141.

[14] Joan Didion, “In the Islands”, 144.

[15] Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 29.