Research Team

Nicola McKeown, PhD: Principal Investigator

Dr. NicolaNM McKeown is an Associate Professor and Director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. She is internationally renowned for her work on the role of whole grains in promoting health. Dr. McKeown’s early work on the relationship between dietary carbohydrates and lifestyle factors in the development of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome led to an increased focus on whole grains. She has made significant contributions to our understanding of the impact of whole grain intake on abdominal adiposity, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and CVD risk. She was the first investigator to robustly characterize the relationship between whole grain intake and reduced visceral adiposity in a large cohort. Her work now employs both large observational datasets and controlled intervention studies to examine the effects of whole grains on blood biomarkers and gut microbiota. She is also leading an innovative new project to develop a fiber evidence map with the goal of compiling and synthesizing the current and emerging body of literature linking dietary fibers to health outcomes. She is a scientific advisor to the Whole Grains Council, serves on the editorial board of Nutrition Today, and is a fellow of the Obesity Society.  Dr. McKeown received a BS in Human Nutrition from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and a PhD in Nutritional Epidemiology from the University of Cambridge in England.


Sara Folta, PhD: Co-Investigator

SaraFoltaSara Folta’s research interests focus on public health nutrition, or the utilization of community-based strategies for improving dietary intake, physical activity, and body composition. She has particular expertise in behavioral psychology, communications, and qualitative methods. A major line of Folta’s research involves community-based interventions to improve heart health among women. A second area of research includes behavioral strategies to improve health and well-being among older adults, particularly through the development of physical activity interventions. Folta’s third line of research involves community-based interventions for obesity prevention among children. These studies, in which theory-based communications strategies were a major component, are notable for the use of the eco-social model in which multiple levels (individual-organization-community-policy) are targeted.


Christina Economos, PhD: Co-Investigator

Christina Economos, PhD, is a Professor and the New Balance Chair in Childhood Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Medical School at Tufts University. She is also the co-Founder and Director of ChildObesity180, a unique organization that brings together leaders from diverse disciplines to generate urgency, and find solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic. As the principal investigator of large-scale research studies, Dr. Economos has generated over $50 million in funding, has authored more than 140 scientific publications and speaks frequently at scientific and professional meetings. At ChildObesity180 she develops, implements, evaluates, and scales high-impact obesity prevention initiatives.  Dr. Economos is involved in national obesity and public health activities and has served on four National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committees. In addition, she serves on the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health.




Gail Rogers, MA

Statistician and Electronic Data Capture (EDC) Manager




Kara Livingston, MPH

Project & Data Manager, IRB Management



Micaela Karlsen, MSPH

Nutrition Epidemiology PhD Candidate: “Diet Quality and Predictors of Long-Term Adherence to Popular Diets: Using Data from The ADAPT Study.





Remco Chang, PhD (Dept. of Computer Science, School of Engineering at Tufts University):  Dr. Remco has expertise in using machine learning techniques to discover data patterns and data visualization

Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc (Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University): Dr. Lichtenstein has expertise in assessing the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease

Christina Economos, PhD (Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University): Dr. Economos has expertise in research interventions and the interaction between exercise, diet, body composition, health outcomes, and the built environment

Christian Peters, PhD (Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University):  Dr. Peters has expertise in ecological sustainability, in particular how changes to the food system can impact sustainability and how dietary preferences may affect land use

Paul Jacques, DSc (Nutritional Epidemiology, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University): Dr. Jacques has expertise in epidemiology and statistical analysis, diet and chronic disease risk

Graduate Students

Naglaa El-Abbadi, PhD Candidate in Nutritional Epidemiology

Julie Kurtz, MS Candidate in Agriculture, Food and Environment