The Institute of Human Nutrition and PhD in Nutrition and Metabolic Biology (NMB) alumni pursue diverse careers in academia, industry, and research.
NMB Program Alumni Profiles
Rishi Agrawal, PhD ('21)
- Scientist - Denali Therapeutics
Dr. Rishi Agrawal is a Scientist at Denali Therapeutics, a mid-size pharmaceutical company developing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Agarwal's thesis, Neurometabolic alterations after traumatic brain injury: Links to mitochondria-associated ER membranes and Alzheimer’s Disease, was done under the supervision of co-mentors: Estela Area Gomez, Phd & Richard Deckelbaum, MD, CM, FRCPC.
Cierra Sing, PhD ('21)
- Postdoctoral Research Scientist - Columbia University
Following her 2020 defense, Dr. Cierra Singh has remained at Columbia Univeristy as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the department of Pathology & Cell Biology. Dr. Singh's thesis, Aging Actin' Up: A novel aging determinant regulates the actin cytoskeleton, nutrient sensing, and lifespan in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, was completed under the mentorship of Liza Pon, PhD.
Kathryn Birkenbach, PhD ('20)
- Postdoctoral Research Scientist - Columbia University
Upon earning her doctorate from the Nutritional and Metabolic Biology PhD Program, Dr. Kathryn Birkenbach continued at Columbia as a Postdoctoral Researcher with the Columbia University - Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Dr. Birkenbach completed her thesis, Feeding and Gastrointestinal Regulation: A Novel Domain of the Cerebellum, under the mentorship of Rudolph Leibel, MD.
Alexa Abdelaziz, PhD ('20)
- Director of Research and Development - MEND
Dr. Abdelaziz currently holds the position of Director of Research and Development with NYC based Life Sciences Company, MEND. Her thesis, Genetic and Environmental Determinants of Alopecia Areata, was done under the mentorship of Angela Christiano, PhD.
Stephen Flaherty, PhD ('20)
- Postdoctoral Researcher - Pfizer
Dr. Flaherty is working a Postdoctoral Researcher with Pfizer in the Internal Medicine Research Unit. His thesis, AdExos : A Lipase Independent Pathway of Lipid Release and Immune Modulation from Adipocytes, was done under the mentorship of Anthony W. Ferrante, MD, PhD.
Ethan Edwin, PhD ('20)
- Associate Scientist - Cygnal Therapeutics
Dr. Ethan Edwin is an Associate Scientist with Cygnal Therapeutics, a Massachusetts based company building a platform to develop drugs in the novel field of exoneural biology. Dr. Edwin completed his thesis, Homeostasis of adipose tissue macrophages, under the guidance of mentor Anthony W. Ferrante, MD, PhD.
Elizabeth Stivison, PhD ('19)
- Postdoctoral Researcher - Vanderbilt University
After completing her PhD with the Nutritional and Metabolic Biology program, Dr. Stivison moved on to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she works as a Postdoctoral Researcher. Her thesis, Interstitial telomere sequences disrupt break-induced replication, was done under the mentorship of Lorraine Symington, PhD.
Bryan Gonzalez, PhD ('19)
- Scientist for Cell Engineering and Cellular Biology - Fork and Goode
Dr. Bryan Gonzalez is a Scientist for Cell Engineering and Cellular Biology with Fork and Goode, an NYC based food production company aiming to produce meat in a sustainable manner, without the need to kill animals, without polluting the environment and at the fraction of natural resources (such as land, water, etc.) used by the traditional meat industry. Dr. Gonzalez completed his thesis, HNF1A deficiency impairs β-cell fate, granule maturation and function, was completed under the guidance of co-mentors: Rudolph Leibel, MD and Dieter Egli, PhD.
Jeewon Garcia-So, PhD ('19)
- Scientist - Pendulum Therapeutics
Dr. Jeewon Garcia-So is a Scientist with San Francisco based Life and Health Sciences company, Pendulum Therapeutics. Dr. Garcia-So completed her thesis, Fusobacterium nucleatum-induced placental inflammation and potential therapy, under the direction of mentor Yiping Han, PhD..
Christian Garcia-So, PhD ('19)
- Field Application Scientist - Medical Devices
Dr. Christian Garcia-So is a Field Application Scientist with Medical Devices, a California based company that provides customers with innovative bioanalytical solutions for protein and cell biology in life science research, pharmaceutical and biotherapeutic development. Dr. Garcia-so completed his thesis, Regulation of Mitochondria Complex I Biogenesis in Drosophila Flight Muscles, under the guidance of mentor Edward Owusu-Ansah, PhD.
Frank Cusimano, PhD ('19)
- DO Candidate - Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
After completing his PhD with the Nutritional and Metabolic Biology program, Dr. Cusimano returned to the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he is continuing as a current DO candidate. His thesis, Engineering bacteria for the modulation of intestinal physiology, inflammation, and behavior along the microbiome-gut-brain axis, was done under the mentorship of Harris Wang, PhD.
Changyu Zhu, PhD ('19)
- Postdoctoral Researcher - Sloan Kettering
Dr. Zhu is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. At the 2019 IHN Annual Wu Lecture and Retreat, he was awarded the Bernard F. Erlanger Award for Excellence in Research. His thesis, Hepatocyte Notch in Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)-Associated Liver Fibrosis and Cancer, was done under the mentorship for Utpal Pajvani, MD, PhD.
Samuel Lee, PhD ('18)
- Scientist - Forkhead BioTherapeutics
Dr. Samuel Lee is a Scientist with Forkhead BioTherapeutics Inc., a New York City based company that works to harness the intrinsic capabilities of cell conversion and regeneration in order to develop transformative therapies that improve patient’s lives. Dr. Lee completed his thesis, Insulin Regulation of Reverse Cholesterol Transport, under the guidance of mentor Rebecca Haeusler, PhD.
Katherine Xu, PhD ('18)
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Columbia University
Dr. Katherine Xu is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the Department of Medicine, Nephrology. She completed her thesis, Cell specific response of the kidney to injury and infection, under the guidance of mentor Cathy Mendelsohn, PhD.
Alicja Skowronski, PhD ('17)
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Columbia University
Dr. Alicja Skowronski is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the Department of Pediatrics. She completed her thesis, The role of leptin in body weight regulation, under the guidance of mentor Sharon Wardlaw, MD.
Elizabeth Millings, PhD ('17)
- Postdoctoral Fellow - Emory University
Dr. Elizabeth Millings is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Emory University School of Medicine in the Department of Biochemistry. She completed her thesis, Investigating the role of the ILDR2 in hepatic lipid metabolism and beta cell function, under the guidance of mentor Henry Ginsberg, MD.
Diego Scerbo, PhD ('17)
- Associate Medical Director - Wunderman Thompson Health
Dr. Diego Scerbo is an Associate Medical Director with Wunderman Thompson Health. He completed his thesis, Pathways for kidney triglyceride accumulation, under the guidance of mentor Ira Goldberg, MD.
Giselle Dominguez Gutierrez, MS ('10), PhD (‘16)
- Postdoctoral Fellow - Regeneron
Dr. Dominguez Gutierrez is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Regeneron. She completed her thesis: Maintenance of Beta Cell Identity and Function, under the guidance of mentor Lori Sussel, PhD. She is one of the IHN's recipients of the 2017 Bernard Erlanger Award for Excellence in Research.
Lisa Cole Burnett, PhD (‘16)
- Director, Early Research and Development - Levo Therapeutics
Dr. Burnett is Director of Early Research and Development at Levo Therapeutics, Inc. Her thesis The Role of SNORD116 in Prader-Willi Syndrome , was sponsored by mentor Rudolph Leibel, MD. In 2017, she received CUIMC's Titus M. Coan Award for Research Excellence and was one of the IHN's recipients of the Bernard F. Erlanger Award for Excellence in Research.
Moneek Madra, MS ('06), PhD (’15)
- Assistant Professor - Columbia University
Dr. Moneek Madra is an Assistant Professor of Nutrition in Pediatrics and the Institute of Human Nutrition. She teaches Physiology and Nutrition Through the Lifecycle and Introduction to Epidemiology for Nutritionists. Her thesis Interactions of Early Life Stressors and Bdnf Val66Met in a Novel Mouse Model of Anorexia Nervosa , was completed under the mentorship of Lori Zeltser, PhD. Her current research focuses on anorexia nervosa, specializing on neuroendocrine and early postnatal stress outcomes associated with adolescent abnormal feeding behavior. Her work encompasses several integrative areas including neuroscience, physiology, and psychiatry.
Ryo Higuchi-Sanabria, PhD (‘15)
- Postdoctoral Fellow - UC Berkeley
Dr. Ryo Higuchi-Sanabria is a Postdoctoral Researcher in UC Berkeley's Dillin Lab. Dr. Higuchi-Sanabria's thesis A Mother's Sacrifice: The Contribution of Asymmetric Cell Division to Lifespan Regulation in S. cerevisiae was completed under the mentorship of Liza Pon, PhD. Dr. Higuchi-Sanabria is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, working on identification of a novel cytoskeleton-specific stress response and its potential regulators. In 2016, he was awarded a National Research Service Award by the NIH, CUIMC's Titus M. Coan Prize for Excellence in Research, and the IHN's Bernard F. Erlanger Award for Excellence in Research.
Dianne Dapito, PhD (’15)
- Postdoctoral Fellow - Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health
Dr. Dianne Dapito is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health in Eth, Zurich, working on cachexia, an irreversible wasting syndrome often seen in cancer patients. She was the recipient of the 2015 Bernard Erlanger Award for Excellence in Research for her research that culminated in her PhD thesis Contributions of Activated Hepatic Stellate Cells to Hepatocarcinogenesis. Her research was completed under the guidance of Robert Schwabe, MD.
Angie Chi Nok Chong, PhD (’14)
- Research Associate - Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Angie Chi Nok Chong is a Research Associate in Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Chong’s thesis The Role of Hypothalamic Insulin and Leptin Signaling in Regulating Energy Balance and Stress was done under the mentorship of Lori Zeltser, PhD. She is a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Shuibing Chen's lab at Weill Cornell Medical College and is currently working on a project that models beta cell dysfunction in diabetes using humanized mouse models.
Katherine Wert, MS ('09), PhD (’13)
- Assistant Professor - UT Southwestern
Dr. Katherine Wert is an Assistant Professor of Opthomology and Melecular Biology at UT Southwester. Medical Center. Prior to this, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Mahajan lab at Standford University and a Fellow at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she worked in Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch's laboratory on pluripotent stem cells and genome engineering to model human diseases. Dr. Wert's thesis, Long-term Gene Therapy in a Pre-clinical Model of Retinitis Pigmentosa, was done with mentor Stephen Tsang, MD, PhD. She received the 2012 Bernard Erlanger Award for Excellence in Research at the Wu Lecture and Retreat. In 2016, Dr. Wert was awarded the Junior Faculty Award at the Annual FASEB meeting.
Kelly Ruggles, MS ('08), PhD ('12)
- Assistant Professor - NYU Langone
Dr. Ruggles is Assistant Professor and Director of Academic Programs at NYU Langone's Department of Medicine. After completing her MS, she pursued her PhD in Nutritional and Metabolic Biology at the IHN. Her research focuses on understanding human health and biology through the application of data visualization, integration and modeling. In addition, a portion of her work involves using informatics methods to understand the human microbiome through metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, microbial proteomics, and 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing.