Texas Tech University

Nutritional Sciences

Nutrigenomics, Inflammation and Obesity Research Lab (NIOR)

Lab Members

Faculty

Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, PhD

Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa, Ph.D., FTOS, FAHA

Director, NIOR Lab
Professor, Nutritional Sciences
Director, Obesity Research Institute (ORI)
College of Human Sciences
Texas Tech University
1301 Akron Street, Room 407
Lubbock, Texas 79409-1270
P: 806-834-7946; F: 806-742-3042
naima.moustaid-moussa@ttu.edu

Key Words: Obesity, Adipocyte Biology, Inflammation, Endocrinology, Adipokines, Renin Angiotensin System, diabetes and Insulin resistance, obesity-breast cancer links, Nutrient-Gene Interactions, diet, disease and microbiome interactions, Omics applications, animal Models, model organisms (C elegans)

Dr. Nishan Kalupahana

Nishan Sudheera Kalupahana, MBBS, M.Phil., Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor in Nutritional Sciences
College of Human Sciences
Texas Tech University
Professor and Faculty of Medicine
University of Peradeniya
P: 806-834-6529; F: 806-742-3042
nishan.kalupahana@ttu.edu

Shane Scoggin

Shane Scoggin, B.S.

NIOR Lab Manager
Departmental Safety Officer
College of Human Sciences
shane.scoggin@ttu.edu

Shane is the NIOR lab manager with a degree in cell and molecular biology from Texas Tech University and over 10 years lab experience. His previous work includes 5 years working in the Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern running a microarray core facility. He then spent 1year working at a biotech company in Houston, Tannox, before returning to UT Southwestern to work in a Molecular Biology lab studying stem cells in Drosophila. He has now returned to Texas Tech to help manage the NIOR lab, train students, and develop new techniques and applications in obesity research for the lab.

NIOR Postdoctoral Research Associates

Kalhara Menikdiwela - TTU Nior Lab Member
Kalhara Menikdiwela, M.S., Ph.D.

kalhara.menikdiwela@ttu.edu
Curriculum Vitae

Kalhara Menikdiwela is a postdoc in the Department of Nutritional Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa. As an ICCR scholar, Kalhara earned his B.S. in Biotechnology from the University of Pune, India. He completed his M.S. in Biotechnology at University of Peradeniya while working at the Institute of Research and Fundamental Studies in Sri Lanka as a research assistant. Kalhara started his carrier in one of the pioneer hospitals in Sri Lanka as a Medical Laboratory Technologist and later on joined Synergen Health (Pvt) Ltd Colombo (United States based HealthCare company), as an Assistant Manager serving the company for 4 years. Kalhara graduated in 2020 with a PhD from Nutritional Sciences. His doctoral research primarily focused on the mechanisms linking the adipocyte renin angiotensin system (RAS), inflammation and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and the role of miRNAs in this regulation. Kalhara currently co-mentors undergraduate student, Anna, and mainly leads the beef project to determine metabolic and genomic effects of beef proteins in diet-induced obese mice. Kalhara also co-mentors graduate student, Shadi, and assists with the HSP40/DNAJB3 project, an international collaborative project, funded by Qatar National Research Funds to determine whether inactivation of this gene in mice leads to obesity and diabetes and dissect underlying mechanisms. Kalhara also assists with the USDA project focused on interactive effects of tart cherry anthocyanins and omega 3 fatty acids in diet-induced obese mice.

Kembra Albracht-Schulte

Kembra Albracht-Schulte, Ph.D.

kembra.albracht@ttu.edu
Curriculum Vitae

Kembra Albracht-Schulte is a postdoc in the College of Human Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. Kembra earned her B.S. in Exercise Science at Lubbock Christian University and her M.S. in Exercise Science at Texas Tech University. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Latha Ramalingam, her doctoral research, funded by a USDA NIFA ELI Predoctoral Fellowship (2017-2019), focused on the effects of an omega 3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) from fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on liver metabolism and inflammation. Additionally, her dissertation research included collaborative work with Dr. Nishan Kalupahana, Adjunct Professor in NS at TTU and Professor, and Head of Physiology at the University of Peradeniya to investigate the association between adiposity, insulin resistance and plasma adipokines with the presence of fatty liver in Sri Lankan adults. As postdoc, she recently completed a National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA) funded systematic review of the literature on beef proteins, gut microbiome and health. Additionally, she is working on the NIH funded (PI: Moustaid-Moussa) project to investigate responsible mechanisms of n-3 PUFA effects on liver steatosis independent of uncoupling protein (UCP) 1. She is also working on a large multidisciplinary project to determine the effects of lean beef proteins and different preparations on outcomes related to obesity, diabetes and cancer using mouse models.

NIOR Doctoral Students

Mahsa Yavari is a Ph.D. student in the NIOR lab mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. She received her B.S. in Nutrition Science from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences of Iran and her M.S. in Nutrition at Iran University of Medical Sciences. Her M.S. research focused on "Effect of Supplementation of vitamin D, C and E on the lung functional tests level of hs-CRP, ESR, TGFβ, and antioxidant status in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patients" and she worked as a dietitian in health centers and as a manager of the Diet Therapy ward in the hospital. Under the guidance of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Latha Ramalingam and Dr. Breanna Harris (Biology), her doctoral research focuses on the protective effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, funded by the National institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH/NCCIH; PI: Moustaid-Moussa).

Tariful Islam is a Ph.D. student in the NIOR lab and Nutritional Sciences major. He earned his B.S. in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering from Khulna University, Bangladesh and completed an undergraduate research thesis, focused on probiotics and antimicrobial resistance. He worked several years in a biopharmaceutical company on bacterial and yeast system-based research & development of therapeutic proteins. He also worked as a research fellow at Juntendo University and Yakult Central Research Institute, Tokyo, Japan. Currently, he is mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. His doctoral research investigates the role of gut bacteria in mediating anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory protective effects of the bioactive plant polyphenol, curcumin, in mouse models of high-fat diet induced obesity.

Bimba

Bimba Goonapienuwala, M.B.B.S., M.Phil.

Bimba.Goonapienuwala@ttu.edu
Curriculum Vitae

Bimba Goonapienuwala is a Ph.D. student in the NIOR lab and major in Nutritional Sciences. She earned her MBBS from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Following one year of internship as a medical officer, she joined the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka. She completed her M.Ph focusing on the adolescent overweight and obesity in a rural community in Sri Lanka. She also has experience as a lecturer in Biochemistry with the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa, her study focuses on the effects of fish oil (EPA) on white adipose tissue, independent of uncoupling proteins and the interaction of EPA with gut microbiome in bringing about anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory effects.

NIOR MS Students

Shadi - TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Shadi Nejat

snejat@ttu.edu
CV

Shadi Nejat is Pursing a MS in Nutritional Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa. She earned her B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington. Shadi has a Doctorate of Chiropractic degree from Parker University. She has been working as a doctor of chiropractic for the past 12 years and is delighted to return to the world of academia and start her graduate studies and research at Texas Tech University. Shadi joined research on the HSP40/DNAJB3 project, an international collaborative project, funded by Qatar National Research Funds, to determine whether inactivation of this gene in mice leads to obesity and diabetes and dissect underlying mechanisms. She is mentored by Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, and co-mentored by Dr. Kalhara Menikdiwela and Shane Scoggin; the team also includes undergraduate Honors student, Aliyah Effote.

NIOR Undergraduate Students

Anna - TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Anne DesHotels

savanna.wilson@ttu.edu

Anna DesHotels is a junior Honors student from Fort Worth, Texas. She is pursuing an anthropology degree with a minor in French. Anna joined the NIOR lab in the summer of 2020 and is being mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa and Postdoc Dr. Kalhara Menikdiwela. Currently, she is working on investigating an industry-funded project to determine the impact of beef protein diets on reducing the risk of developing diabetes and obesity in diet-induced obese mouse models.

Kirk Balderas - TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Kirk Balderas

kirk.balderas@ttu.edu

Kirk Balderas is a sophomore student at South Plains College. He is a pursuing a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Spanish. He joined the NIOR lab in Summer of 2020, as a participant in the NIH funded Plains Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program. This program helps introduce students from underrepresented communities into the field of STEM. He was mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Latha Ramalingam, and Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte and Bimba Goonapienuwala. He is currently working on a project using RNA Seq to determine genes which are differentially expressed in response to Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and uncoupling protein deficiency in the liver of mice with diet-induced obesity. Kirk recently presented his findings at the summer conference for the Bridges Program.

McKenna Davis - TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

McKenna Davis

mckenna.h.davis@ttu.edu

McKenna Davis is a junior undergraduate student from Allen, TX. She is pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology with a minor in chemistry. She began working with the NIOR lab group in spring 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa, and Ph.D candidate Mahsa Yavari. Currently, she is assisting Mahsa on a project focusing on the protective mechanisms of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, funded by the National institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and National Institute of Aging (NIH/NCCIH & NIA; PI: Moustaid-Moussa; Co-I: Harris & Ramalingam).

Salvador- TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Salvador Galindo

salvador.galindo@ttu.edu

Salvador Galindo is a junior in the Honors College from San Antonio, TX. He is pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry and Health Professions. He joined the NIOR laboratory in the summer of 2020 as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and is under the mentorship of Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte and Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa. He is currently working on a project involving the use of n-3 PUFAs in combination with HIIT on obesity in humans. He is also involved with another project determining the effects of pH enhanced ground beef on diet-induced obesity and diabetes in mice.

Savanna- TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Savanna Wilson

savanna.wilson@ttu.edu

Savanna Wilson is a junior from Graham, Texas pursuing a B.S. degree in Nutritional Sciences & Dietetics with a minor in Kinesiology. She began working in the NIOR lab in spring 2018 and is mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte. She is currently working on an NIH funded project to determine the uncoupling protein 1 (UCP-1) independent mechanisms of omega 3 fatty acids on hepatic steatosis. She is also conducting serum analyses of microRNA associated with varying degrees of NAFLD in humans. After graduating, she plans to complete a dietetic internship and become a Registered Dietitian.

Savanna- TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Brennan Mabry

brennan.mabry@ttu.edu

Brennan Mabry is a junior Honors student from Kerrville, TX. She is pursuing a B.S. in Nutrition with a focus in health professions, specifically pre-medicine. She started working in the NIOR lab in fall 2018 as an Honors Undergraduate Research Scholar and is mentored by Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Ramalingam. She is currently working on a project related to the metabolic effects of vitamin D and fish oil on obesity. After graduating, Brennan plans to attend medical school.

Hanna Davis, NIOR

Hanna Davis

hanna.davis@ttu.edu

Hanna Davis is a sophomore Honors student from San Marcos, TX. She is pursuing a major in Nutrition on the pre-med track and plans to minor in Chemistry and Business. She joined the NIOR laboratory in summer of 2019 as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and is mentored by Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Mandana Pahlavani. She is currently working on to determine the effects of various amounts of fish oil-enriched with eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, on diet-induced obese mice. After graduation, Hanna plans to enter medical school.

Geetika Katasani, NIOR

Geetika Katasani

geetika.katasani@ttu.edu

Geetika Katasani is a sophomore Honors student from Dallas, TX. She is pursuing a B.S. degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Geetika joined the NIOR laboratory in fall 2019 as a PI Squared Scholar and is mentored by Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Tariful Islam. Currently, she is assisting Tariful in finding the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin in a mouse model with high-fat diet induced obesity. After graduating, she plans on attending medical school.

Angela Chavira, NIOR

Angela Chavira

angela.c.chavira@ttu.edu

Angela Chavira is a sophomore Honors student from El Paso, TX. She is pursuing a B.S. degree in Nutrition with an emphasis Pre-Professional Health Careers and a minor in General Business. She joined the NIOR lab in fall 2019 as a Pi2 scholar and is mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Latha Ramalingam and Ph.D. student, Mahsa Yavari. Currently, she is working on a project that involves whether fish oil exerts protective effects in Alzheimer's disease using mouse models. After graduating, Angela hopes to attend medical school.

Hannah Pertry, NIOR

Hannah Petry

hannah.g.petry@ttu.edu

Hannah Petry is a sophomore Honors student from Boerne, TX. She is pursuing a B.S. degree in Cell and Molecular Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Nutrition. Hannah joined the NIOR lab in the fall of 2019 as a PI2 Scholar and is being mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. Currently, she is working on a project investigating the effects of fish oil on Alzheimer's disease using C. elegans as a model. She plans to pursue a master's degree in Physician Assistant Studies following graduation.

Aliyah, NIOR

Aliyah Efotte

aliyah.efotte@ttu.edu

Aliyah Efotte is a freshman Honors Student from Cypress, TX. She is a Nutritional Sciences major with a minor in French. She began working in the lab fall of 2019 and is being mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. Currently, Aliyah is working on assessing the in vivo role of heat shock proteins in glucose homeostasis and insulin signaling. More specifically, the DNAJB3/HSP-40 protein-chaperone combination. Aliyah plans on advancing to medical school with the ultimate goal of being a surgeon with the US Navy, aiding with humanitarian and disaster relief.

Former Lab Members

Ph.D. Graduates

Shasika Jayarathne
Shasika Jayarathne, M.S., Ph.D.

Research Scientist
NemaLife, Inc.

Dr. Shasika Jayarathne graduated with a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from Texas Tech University under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Latha Ramalingam in spring 2020. She received her B.S. from The Open University of Sri Lanka and M.S. in Biotechnology at the Center for Biotechnology and Genomics at Texas Tech University. Her doctoral project focused on investigating the effects of tart cherry in obesity, inflammation and aging using both in cultured adipocytes and in the model organism (nematode C. elegans). Currently, Shasika is working as a research scientist at NemaLife, Inc. in Lubbock, TX..

Fahmida Akter Rasha
Fahmida Akter Rasha, M.S., Ph.D. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Dr. Fahmida Akter Rasha graduated with a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from Texas Tech University under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa in fall 2019. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in Nutrition and Food Science from University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her M.S. research focused on the association between sociodemographic factors and IRS1 gene polymorphism among type II diabetic patients of Dhaka city, Bangladesh. She worked as a Lecturer in the Department of Food Technology and Nutrition Science at Noakhali Science and Technology University, Bangladesh. Her doctoral project sought to determine the interactions of obesity and breast cancer via exploiting the inflammatory markers generated by adipose-renin-angiotensin system (RAS) using both in-vitro and clinical models of interest. Her project also sought to identify the combined effects of RAS inhibitor drugs and anti-cancer bioactive compounds like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from fish oil on preventing breast cancer cell inflammation and invasiveness. Rasha is currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Immunology and Molecular Microbiology department at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Mandana Pahlavani, MS

Mandana Pahlavani, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
College of Human Sciences
Department of Nutritional Sciences
Texas Tech University
P: (806) 790 4792

Mandana Pahlavani graduated with her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa in May 2017. She received her B.S. in Food Science and Technology Engineering from Uromia University (Iran) and then her M.S. in Food Science and Technology Engineering from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (Iran). Her M.S. research focused on preserving effects of sodium diacetate as a natural food preservative on beverages and she was funded by R & D Zam Zam Co. After graduation, she worked for 3 years as a lecturer at Varamin University. She received her Ph.D. in nutritional science at Texas Tech University on May, 2017 under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. The focus of her doctoral research was on determining mechanisms by which omega 3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids, primarily eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), activate brown adipose tissue and induce the thermogenic marker, uncoupling protein-1 (UCP-1) to reduce obesity. As a postdoctoral research associate in the NIOR lab, Mandana received a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Education and Literacy Initiative (ELI) Postdoctoral Fellowship to investigate gene and miRNA analyses of mechanisms mediating anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil and dose-dependent effects of fish oil in obesity.

Dr. Latha Ramalinga

Latha Ramalingam, Ph.D.

Dr. Latha was recruited into the Nutrigenomics Inflammation and Obesity Research (NIOR) Lab in fall 2014 as a postdoc, then shortly moved into a Research Assistant Professor position, and was mentored by Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa. Dr. Latha made significant and outstanding contributions to the NIOR lab and NS department and co-mentored several undergraduate and graduate students. She has been very productive during her tenure at TTU and has coauthored 30 peer-reviewed publications and over 45 presentations; she has also received competitive awards as PI including an AHA AIREA research grant ($154,000) and two grants from the Obesity Society ($45,000), and was co-investigator on several other major funded grants from NIH ($799,000) and USDA ($500,000) in collaboration with Dr. Naima. Dr. Latha's scholarship has been recognized by national and international awards: (1) She was the sole winner of The Obesity Society (TOS) 2015 Early Career Grant Challenge, (2) She was awarded the new faculty Award from WorldObesity in 2016, sponsored by the International Journal of Obesity; and (3) in 2019, her application was selected for a Komen award sponsored by TOS.

Arwa Mohammed Abdul Jawad Aljawadi

Amal Bouyanfif, Ph.D.

Amal Bouyanfif graduated from the in Plant & Soil Sciences (PSS) Department with a minor in Nutrition from Texas Tech University in spring 2019. She was co-mentored by Dr. Eric Hequet (PSS) and Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa. Amal received a B.S. (license) in Physics and Chemistry and M.S. (DEA) in Physics from the University of Moulay Ismail in Morocco. Her thesis research project was focused on the use of spectroscopic techniques (absorption spectroscopy, UV-visible spectrophotometry, and Raman spectrometry) to analyze pesticide residues in agricultural soils. She was involved in various projects including analyses of lipid accumulation in liver and fat tissues using FTIR infrared microspectroscopy imaging. For her doctoral research, she used C. elegans as model organism for nutrition and obesity studies with emphasis on effects of plant and food bioactive components.

Nadeeja N. Wijayatunga , MBBS

Nadeeja N. Wijayatunga, M.B.B.S., M.Phil., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
University of Missisippi

Nadeeja Wijayatunga graduated from the Nutritional Sciences department at Texas Tech University in May 2017. She was mentored by Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and her dissertation work was "Adipose Depot-Specific Differences in Transcriptome and MicroRNA Expression obesity and changes in inflammatory and metabolic markers following bariatric surgery". She received her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Her M.Phil degree from Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka focused on Cystatin C as a marker in the assessment of renal function in patients with mild to moderate diabetic nephropathy. Nadeeja is a registered medical practitioner in Sri Lanka. She did her residency in medicine and surgery and also worked as medical officer in Intensive care and anesthesia.

Arwa Mohammed Abdul Jawad Aljawadi

Arwa Aljawadi, Ph.D.

Technical Application Scientist
Thermo Fisher Scientific

Arwa Aljawadi received her bachelor's degree in medical engineering from the University of Technology in Mosul, Iraq in 2005. In 2010, Arwa received a Fulbright scholarship from the Department of State to pursue her graduate studies in the United States of America (USA) where she joined the master program in the graduate school of Texas Tech University. Arwa successfully completed her master degree in Nutritional Sciences in 2013. she started her Ph.D. under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa's in the Nutritional Sciences department at Texas Tech University. She is an early career representative for the obesity and cancer section at the obesity society (TOS). Her Ph.D. research project sought the relationship between obesity and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Her research focuses on understating how obesity can increase the risk of breast cancer through first: inflammation where the pro-inflammatory cytokines that are released by adipose tissue can enrich the tumor microenvironment and second through exosomes as a method of cellular interaction between adipose tissue and cancer cells. Furthermore, she was also looking at the effects of omega-3 fatty acids specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as a dietary intervention on reducing and/or preventing breast cancer.

Monique J. LeMieux

Monique J. LeMieux, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Texas Women's University

Monique graduated from the Nutritional Sciences department at Texas Tech University in August 2015. She was a member of the NIOR laboratory from 2012-2015. She received her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Christopher Newport University and then her M.S. in Life Science from the Graduate School of Genome Science & Technology at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville. Her M.S. research focused on the characterization of α1-antitrypsin inhibitors related to conformational diseases and she was funded by a fellowship through the NIH Program for Excellence & Equity in Research (PEER). Under the guidance of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, Monique research focused on the link between the renin-angiotensin system, obesity and insulin resistance as well as related nutritional interventions using omega 3 fatty acids. Her research was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Obesity and she received several awards as a graduate student including several FASEB MARC travel award for minorities, the Horn Professors Graduate Achievement Award from TTU, and was a 2015 Fellow of the TEACH program at TTU for her dissertation project. Among her national awards/honors is the ASN Grand Prize for Young Minority Investigators in 2014, sponsored by DSM Nutritional Products LLC and the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and the 2013 Early Career Investigator Award, sponsored by The Obesity Society.

M.S. Graduates

London Allen

London Allen, M.S.

London completed her Master's degree in Nutritional Sciences in May 2018. Her thesis project focused on the potential of delta-tocotrienol, an isoform of Vitamin E, in preventing the development of obesity in vivo and in vitro. Additionally, she examined the effects of delta-tocotrienol on obesity associated inflammation, fatty acid metabolism, and hepatic steatosis.

Undergraduate Students (former)

Emily Miller - TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Emily Miller

Emily Miller was an Honors student from Stephenville, TX with a major in Cell and Molecular Biology on the pre-med track with a minor in Chemistry and Nutrition. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Mandana Pahlavani, Emily worked on an NIH funded project to determine the role of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP-1) and omega 3 fatty acids in regulation and activation of brown adipose tissue. Emily completed an Honors Thesis on this research in spring 2019.

Lexie Harlan- TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Lexie Harlan

Lexie Harlan was an Honors student from Lubbock, TX with a major in Biology with a Chemistry minor. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa and Latha Ramalingam, Lexie worked on a project studying the effects of delta-tocotrienols and tart cherry anthocyanins on adipose tissue and inflammation. Lexie completed an Honors Thesis on this research in spring 2019.

Paige Johnson- TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Paige Johnson

Paige Johnson was a student from Yuma, AZ with a major in Biology and a minor in Health Professions and Nutritional Sciences. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte, Paige assisted on an NCBA funded systematic literature review on beef proteins, gut microbiome and health. Paige also worked on a project to determine the uncoupling protein 1 (UCP-1) independent mechanisms of omega 3 fatty acids on hepatic steatosis.

Hiram Gandara

Hiram Gandara

Hiram Gandara was a student from El Paso, TX with a major in Microbiology and a Chemistry minor. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Latha Ramalingam and Kalhara Menikdiwela, Hiram worked on a project to better understand the mechanisms linking the adipocyte renin angiotensin system, inflammation and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress.

Angela Bacani, NIOR

Angela Bacani

Angela Bacani was an Honors student from Odessa, TX with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa and Latha Ramalingam, Angela worked on a project that involved studying the mechanisms of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation and high fat diet on early life diet programming in the offspring of obese pregnant mice.

Caroline Biltz, NIOR

Caroline Biltz

Caroline Biltz was an Honors student from Corsicana, TX with a major in Nutrition with an emphasis in Pre-Professional Health Careers and a minor in Biology. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, Caroline worked on a project that investigated the possible protective effects of fish oil in Alzheimer's disease using mouse models.

Alejandra Mera- TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Alejandra Mera

Undergraduate Researcher, 2018

Alejandra was a junior nutrition and dietetics major with a chemistry minor. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Iurii Koboziev, and Amal Bouyanfif, she assisted with a project investigating the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) compared to saturated fatty acids such as palmitic acid, on inflammation, lifespan, and gene expression in C. elegans.

Arelys Hernandez- TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Arelys Hernandez

Undergraduate Researcher, 2018

Arelys was a sophomore nutrition major with a minor in biology. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Fahmida Akter Rasha, her project focused on interactions of fat cells with breast cancer cells, and effects of angiotensin and nutrients, such as fatty acids in obesity-related breast cancer.

Juliana Tovar - TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Juliana Tovar

Undergraduate Researcher, 2017

Juliana was a junior nutrition major with minors in biology and chemistry. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Latha Ramalingam and Visiting Scholar, Theresa Ramalho, Juliana assisted Theresa with her project to determine the role of leukotriene B4 (LTB4) in type 1 diabetes and specific metabolic changes in livers from these mice.

Alenandra Miranda - TTU NIOR Lab Member Nutritional Sciences

Alexandra Miranda

Undergraduate Researcher, 2017

Alexandra was a junior Honors student majoring in biology with a chemistry minor. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Shasika Jayarathne, she assisted on a project focused on anti-inflammatory effects of tart cherry anthocyanins in a rat model of genetic obesity (Zucker rats) and in adipocytes.

Abigail Jackson Nutritional Sciences NIOR Lab Member

Abigail Jackson

Undergraduate Researcher, 2017

Abigail was a junior nutrition major pursuing minors in biology and chemistry. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Kembra Albracht-Schulte, her project focused on anti-inflammatory mechanisms of omega 3 fatty acids in a model for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, utilizing HepG2 Hepatoma cells.

Tochi Eboh

Tochi Eboh

Undergraduate Researcher, 2017

Tochi was a junior majoring in nutrition with a pre-med concentration and pursuing minors in chemistry and biology. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Latha Ramalingam, she worked on a project related to effects of maternal obesity and fish oil feeding on offspring adipose tissue metabolism.

Stephanie Clevenger

Stephani Clevenger

Undergraduate Researcher, 2017

Stephani was a Terry Scholar and nutrition and dietetics major. Under the co-mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Latha Ramalingam, she worked on a project related to effects of maternal high fat diets vs. fish oil feeding on liver metabolism in offspring.

Boontharick Sopontammarak - Texas Tech Nutritional Sciences NIOR Lab Member

Boontharick Sopontammarak

Undergraduate Researcher, 2016

Boontharick was a senior Honors student majoring in nutrition with pre-medical track and minoring in forensic science. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Latha Ramalingam and Kalhara Menikdiwela, her Honors thesis project focused on understanding the role of angiotensins in beta cell function, metabolism and insulin secretion.

Samantha Gonzalez

Samantha Gonzalez

Undergraduate Researcher, 2016

Samantha was an Honors student and Terry Scholar majoring in nutrition and minoring in Kinesiology. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Latha Ramalingam and Kembra Albracht-Schulte, her project focused on developing a model of fatty liver in culture using HepG2 Hepatoma cells treated with saturated fatty acids, such as palmitate.

Tram Dinh

Tram Dinh

Undergraduate Researcher, 2015

Tram was a junior majoring in nutrition and minoring in Chemistry. Under the mentorship of Dr. Latha Ramalingam, she assisted with various projects related to molecular studies on pancreatic beta cells and adipose tissue biology and the role of the renin angiotensin system.

Elise Coleman

Elise Coleman

Undergraduate Researcher, 2015

Elise was a sophomore majoring in nutrition with a specialization in pre-professional health careers. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa, she worked on a research project that utilizes C. elegans as a model organism to study the effects of nutrients especially fatty acids on metabolism and gene expression.

Samantha Gonzalez

Elizabeth Dameron

Undergraduate Researcher, 2015

Elizabeth was a Human Sciences major with concentrations in Nutrition, Health Professions, and Personal Financial Planning. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa, she worked on a project in collaboration with Dr. Abidi in the Fiber and Biopolymer Institute to determine the effects of guar gum on adipocytes, lipid metabolism, and inflammation.

Sara Alhaj

Sara Alhaj

Undergraduate Researcher, 2015

Sara was a cell and molecular biology major with a minor in chemistry and nutrition. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Arwa Aljawadi, her project focused on the interaction between adipose cells and breast cancer cells and the mechanism involved in this interaction.

Fitia Razafimanjato

Fitia Razafimanjato, B.S.

Undergraduate Researcher, 2014

Fitia was a Nutrition major with a minor in biology. She worked in Dr. Moustaid-Moussa's in 2014-2015, first as an undergrad research intern as part of the National Wind Resource Center (NWRC) Engineering and Medicine Summer Research Institute. Her project was researching the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on brown adipose tissue thermogenic markers. She received the Cash Family Award in Medicine for her summer undergrad research and presentation in 2014.

Yovanda Cain

Yovanda Cain, B.S.

Undergraduate Researcher, 2013

Yovanda was a biology major with a minor in chemistry. Under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Monique LeMieux, her project focused on the link between the renin-angiotensin system, obesity and insulin resistance and regulation of adipocyte metabolism by fatty acids.

Visiting International Students

Joao

Joao Pedro

jtorresg@ttu.edu

Joao Pedro was a Ph.D. student from the Immunology Program at University de Sao Paulo (USP)/Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Sao Paulo, Brazil. His project focused on mechanisms connecting angiotensin to obesity and diabetes: role of inflammation and autophagy in metabolic active tissues. He was mentored by Dr. Joilson de Oliveira Martins and Dr. Sonia Jancar (USP/Brazil) in collaboration with Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Latha Ramalingam at TTU. His visit to TTU is funded by BEPE/FAPESP program (Brazil). His USP mentor, Dr. Joilson de Oliveira Martins and Dr. Moustaid-Moussa are also funded by a TTU-FAPESP (SPRINT) award 2018-2020.

flavia sardela

Flávia Sardela de Miranda

flavia.sardela@gmail.com

Flávia Sardela de Miranda is a short term visiting scholar and a Research Aide at Texas Tech University under the mentorship of Dr. Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa. Flávia earned her B.S. in Biomedical Sciences at the Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) and her M.S in Immunology at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), both in Brazil. Her M.S. research focused on investigating the effects of the blockade of lactate transport in co-cultures of macrophages and cervical-derived tumor cells. Currently, Flávia is pursuing a project in collaboration with Dr. Rakhshanda Rahman, Professor & breast cancer surgeon and Director of the Southwest Cancer Center at TTUHSC, Dr. Chanaka Kahathuduwa, Assistant Professor at the TTUHSC School of Health Professions, Dr. Latha Ramalingam, former NIOR research faculty, and Dr. Fahmida Rasha, former NIOR graduate and postdoc at TTUHSC. The main goal of this project is to investigate the associations between BMI, antihypertensive drug use and changes in key genes and proteins of the renin angiotensin system in samples of breast cancer patients.

Theresa Ramalho

Theresa Ramalho, M.S., Ph.D.

Visiting Scholar, 2017-2018

Theresa Ramalho was a Ph.D. candidate from the Immunology Program at Universidade Sao Paulo/Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her project focused on the role of lipid mediators (leukotrienes) in macrophages polarization and metabolism, sterile inflammation and wound healing in a model of type 1 diabetes. She was mentored by Dr. Sonia Jancar and Dr. Luciano Filgueiras (USP/Brazil) in collaboration with Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Latha Ramalingam at TTU. Her visit to TTU was funded by CAPES Sandwitch program (Brazil). Her USP mentor, Dr. Jancar and Dr. Moustaid-Moussa are funded by a TTU-FAPESP (SPRINT) award 2016-2018.

Meriam Ouertani

Meriam Ouertani

Visiting Scholar, 2014

Meriam was a graduate student in Sciences and Technology (Integrative Physiology Program in Nutrition, Quality and Health) at University of Paris Pierre & Marie Curie. Her project was to study the link between obesity and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. She was mentored by Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Arwa Aljawadi.

Cypria Polizzi

Cypria Polizzi

Visiting Scholar, 2014

Cypria was a graduate student in the Master's Degree of Sciences and Technology (Integrative Physiology Program in Nutrition, Quality and Health) at the University of Paris Pierre & Marie Curie, France. Cypria worked with Monique LeMieux in Dr. Moustaid-Moussa's lab. Her project primarily focused on evaluating changes in adipose tissue morphology and inflammation in wild type vs knockout mice lacking adipose tissue angiotensinogen.

Cecile Brocard and Remi Chevallier

Cecile Brocard and Remi Chevallier

Visiting Scholars, 2013

Cecile and Remi were French exchange students completing a Master's degree in Science & Technology (Integrative Biology & Physiology Program in Nutrition, Quality and Health) at the University of Paris, Pierre & Marie Curie. For their internship at Tech, Cecile's project is to study how omega 3 fatty acids regulate liver metabolism and gene expression (mentored by Dr. Moustaid-Moussa) and Remi's project involved studies on the role of the transcription factor C/EBP ß in inflammation and lipid metabolism (mentored by Drs. Rahman and Moustaid-Moussa).

Visiting Summer Students

Chinasa Anokwuru

Chinasa Anokwuru

Visiting Undergraduate, summer 2017

Chinasa Anokwuru, a visiting undergraduate scholar and biology/biochemistry major with a minor in Africana studies and public health. She was a senior undergraduate student researcher with the Dell Pediatric Research Institute. Chinasa worked primarily on angiotensin projects under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa.

Kenneth Pham

Kenneth Pham

Visiting Clark Scholar, summer 2015

Kenneth was an undergraduate at Columbia University from Irvine, CA. Under the guidance of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Dr. Ramalingam, he investigated the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on adipocytes and adipose tissue, with a focus on microRNA expression in response to EPA treatment.

Devin Taylor Wehle

Devin Taylor Wehle

Visiting Undergraduate, summer 2014

Devin was a neuroscience major in the Polymathic Honors program and undergraduate researcher in the Neuroscience Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Nadeeja Wijayatunga, his research focused on the anti-inflammatory effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in brains from mice fed high-fat diets. This internship was part of a Summer Research Program in Engineering, Science and Medicine, organized by the National Wind Resource Center at TTU.

Mar'Lesha L. Hollins

Mar'Lesha L. Hollins

Visiting Undergraduate, summer 2014

Mar'Lesha was a junior biology, pre-medicine major at Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Arwa Aljawadi, her project focused on studying the interaction between adipose cells and cancer cells. This internship was part of a Summer Research Program in Engineering, Science and Medicine, organized by the National Wind Resource Center at TTU.

Zenaida E. Adrovet González

Zenaida E. Adrovet González

Visiting Undergraduate, summer 2013 and 2014

Zenaida was a biotechnology major at the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan, PR. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moustaid-Moussa and Monique Lemieux, she investigated effects eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on metabolism and gene expression of liver tissues of EPA-fed mice and on hepatocarcinoma cells (HepG2) and the effects of angiotensinogen overexpression vs inactivation on lipid metabolism. This internship was part of a Summer Research Program in Engineering, Science and Medicine, organized by the National Wind Resource Center at TTU.

Nutritional Sciences