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Faculty Mentors


Four Core Research Areas:
I. Precursors and Consequences of Obesity                 II. Reproductive Health
III. Sex and Gender Issues in Health and Disease        IV. Cancer Prevention, Screening and Treatment

I. Precursors and Consequences of Obesity

Barbara J. Rolls, PhD (Core Leader): Department of Nutritional Sciences, College of Health and Human Development
Barbara Rolls is the Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutrition and Professor of Nutritional Sciences and Biobehavioral Health.  She is Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Beahvior. Dr. Rolls's principal research interest is dietary influences on energy intake, hunger, and satiety and weight management. Her research is funded primarily by NIDDK. In her MERIT award she has studied how the macronutrient composition and energy density (kcal/gram) of foods affects satiety. In a year-long clinical trial in obese women, she found that advising them to reduce the energy density of the diet by lowering fat intake and by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with significant weight loss, reduced hunger and improved diet quality. The research funded by her other NIDDK grant has shown that large portions of energy-dense foods increase energy intake over periods of up to 11 days. In her studies, she compares responses of women and men to determine whether there are sex differences in eating behavior. These findings suggest nutritionally sound dietary strategies for weight management.

Laura E. Murray-Kolb, PhD Department of Nutritional Sciences, College of Health and Human Development

Laura Murray-Kolb is Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences.  She is studying antenatal and preschool iron and zinc supplementation and cognition.  Her current project in Nepal follows children 6-8 years of age who mothers receive micronutrient supplements during pregnancy.  How supplementation and nutrient status affect children's behavior and cognitive and motor development will be assessed.

Ian Paul, MD Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine
Ian Paul is Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences. His primary research interest is improving maternal-child health through preventive postpartum-postnatal interventions. His major current focus is the primary prevention of obesity with other lines of research that include improving healthcare delivery and breastfeeding and prevention of shaken baby syndrome. He also continues to conduct clinical trials related to pediatric therapeutics in areas which include asthma and the treatment of cough and cold symptoms in children.

Christopher Sciamanna, MD Department of Medicine, College of Medicine
Christopher Sciamanna is Professor of Medicine and  Public Health Sciences and Chief of the Department of General Internal Medicine.  The main focus of Dr. Sciamanna's research is to improve the management of overweight and obesity in primary care. His team has three lines of work to advance this aim: 1) Developing and testing web-based weight control programs that can be integrated into primary care, 2) Identifying the best practices of providers for motivating and assisting their patients to control their weight and  3) Creating weight control programs that can are free to end users and that be disseminated within primary care settings.
II. Reproductive Health

Richard S. Legro, MD (Core Leader): Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine
Richard Legro is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology with subspecialist training in reproductive endocrinology.  His clinical research focuses primarily on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).  He is interested in understanding the pathophysiology of PCOS, the genetic underpinnings, and above all validating clinical interventions to improve outcomes.  His research is looking at the effects of various treatments, including lifestyle and pharmaceutical, that improve insulin sensitivity on the PCOS phenotype, as well as other insulin resistant groups.  These trials range from small pilot studies to large multi-center trials. He is the lead investigator of the recently completed Pregnancy in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PPCOS) the U10 Reproductive Medicine Network, which examined the efficacy of clomiphene citrate and metformin on live birth. Several family studies are investigating the heritability of abnormalities in sisters and brothers of women with PCOS as well as their children. He also is interested in the reproductive and metabolic changes induced by oral contraception in this group and the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

Cynthia Chuang, MD Department of Medicine, College of Medicine
Cynthia Chuang is Professor of Medicine and Public Health Sciences and Research Director of the Penn State BIRCWH Program.  She is a general internist with a research focus on women's reproductive health, including among those with chronic medical conditions.  She is Principal Investigator of a PCORI-funded project testing an intervention to help women with private health insurance make contraceptive choices.  She is also site director for a PCORI-funded project to establish a Clinical Data Research Network in Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and Johns Hopkins University.
Marianne Hillemeier, PhD Department of Health Policy and Administration, College of Health and Human Development
Marianne Hillemeier is Department Head, Health Policy and Administration, and Professor of Health Policy and Administration and Demography with joint appointments in the Departments of Public Health Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology.  Her research focused on disparities in maternal and child health.  She served as co-PI of the CePAWHS project that focuses on women's preconceptional and interconceptional health in relation to overall health status and pregnancy outcomes.  She is interested in disparities in women's access to and use of reproductive health-related services along the rural-urban continuum and the influence of community-level and individual-level variables on indicators of women's reproductive health.
Kristen Kjerulff, PhD Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine
Kristen Kjerulff is Professor of Public Health Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology.  She is a psychologist and health services researcher whose research focuses on 1.) Health Outcomes, including the outcomes and effectiveness of common treatments such as hysterectomy and cesarean section, as well as health care utilization and costs associated with specific conditions, 2.) Women's Health, particularly gynecologic cancers, uterine fibroids, obesity and child-bearing, pelvic floor disorders, menstrual migraines, menopause, and sexual functioning; 3.) Mental Health, particularly life stresses, depression and anxiety; and 4.) Patient Management of Health Information with a focus on self-management of health, self-efficacy and improved health behaviors of people with common chronic conditions.

Douglas Leslie, PhD Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine
Douglas L. Leslie is Professor of Public Health Sciences and Psychiatry. He is an economist whose research focuses on health economics, health services research, and mental health. He is Director of the Penn State Center for Applied Studies in Health Economics. His research interests span multiple areas, including access to care, quality of care, the effects of health care financing on service use and costs, and pharmacoeconomics. He has considerable experience with large databases, including those from the Department of Veteran Affairs, state Medicaid programs and private health insurers.

Troy Ott, PhD Department of Animal Science, College of Agricultural Sciences
Troy Ott is Professor of Reproductive Physiology. His research is focused on the physiology of reproduction and reproductive immunology, primarily on the molecular mechanisms regulating fertility and infertility in domestic farm animals.  A secondary focus is on regulation of the innate arm of the mucosal immune system of the female reproductive tract.

A. Catharine Ross, PhD Department of Nutritional Sciences, College of Health and Human Development

Catharine Ross is Professor of Nutritional Sciences and Occupant of the Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair.  Her research focuses on Vitamin A/retinoid metabolism, hepatic retinoid function and gene expression, Vitamin A in infection and immunity, and Vitamin A and lung development in the neonatal period.

Carol S. Weisman, PhD Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine
Carol Weisman is Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Distinguished Professor of Public Health Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Health Policy and Administration in the Penn State College of Medicine.   She is Principal Investigator of the Penn State BIRCWH Program.  A sociologist and health services researcher, Dr. Weisman's research focuses on women's health care, especially access to primary and preventive services, organizational models for primary care delivery, and quality of health care for women.  She led the Central Pennsylvania Women's Health Study (CePAWHS), which focused on understanding the determinants of the health of reproductive-age women, particularly in low-income rural and urban communities, and the relationship between preconceptional health and pregnancy outcomes for the mother and baby.

III. Sex and Gender Issues in Health and Disease

Sheri Berenbaum, PhD (Core Leader):  Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
Sheri Berenbaum is Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics.  She is a psychologist who studies neuroendocrine influences on development.  She is interested in the effects of hormones at multiple sensitive periods (prenatal, puberty, pregnancy) on normal variations in human social behavior and cognition.  She is particularly interested in the development of gender-related behavior, including gender identity, sex-related personality and social behaviors (e.g., toy play, activity interests, emotional response, aggression), and sex-related cognitive abilities (e.g., spatial ability, verbal memory).  Her current studies are focused on understanding more about the nature and mechanisms (neural and psychological) of hormonal influences on behavior, and the ways in which these effects are modified by the social environment.  Her work is also relevant to current controversies in pediatric medicine regarding management of children with disorders of sex development.

Laura Carrel, PhD Department of Biochenistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine
Laura Carrel is Associate Professor of Biochenistry and Molecular Biology.  Trained in genetics, Dr. Carrel's research focuses on chromosome structure and fucntion; genome organization; long-range control of gene expression; heterochromatin formation; epigenetic role in human disease; and genetics and genomics of X chromosome inactivation in human and mouse.

Timothy Craig, DO Department of Medicine, College of Medicine

Timothy Craig is Professor of Medicine (Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care) and Pediatrics.  His research interests include hereditary angioedema, asthma, and the effects of rhinitis on sleep and daytime somnolence.

Joanna Floros, PhD Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine

Joanna Floros is Evan Pugh Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology.  Dr. Floros leads a research program focused on the regulation of expression and/or function of pulmonary surfactant proteins, SP-A, SP-B, SP-D and their role in pulmonary disease.

William Gerin, PhD Department of Biobehavioral Health, College of Health and Human Development
William Gerin is Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Director of Mind-Bosy Cardiovascular Psychophysiology Laboratory.  His research focuses on the role of the social stressors and angry rumination in biological dysregulation and development of heart disease and on non-pharmacological interventions to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients.  He has developed and tested an intervention to teach patients about high blood pressure using Self-Paced Programmed Instruction.

Patricia Grigson-Kennedy, PhD Department of Neural and Behavioral Science, College of Medicine

Patricia Grigson-Kennedy is Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences.  She is interested in the neural pathways involved in responding to the rewarding properties of food, water, or drugs of abuse.  The choice to select one behavior over another is evidence that different rewards must be compared by some common neural substrate.  Because little is known about the neural pathways involved in such reward comparison processes, her laboratory seeks to identify the neural substrates by which natural rewards and drugs of abuse are compared.

Tonya King, PhD Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine

Tonay King is Professor of Public Health Sciences, Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics.  She is a biostatistician and co-Investigator of the AsthmaNet Coordinating Center.  She conducts multi-center clinical trials with sites across the country, invesitgating treatments for asthma across all ages and all severities of the disease.

Laura Klein, PhD Department of Biobehavioral Health, College of Health and Human Development

Laura Klein is Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health.  Her research focuses on biobehavioral effects of stress on drug abuse in humans and animals, sex differences in neuroendocrine and behavioral stress responses, and nicotine regulation of stress reactivity.

Susan McHale, PhD Department of Human Development and Family Studies, College of Health and Human Development
Susan McHale is Professor of Human Development, Director of the Social Science Research Institute, Co-director of the Penn State CTSI. Her research focuses on children's and adolescents' family relationships, roles and everyday activities and the extent to which these are gendered.  Highlighted in her work are sibling relationship dynamics and the family experiences that foster similarities and differences in the interests, attributes and developmental trajectories of sisters and brothers.  Her early research on children’s and adolescents’ family experiences pointed to the significance of gender dynamics in everyday family life and served as a basis for her interest in the family as a context for gender socialization.  The extent to which sisters versus brothers assume different family roles, experience different kinds of relationships with their parents, and have access to different kinds of resources and opportunities are important ways in which families differ.  She studies the ways in which such family dynamics are linked to  girls’ and boys’ well-being and development.  A body of research has uncovered sex differences in a range of adjustment problems in childhood and adolescence, with problems such as depression and weight concerns more common in girls and risky behaviors and conduct problems more common in boys.

Lawrence I. Sinoway, MD Department of Medicine, College of Medicine
Lawrence Sinoway is Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Director of the Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute, and Director of the Penn State CTSI.  He is a cardiologist with a principal interest in neural control of circulation.  His specific area of interest is the neurocirculatory regulation during exercise in normal subjects and in those with pathophysiologic conditions.  He is currently investigating muscle reflex control of the circulation and interstitial norepinephrine and exercise.  Dr. Sinoway is also program director and a project leader of a Program Project Grant (PPG) to study autonomic neurovascular regulation.

Mark Widome, MD Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine

Mark Widome is Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics.  He is a general pediatrician who provides primary care to infants, children, and adolescents and is an expert in child injury prevention.  He was named Pediatrician of the Year by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2013.  Beginning in 2003, Dr. Widome was known as "Dr. Mark" on the NBC Today show.

IV. Cancer Prevention, Screening and Treatment

Neil Christensen, PhD (Core Leader): Department of Pathology, College of Medicine
Neil Christensen is Professor of Pathology and Medical Director of the Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation.  He is an immunologist whose research focuses on the papillomavirus. The overall research theme in Dr.Christensen’s laboratory is studies on immunity and pathogenesis of papillomavirus infections. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes hyperproliferative lesions in cutaneous and mucosal epithelium. A proportion of these HPV infections have been shown to progress to malignancies of the uterine cervix. The major subprojects include: 1) characterization of viral capsid neutralizing epitopes; 2) vaccine development; 3) analysis of T-cell recognition of viral epitopes on virus-infected papilloma cells; 4) papillomavirus animal model systems; 5) model systems to test for anti-viral compounds, and 6) methods to propagate human papillomaviruses. Current goals are to test both protective and prophylactic vaccines using animal models of papillomavirus infections. Current studies include identification of host receptor molecules involved in papillomavirus uptake and internalization, and the development of a transgenic animal model to study the role of HLA Class I in papillomavirus immunity.

Eugene Lengerich, VMD, MS Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine

Eugene Lengerich is Professor of Public Health Sciences and Director of the Community Science and Health Outcomes Core of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.  Dr. Lengerich is an epidemiologist with expertise in community-based participatory research, evidence-based practice, and health disparities.  His research has targeted colorectal, female breast, cervical and prostate cancers.  Since 2004, Dr. Lengerich has been the principal investigator of the Northern Appalachia Cancer Network (NACN), a community/academic partnership to reduce the burden of cancer in Appalachian Pennsylvania and New York.  Established in 1992, the NACN has been continuously funded by the National Cancer Institute.  In 2009, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities recognized the engaged scholarship of NACN, which inlcudes over 30 manuscripts in the peer-reviewed literature.  Recently, Dr. Lengerich has been involved with efforts to develop cancer patient navigation in Appalachia and community health workers in the minority community of Harrisburg.  In addition, he has used public health informatics, including Geographic Information Systems and digital atlases, to quantify patterns in cancer incidence and mortality.  Dr. Lengerich is Director of the Appalachia Cancer Scholars Program, funded by the National Cancer Institute, which trains post-doctorate scholars in community-based research in cancer prevention and control in Appalachia.

Craig Meyers, PhD Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine
Craig Meyers is Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology.  The central research goals of his laboratory are to study the differentiation-dependent life cycle of human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-associated oncogenesis. His studies follow six general research themes: (1) Investigation of the molecular biology and genetics of HPV morphogenesis and structure in native virus replicated under natural physiological differentiation conditions of the host tissue. The majority of the laboratories studying HPV morphogenesis and structure utilize synthetic particles such as virus-like particles (VLPs) or pseudoviral particles (PsV). Our studies have shown that the morphogenesis, maturation, and structure of native HPV differs in many significant characteristic from VLPs or PsV particles. (2) Investigation of the efficacy of disinfectants and microbicides on native HPV as compared to VLPs/PsV. Our results demonstrate that HPV is significantly more resistant to disinfectants and microbicides then our VLPs/PsV. This demonstrates the clinical importance of using native HPV for disinfectant and microbicide testing. (3) Determining the mechanism whereby cofactors such as tobacco carcinogens increase carcinogenic progression in HPV-associated cancers. We are dissecting the signaling pathways and cell cycle components that are impacted by the interaction of cofactors and HPV in host tissue. (4) Determining the interaction of highly active anti-retroviral drugs on oral tissues, HPV and HPV’s infection of oral tissue. (5) Development of population science and basic science interactions to monitor, understand and influence education and behavior as they relate to a risk for acquiring an HPV-associated infection. (6) Comparative analysis of HPV infection, life cycle, and oncogenesis at different anatomical sites. (7) Investigation of AAV2 oncolytic properties. Including determine the mechanisms induced by AAV2 causing cancer cells to undergo cell death and translating these findings to the clinic.

Joshua Muscat, PhD Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine

Joshua Muscat is Professor of Public Health Sciences and Co-Principal Investigator of the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at Penn State.  He is an epidemiologist with a primary research interest in the causes and prevention of human cancer.  He previously worked at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the American Health Foundation in New York.  His work has included studies on environmental pollutants and cancer,  and he has served as an advisor to federal and state regulatory agencies.  Dr. Muscat's interests include understanding the causes of racial diaparities in cancer risk, including the impact of smoking behaviors, individual susceptibility, and diet.

Curtis J. Omiecinski, PhD Department of Veterinary and biomedical Sciences, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment

Curtis Omiecinski is Professor of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences and the H. Thomas and Dorothy Willits Hallowell Chair.  His research focuses on the role of nuclear receptors, including the constituitive androstane receptor (CAR), as regulators of chemical metabolism, toxicology and liver cancer.  His laboratory also studies the genetics, enzymology and transcriptional mechanisma of epoxide hydrolase in relation to lung cancer risk.

Andrew Read, PhD Departments of Biology and Entomology, Eberly College of Science
Andrew Read is Professor of Biology and Entomology.  He is an evolutionary biologist and Director of Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics.  Current interests are focused on understanding  the 'natural' selection imposed by medical and public health practices, and finding ways to ameliorate the evolution that drives in disease-causing organisms.  This involves problems in vaccine-driven pathogen evolution, drug resistance and the evolution of insecticide resistant insects that vector diseases.  Most work in his group currently concerns the three players in malaria - the parasites, the mosquitoes and the vertebrate host - and is investigating whether malaria vaccines would lead to the evolution of more virulent parasites, and the effect of contrasting patient treatment regimens on the evolution of drug resistance.  Other work involves the search for evolution-proof insecticides against mosquitoes that transmit malaria, and whether vaccination was responsible for the dramatic increases in virulence in Marek's disease, a viral pathogen on poultry.

John Zurlo, MD Department of Medicine, College of Medicine
John Zurlo is a Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology.  His current research activities in HIV/AIDS epidemiology focus on quality of care, unmet needs, expanded testing to identify infected patients not yet diagnosed (especially African Americans), and risk screening and prevention among HIV-infected persons..


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