President: Phu Tran, PhD
Dr. Tran is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and a Director of the Translational Neuroscience Core of the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Tran investigates the long-term effects of early-life iron deficiency anemia on neurodevelopment. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world and affects between 3 and 4 billion individuals, including about 40% of pregnant women and pre-school age children. It is well established that iron deficiency during these developmental periods has long-lasting negative effects on cognition and socio-emotional behaviors as well as risk of neurodevelopmental disorders (ASD, ADHD, schizophrenia) despite prompt iron treatment following diagnosis in early childhood. These long-term effects constitute a significant cost to individuals and society in terms of educational attainment, job potential, and mental health. Thus, determining the genetic, cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the ID effects on neurodevelopment using preclinical models may lead to new and effective treatment strategies beyond the iron therapy alone.
Vice President: Danielle Christifano, PhD
Dr. Christifano is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at the University of Kansas Medical Center where her research focuses on maternal nutrition (e.g. DHA supplementation), preterm birth, and child neurodevelopment. She completed her Masters and PhD in Medical Nutrition Sciences at the University of Kansas Medical Center, after which she completed training in fetal and infant electrophysiology under Dr. Kathleen Gustafson at the Hoglund Biomedical Imaging Center and prenatal DHA supplementation under Dr. Susan Carlson. She has served on the US DOHaD Council since its inception – first as Membership Chair, then as Treasurer. She currently serves as the US DOHaD Vice President, where she aims to foster a community of scientists and clinicians who share a common goal of optimizing the health and wellbeing of mothers, children, and families. She led planning efforts for the 2022 scientific meeting and is working with the leadership team to make the 2023 meeting a success! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two children (ages 1 and 4), gardening, cooking, and spending time outside.
Treasurer: Kaela Varberg, PhD
Dr. Varberg is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Her research is focused on identifying key factors and molecular mechanisms driving extravillous trophoblast cell lineage development in hemochorial placentation. She completed her PhD in Cellular & Integrative Physiology at Indiana University School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Laura S. Haneline and her postdoctoral training at the University of Kansas Medical Center under the mentorship of Dr. Michael J. Soares. Outside of the lab, she is very passionate about professional development, networking, and leadership development. She has attended every US DOHaD Society meeting since its inception and previously served as a trainee representative on the US DOHaD Society Leadership Council. Currently, she serves on the US DOHaD Society Leadership Council as the Treasurer and is leading efforts on the planning committee for the 2023 annual meeting taking place September 17-19th, 2023 in Kansas City, MO.
Faculty Representative: Elizabeth M. Martin, PhD
Dr. Martin is a Principal Investigator that leads the Epigenetic Responses to Environmental Exposures Group at the National Institute for Environmental Health Science in the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology laboratory. Her research focuses on understanding the patterns of epigenetic reprogramming during pregnancy and how those can be causal in development of later life health outcomes.Martin received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering in 2017 from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-CH where she identified metabolomic biomarkers of arsenic exposure. Afterward, she completed a 1 year postdoctoral fellowship at the US EPA where she assessed the role of interindividual variability in transcriptomic biomarkers. Martin then joined the NIEHS Eukaryotic Transcriptional Regulation Group, in 2018 to study mechanisms by which the epigenomic is regulated. During this time Martin was awarded a position in the NIH Independent Research Scholars (IRS) program that allowed her to launch the Epigenetic Responses to Environmental Exposure Group. The goal of her research program is to develop better epigenetic biomarkers of exposure and effect through integration with mechanistic insights about how the epigenome is altered by environmental toxicants.
ECHO Representative: Linda Adair, PhD
Linda Adair is Professor of Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-CH, a Fellow at the Carolina Population Center, and Honorary Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. She earned her PhD in Biological Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, and completed a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship for Studies at the Interface of Biology and Demography at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Adair is part of the faculty for the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program Coordinating Center, where she has had a key role in the Opportunities and Innovative Fund to support early career investigators. Her research focuses on maternal and child nutrition, in particular, the determinants and consequences of infant and early childhood feeding and growth patterns, and the developmental origins of adult health. She has led the Cebu (Philippines) Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey for more than 30 years, and has been a collaborator on research in China, South Africa, Rwanda, and Malawi, all of which feed her passion for global travel. Her methodological focus is on the design and implementation of population-based health/demographic/nutrition surveys and the application of longitudinal epidemiologic and structural models to health outcome research.
Trainee Representative: Carmen Marable, PhD, MPH
Dr. Marable’s introduction to developmental origins of health and disease was during her training at Rollins School of Public Health, where she studied children’s structural and cognitive neurodevelopment following maternal metal exposures. This motivated her to continue on as a research fellow at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. At the EPA, she became the transdisciplinary liaison between toxicologists, geneticists, biostatisticians, and neuroscientists that were involved in developing high-throughput screening methods for neurotoxicity and developmental neurotoxicity. From this experience, she decided to pursue a doctorate in neuroscience at UNC. Her dissertation research explored the role of inflammation in the placenta and neonate as a predictor of children’s structural and cognitive neurodevelopment in unique datasets capturing the longitudinal development of children born extremely premature. Dr. Marable cites attending the 2021 Annual Meeting as a highlight of her doctoral training because she was able to see and contribute to conversations of how varied methodologies and models being used around the world to capture developmental origins of health and disease. She enjoys working with other leadership council members to continue pushing the mission of the DOHaD Society forward in an engaging and inclusive manner.
Trainee Representative: Megan Knuth, PhD
Dr. Megan Knuth is a Postdoctoral Research Associate for Dr. Folami Ideraabdullah’s Lab in the Department of Genetics at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Dr. Knuth investigates developmental vitamin D deficiency as an early risk factor for adult liver disease. Her research was recently recognized at the 24th Annual Vitamin D Workshop where she was awarded the Tony Norman Young Investigator Award. Apart from research, Dr. Knuth is extremely passionate about science communication and community engagement. Aligning with these passions, she serves as Co-Chair of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Postdoctoral Association where she works closely with both local and regional postdoctoral communities to organize networking events, facilitate community engagement, and advocate for postdoctoral needs. Dr. Knuth joined the US DOHaD Society Council in Spring of 2022 so that she could use her leadership experience to advocate for US DOHaD Trainees and organize strong career development training during the Annual Society Meetings. In her spare time, you can find Dr. Knuth outside adventuring with her goldendoodle, Theo, or at a local famer’s market brainstorming her next culinary creation!
Alysha Everett is a PhD student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She received her bachelor’s degrees in Nutrition and BioHealth Science from Oregon State University and her master’s degree in Nutrition Sciences from UAB, where she began working with her current mentor Paula Chandler-Laney. Her research interests include intergenerational health disparities and understanding how fetal and placental development influence long-term risk for disease. Currently Alysha is investigating differences in placental efficiency among children born to women with obesity, with or without gestational diabetes.
Annemarie (Anna) Carver is a third-year Genetics PhD student at the University of Iowa in Dr. Hanna Steven’s lab. Anna received a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Biology, where she began her research career in developmental genetics. Currently, Anna is studying the influence of placental genetics on fetal neurodevelopment in mice. Anna is particularly interested in placental Igf-1 expression and how it may be relevant to autism spectrum disorder.