Project EAT: About Us
Division of Epidemiology
University of Minnesota
1300 S. 2nd Street
Minneapolis, MN 55454
Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD is the Principal Investigator for Project EAT and a Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health. With the help of her colleagues who are working on this study, she wrote the grant proposals for all three phases of the study, and has been involved in focus groups implementation, survey development, overall study organization, data analysis, and scientific presentations and writing. Her publications have included those on dietary practices and obesity of adolescents, weight control practices of adolescents, weight-teasing and its potential implications and family meals. She notes: “This has been one of the most enjoyable, informative, and productive studies in which I have ever been involved. Each research team member has made valuable contributions from their particular area of expertise. Our findings have important implications for the development of interventions aimed at improving dietary practices and psychosocial health of adolescents.
Mary Story, PhD, RD is a Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health and has been a co-investigator on all three phases of Project EAT. Her training is in nutrition and she has worked for several years in the area of child and adolescent nutrition, eating behavior change, and obesity prevention. Her research has focused on factors related to eating behaviors among youth, and school and community-based nutrition interventions. Dr. Story notes “Project EAT is unique because it is one of the largest and most comprehensive nutrition surveys that has been conducted with U.S. adolescents. Most health surveys with adolescents have included just a few questions on nutrition and eating patterns. The scope of Project EAT has allowed us to examine multiple factors that impact eating behaviors of youth, and thus can help us better understand adolescents’ eating habits and develop more effective interventions to improve weight and nutritional health. This project and the multidisciplinary Project EAT team has been fun and rewarding.”
Cheryl Perry, PhD was a co-investigator on Projects EAT-I and EAT-II. She was involved in survey development, data analyses, and scientific writing. Dr. Perry notes that “Project EAT is such a unique and rich opportunity to explore adolescent and young adult eating patterns in depth and see how those are associated with other aspects of their lives.”
Peter Hannan, MStat is a statistician and analyst for Project EAT. His primary interests have been in making sure that analyses are carried out with statistical appropriateness, and in developing ways to avoid dropping of persons from analyses because a person is missing data on a characteristic which is not the main focus of the investigation. He has performed the analyses for a number of the published papers, and in the process, has learned a good deal about the areas of body image, dieting, disordered eating, and how they are affected by characteristics such a racial/ethnic differences, gender, grade level, or socioeconomic status.
Melanie Wall, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at Columbia University. She has been a co-investigator and statistician on Project EAT since 1999. Her research interests are in statistical modeling of behavioral health data, in particular using latent variable models like structural equation models.
Marla Eisenberg, ScD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine. She was the Project Director on Project EAT-II and is currently a co-investigator on Project EAT-III, and has been very involved in survey development, data analysis and manuscript writing. As a social epidemiologist, her interests are in the social forces which influence adolescent health behaviors. On Project EAT, she has examined the relationships between weight-teasing and emotional well-being, peer harassment in schools and school success, and family meal patterns and a variety of high risk behaviors.
John Sirard, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. He has been involved with Project EAT since 2005. Dr. Sirard provides expertise in physical activity assessment and has been involved with survey development for Project EAT-III. His research interests include physical activity measurement in children and adolescents, the effect of the environment on physical activity and sedentary behavior, and the promotion of physical activity for the prevention of overweight and obesity in youth.
Melissa Nelson Laska, PhD, RD is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota and a co-investigator on Project EAT-III. Dr. Laska’s primary research interests are in environmental and behavioral determinants of excess weight gain during adolescence and young adulthood. Her current work focuses on identifying weight gain prevention strategies for young adults, particularly in targeting influential determinants of nutrition and physical activity within post-secondary campus settings. Dr. Laska received a BS in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University, and a PhD in Nutrition with a concentration in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition, she has trained at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and is currently a Registered Dietitian.
Ann Forsyth, PhD, MA is a Professor in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University and a co-investigator/consultant on Project EAT-III. Her training is in city planning and architecture and her work focuses on the social aspects of physical planning, urban design, and urban development. Dr. Forsyth has done work on walkability and the relationship between health and the built environment funded by such organizations as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. She is the editor of two handbooks about using geographic information systems (GIS) to measure the intersections between health and the built environment as well as a collaborator on a number of tools featured on the web site www.designforhealth.net.
Richard Maclehose, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biostatistics and in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. His interests are in epidemiologic methods, Bayesian analysis and causal inference. Dr. Maclehose has been a statistician on Project EAT since 2009. His contributions to Project EAT involve study design and analysis as well as the development of methods for appropriate statistical inference.
Jerica Berge, PhD, LMFT is an Assistant Professor and behavioral health provider in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She received her PhD in marriage and family therapy from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Berge is a co-investigator on Project F-EAT and is part of the Project EAT research team. Dr. Berge’s research interest is in investigating how familial influences can create risk or protective factors for childhood and adolescent obesity. She has written papers on the influence of the significant other on health behaviors and weight status, and the association between parenting style and child health behaviors and weight status from Project EAT data. Dr. Berge is also a licensed marriage and family therapist and an approved marriage and family therapy supervisor who specializes in collaborative care and family health issues.
Jayne A. Fulkerson, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. She has been a project contributor and manuscript author and co-author on Projects EAT-I, EAT-II, and EAT-III. As a psychologist she conducts family-focused, community-based research. Her research is focused on changing the home food environment and promoting family meals. She blends her content knowledge in eating behaviors, family meals, childhood obesity and nutrition interventions with her skills in methodology, statistical analysis and program evaluation.
Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RD is a Research Associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health and the Project Director for Project EAT-III. Her primary role on the study is to oversee the daily operations and data collection. She has been working on Project EAT since 2002 and used the rich data set to complete both her Master’s degree in Public Health and doctoral degree in nutrition. Working on Project EAT has allowed Nicole to explore her interests in what helps adolescents and young adults to build healthy eating patterns.
Katie Loth, MPH, RD earned her Master’s degree in the University of Minnesota’s Public Health Nutrition program and is currently in her third year of the Behavioral Epidemiology doctoral program. As the Project Director for Project F-EAT, her primary focus is to oversee the daily operations and data collection for this study as well as to work closely with members of the Project EAT team. Working on both Project EAT and Project F-EAT has allowed Ms. Loth to explore her interests in the role of family in the development of body image in adolescents and young adults, as well as how family might play a role in the prevention of disordered eating behaviors.