Predoctoral Trainees

Daniel Baumann

Daniel Baumann is a predoctoral fellow on the Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training program (MnOPT) and PhD candidate working toward his doctoral degree in the Integrative Biology and Physiology program, under the mentorship of Dr. John Osborne. Daniel’s research project involves studying the interaction of obesity, inflammation, and the nervous system in propagating hypertension. In the past year, he worked on one aim of his research project. Using knockout animal models and cytokine antagonists he has studied mechanistically how inflammatory cytokines produced during obesity disrupt the regulation of blood pressure. He presented a talk based on these studies at the Experimental Biology conference in April 2022 and is preparing a manuscript for publication. He has also worked to develop a method for live imaging of sensory nerves and their response to inflammatory stimuli. In his leisure time Dan like to watch movies, read, watch and play sports.

Highlighted Publications: PMCID: PMC6032306, PMCID: PMC8410096, PMCID: PMC6295492, PMCID: PMC6295492


lenora goodman

Lenora Goodman

Lenora Goodman is a first-year PhD student in social/behavioral epidemiology and predoctoral fellow on the Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training program (MnOPT). Lenora is currently working on an afterschool pyramid-mentoring intervention focused on improving the social/emotional learning and health behavior self-efficacy of youth with her primary mentor, Dr. Katherine Arlinghaus. Lenora is interested in the intersection of obesity and eating disorders as it pertains to obesity prevention, inequities in resources and treatment, and the role of the parent-child relationship in the development of child weight-related behaviors (e.g., diet, physical activity) among preadolescents and adolescents of historically marginalized populations. Lenora is also interested in the optimization of nutrition interventions, translational obesity science, and dissemination of findings to families and communities. Lenora is a registered dietitian with a background in public health and clinical nutrition, most recently practicing as a pediatric endocrine RD at Children’s Hospital of Michigan prior to starting her PhD program. In her free time, Lenora enjoys exploring the walking trails in Minneapolis, attending just about any sports game, and hanging out with her two cats, Zoey and Coco.


Jean Pierre Pallais

Jean Pierre Pallais is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at the University of Minnesota. He is a current first-year predoctoral fellow on the Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training Program (MnOPT). Under his primary mentor, Dr. Alessandro Bartolomucci, he is investigating the role of Vgf-derived neuropeptide TLQP-21 signaling on the central regulation of our metabolic physiology. Given that there are no reliable, effective treatments for obesity with zero negative adverse side effects, we are in dire need of alternative treatments. Jean Pierre’s research into the TLQP-21/C3aR1 signaling mechanism in the central nervous system is necessary in order to understand the therapeutic potential for its use as a treatment and/or preventative measure against obesity. Outside of class and lab work, Jean Pierre spends time with his wife and family, listens to way too much music and writes album reviews, and plays disc golf.

Highlighted Publication: PMCID: PMC8629782


Postdoctoral Trainees

Patrick Brady

Dr. Patrick J. Brady is a first-year postdoctoral fellow on the Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training (MnOPT) program working with Dr. Melissa Laska and Dr. Lisa Harnack. He is a mixed methods researcher interested in studying how food insecurity, food systems, and social safety nets impact nutrition and health of underserved populations, with a focus on older adults and rural communities. He is currently working on projects examining use of food banks/shelves and food assistance programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is hoping to expand this work by collaboratively developing interventions in the emergency food system using community engaged research methods. When he’s not working, Patrick spends his time cycling, cooking, and spending time with his cats, Mooch and Jaguar.

Highlighted Publication:  PMCID: PMC8618552


Emily Nagel

Dr. Emily Nagel is a second-year postdoctoral fellow on the Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training (MnOPT) program working with Dr. Ellen Demerath on the MILk study. Additionally, she is conducting a study with Dr. Sara Ramel, a neonatologist at Masonic Children’s Hospital to examine the use of ultrasound measurements of muscle to predict neurodevelopmental outcomes in preterm infants.

Dr. Nagel is interested in the associations between maternal stress and lactation/feeding and neurodevelopment in preterm infants (and has her fingers crossed for a good score on the K99/R00 application she recently submitted). She is also interested in the human milk microbiome and metabolome and how they may be altered by maternal stress. In addition to her role as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Nagel is a pediatric dietitian at Masonic Children’s Hospital and specializes in nutrition support and gastrointestinal diseases.

She continues to utilize her clinical skills to inform her research and aspires to be a clinician researcher once her fellowship is complete. Dr. Nagel is also passionate about increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the dietetics profession and co-created a social media community of dietetic practitioners focused on creating change (Dietitians for Change). In her free time, Dr. Nagel enjoys running and cycling around the Twin Cities with her partner, Dave, and her adorable rescue pup, Charlie. If she had to offer a piece of advice, Dr. Nagel would advise new graduate students and postdocs to keep the love of research alive by allowing space for rest and fun.

Highlighted Publications: PMCID: PMC8960332, PMCID: PMC8713450, PMCID: PMC8435996


Junia Nogueira de Brito (Mentor):

Dr. Junia Nogueira de Brito is a first-year postdoctoral fellow in the T32 Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training (MnOPT) program working with Dr. Mark Pereira. Additionally, Dr. de Brito works closely with Dr. Jerica Berge and her team at the Medical School Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. She also serves on the School of Public Health Research Committee.

Dr. de Brito is a trained dietitian and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics from UniBH, Brazil. She also holds an MBA degree with a Healthcare Management concentration from Bellevue University, and MPH Nutrition and Epidemiology Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota.

Her research interests include the evaluation of weight-related behaviors, and social and environmental influences on weight status and cardiometabolic disease risk across the lifespan. Dr. de Brito’s research has leveraged quantitative and qualitative methodologies and has primarily focused on children and families living in low-income and racially and ethnically diverse households. When Dr. de Brito is not working, she enjoys cooking and walking around the lakes in the Twin Cities.

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Aysegul (Aysha) Baltaci

Dr. Baltaci is a first-year postdoctoral fellow in the Minnesota Obesity Prevention Training (MnOPT) program working with Dr. Melissa Laska and Dr. Jayne Fulkerson. She has a Bachelor of Nursing from Istanbul University Florence Nightingale Nursing School. She also holds an MS in Human Nutrition from the University of Wisconsin Stout and a Ph.D. in nutrition (community nutrition focus) from the University of Minnesota. She is a former Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Development Applied Research and Evaluation Unit.

Her primary research interest is working in community-based research programs focusing on healthy eating and physical activity to improve individuals’ health and wellbeing, especially with families and children living in low-income and racially and ethnically diverse households. She is also interested in working on research projects aiming to improve social and environmental factors (i.e., food- and activity-related parenting practices) that influence food and activity behaviors. She has been using qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate the research programs she was part of. Currently, she is primarily working on an NIH R01 study with Dr. Laska and Dr. Fulkerson to develop and revise a home food inventory assessment tool for both general populations and Latinx groups.

Dr. Baltaci loves to involve public health and nutrition focus organizations. When she is not working, she enjoys cooking, spending time with her friends and family, attending community events, and gardening.

Highlighted publication: PMCID: 34360517

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