Nutrigenomics... Powerful Impact

Jing Xue . . . Equipped with Knowledge, Confidence, and Capabilities


During my research training in molecular nutrition as a graduate research assistant at UNL under the supervision of Dr. Janos Zempleni, I had several publications in peer-reviewed journals and presented my research at different events. Throughout graduate school I received the Widaman distinguished graduate assistant award in 2010, two poster awards at the NGN retreats held in 2011 and 2012, and the ASN graduate student research award in 2013.  Immediately after graduation, I started postdoctoral training in gastroenterology as a Research Fellow in the Department of Internal Medicine with Dr. John Wiley at the University of Michigan.  The education and research training I received in UNL equipped me with thorough knowledge in nutrition and scientific attitudes, which together gave me confidence and capabilities in pursuing a career in academia.  It’s essential to have a clear idea of what you truly like and want for the future while in graduate school.  Networking with not only people in your area but also those from seemingly irrelevant backgrounds will be of great help for you in figuring this out.

Heather Rasmussen . . . Diversity is the Key

Heather Rasmussen

Heather received her PHD in Molecular Nutrition in 2008.  After graduating from UNL, she obtained an Assistant Professor position at Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) in Chicago, IL, in the Department of Clinical Nutrition.  She has been the recipient of federal funding from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as well as additional internal funding from her university.  In her first 3 years with RUMC, she published 4 peer-reviewed research articles and 3 research abstracts, she has served as major advisor for 7 master’s students, she was elected to serve on 4 college and university committees and to present at 2 national events.

When asked about her educational experience at UNL, she replied, “My current career is a combination of research, teaching and clinical responsibilities that required a foundation of diverse experiences in order to be able to successfully function in all categories.  As my graduate work had a foundation not only in nutrition but also basic science (biochemical and molecular nutrition) in the field of lipid metabolism, I was well-prepared to perform research designed to elucidate the mechanisms by which different dietary compounds mechanistically impact markers of metabolic disease. I was fortunate to couple my knowledge gained through a research assistantship in my graduate career with several teaching experiences, allowing me to be able to teach master’s level metabolism classes at the onset of my current position.  Lastly, my background in the specifics of how nutrition impacts lipid metabolism made my transition into my clinical responsibilities in a cardiology outpatient clinic as a Registered Dietitian seamless.  I feel very fortunate to have had a wide range of experiences at UNL as these experiences have truly facilitated my employment and success as a young faculty member.”

Heather goes on to say, “While it is important to follow one’s interests, it is equally important to keep an open mind when making education decisions that impact future employment. Be involved in a range of activities and become educated on diverse topics. Foster relationships will fellow students and faculty members, as these individuals will likely be important advisors and friends for many years to come.”

Toshinobu Kuroishi . . . Success in an Academic Career

Toshinobu Kuroishi (right)

“I got my PhD at Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University (Japan) in 2004, and then started my academic career in Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry.  During my study about “Immunological functions of biotin,” I knew that Dr. Janos Zempleni is known as one of the most active scientists in the fields of biotin.  I joined in his lab from Oct. 2008 to April 2011.  After my post-doctoral training in the UNL, I returned to my current position as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Oral Immunology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry, Sendai, Japan.  While I worked in Dr. Zempleni’s lab as a post-doctoral fellow, I had two projects.  One was “analysis of histone biotinylation” which resulted in a published manuscript (Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 104: 537-545, 2011).  Another was the “generation of holocarboxylase synthetase conditional knock out mouse” and this is still an ongoing project. Because my scientific back ground is immunology, I didn’t have much experience about nutrition, molecular biology, etc.  During my post-doctoral training, I learned not only new lab techniques but also academic knowledge.  These are very precious and useful experiences to develop my own academic career.” 

“I think that NGN is an excellent and interesting program to study human health from various viewpoints with nutrition as a common tool.  Many scientists with various back ground join the NGN.  These surroundings bring cross-disciplinary educations and collaborations.”

Valerie Pestinger . . . International PhD Student

Valerie Pestinger, MS - 2009

Valerie received her BS in Oecotrophology in 2007 at the University of Giessen, Germany.  She came to UNL and studied Molecular Nutrition receiving her Master’s Degree in Nutrition in 2009.   She then was accepted  at the School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, UK, where she is working on her Interdisciplinary PhD with a thesis topic of “Regulation of one-carbon metabolism in the ovarian follicle and early mammalian embryo.”

Regarding the impact of her educational experience at UNL she states, “My time at UNL provided me excellent practical training in molecular techniques, data progression and creation of scientific texts and articles.  I can only recommend this program to everyone. First of all due to the practical training you obtain which opens up lots of doors for a later career. Beside the educational point of view, studying abroad is an experience for life that I would advise everyone to try who can.”

Casey Wegner . . . Strong Mentoring Leads to Research Collaborations with International Agribusiness

Casey Wegner

After graduating from UNL with his Master’s Degree in 2011, Casey has begun work on his PhD in Molecular Nutrition at the University of Connecticut.   “At UConn, I am involved in a research project investigating the molecular mechanisms controlling intestinal cholesterol metabolism and trafficking.”

“My educational experience at UNL offered me the opportunity to forge invaluable interdisciplinary relationships that have truly set the tone for my future. As a plant science student, I was encouraged to pursue my interest in health and disease by developing relationships with faculty that could facilitate research in the areas of study that interested me. This mentorship not only enabled me to participate in a research collaboration with an international agribusiness company (in the time between my MS and PhD programs), but it also provided me with a sufficient background to be accepted into a human nutrition PhD program.  Take advantage of the extensive resources that an educational experience at UNL can provide - you will learn that the combination of knowledge and mentorship provided by the professors at UNL is unique to this wonderful University.”

Gabriela Camporeale . . . Prestigious Position in the Leloir Institute in Buenos Aires

Gabriela Camporeale

My name is Gabriela. I got my Ph.D. in the Zempleni lab at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln in 2006. My training in Lincoln landed me a position as Postdoctoral Fellow in one of Argentina's premier research institutes, the Leloir Institute in Buenos Aires.

Tammy Gries  . . . Now in a Federal Position with the United States Department of Agriculture

Tammy Gries

In 2008 I graduated with a Master of Science degree in Food Science and Technology under the guidance of Drs. Vicki Schlegel and Susan Cuppett at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln.  While working in Dr. Schlegel's laboratory, I received training and experience in various aspects of analytical chemistry from sample extractions, and sample handling to a wide variety of instrumentation. I also received training in molecular biology techniques which I used to study the impact of resveratrol (a plant compound touted as an anti-inflammatory nutraceutical) on the metabolome of mouse macrophages. Shortly after receiving my degree, I applied for and was hired to a position with the United States Department of Agriculture. I now use my newly gained skills to study lignin pathways of sorghum for the primary purpose of improving the conversion of sorghum to ethanol. I will always be grateful for the experience of graduate school at UNL and the way it prepared me for my current position.


Sarah (Ehlers) Kiester . . . End Result is a Responsible Professional

Sarah (Ehlers) Kiester

My degrees in Nutrition Science from UNL gave me a solid educational foundation in the chemistry of food components along with their reactions and functions in the body with a strong focus on the most current research. Most importantly, my experiences have prepared me to be a responsible professional in the food industry.


Keyna Kobza . . . Well Prepared for Medical School

Keyna Kobze

My name is Keyna. I graduated from Dr. Janos Zempleni's laboratory in 2007 with a Master of Science. Prior to graduation, I was accepted to Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO. I am currently finishing my second year of medical school, looking forward to beginning clinical rotations in the Via Christi Regional Medical Center in Wichita, KS, this June. The courses I took at UNL and experience in Dr. Zempleni's lab helped immensely in my preparation for my first year of basic sciences at medical school. My advisors and fellow lab mates displayed amazing dedication and taught me invaluable lessons, both academically and personally.

Rama Kothapalli . . . Opportunity to Travel to Scientific Conferences

Rama Kothapalli

My name is Nagarama but I prefer to go by Rama. I graduated from Dr. Zempleni's lab at the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006. During my doctoral studies, I traveled to meetings and conferences annually, broadening my scope of learning. Currently I am obtaining my postdoctoral training at the National Institute on Aging, NIH (National Institute of Health). I plan to continue in academics.

Erin Smith . . . Professional in the Food Industry with an Outstanding Work Ethic

Erin Smith

My name is Erin.  I graduated with my M.S. from Dr. Zempleni's lab in 2007. While finishing my degree at UNL, I was  recruited by an analytical testing laboratory in Omaha, NE, to direct the food department. I took the job and opted to not return to Austin, Texas, but remain in Nebraska. The company, Midwest Laboratories, is a privately owned full service laboratory that tests food, soil, pet feed, fuels and everything in between. I never considered a job in the analytical testing field until I took the job, but it is much more than I could have ever expected. Every day is filled with developing new  experiments, working with new unique samples, and interacting with clients. I am very thankful that my education at UNL opened this door into my future. Midwest Labs is also grateful for the work ethic that followed me from Dr. Zempleni's program.