New faculty hires in 2012-13

December 31, 2012

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences welcomed several new faculty members into its ranks this year. They include Jill Hoover and Giang Pham (Communication Disorders), Katherine Boyer (Kinesiology), Zhenhua Liu and Lisa Troy (Nutrition), and Krishna Poudel and Alicia Timme-Laragy (Public Health).

Dr. Jill Hoover joined the Department of Communication Disorders faculty as an Assistant Professor. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. Before coming to UMass Amherst, Dr. Hoover completed a National Intitutes of Health post-doctoral fellowship at Indiana University.

Dr. Hoover specializes in phonology and grammar acquisition in preschool age children with an emphasis on understanding the cognitive and psycholinguistic factors that contribute to delays in these areas. Her research in the Sounds to Syntax Lab will involve adults, typically-developing children, and clinical populations, including phonological disorders and Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Dr. Hoover is particularly interested in understanding how the various factors that influence language acquisition can inform clinical diagnosis and improve treatment options for children with language impairments.

Dr. Hoover teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Communication Disorders. At the graduate level, she teaches a course on treatment techniques for phonological disorders for Speech-Language-Pathology students. At the undergraduate level, Dr. Hoover teaches Phonetic Processing and Junior Year Writing.

Dr. Giang Pham joins the Department of Communication Disorders faculty as an Assistant Professor. She holds her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, where she also served as a postdoctoral fellow, and a Master’s from San Diego State University.

Dr. Pham investigates language development in bilingual children with and without language impairment. She has focused on bilingual populations who speak either Vietnamese or Spanish as the first language and English as the second language and has previously worked as a trilingual speech-language pathologist (Spanish, Vietnamese, English) in educational settings. Dr. Pham aims to make comparisons between bilingual groups who speak varying first languages and English to identify common factors for dual-language learning. Her recent work includes an National Intitutes of Health-sponsored longitudinal project that examined Vietnamese and English language development among school-age bilingual children. Alongside her work with typical learners, Dr. Pham has collaborated on a treatment study for school-age bilingual children who speak Spanish and English and have moderate to severe primary language impairment. She has also examined treatment effects in the case of language mismatch, in which the clinician does not speak the child’s first language.

Dr. Pham has begun to establish international collaborations in Vietnam, where speech-language pathology is a newly developing field. On multiple occasions she has worked in Vietnam training healthcare professionals who work with children with disabilities as an Overseas Volunteer with the U.S.-based non-profit organization, Hong Bang. She co-created a website that provides information in Vietnamese on communication development and disorders for Vietnamese-speaking families and professionals. Dr. Pham’s overall research program addresses how two languages are interconnected in development, what language break-down looks like in bilingual children, and how to facilitate first and second language learning.

Dr. Katherine Boyer joined the Department of Kinesiology faculty as an Assistant Professor. She holds her Ph.D. from the University of Calgary. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, Dr. Boyer served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the Veteran's Affairs Palo Alto Rehabilitation Research and Development Center, and then as a research associate at Stanford University.

Dr. Boyer specializes in biomechanics, and in particular, the area of the lower extremity mechanics during locomotion and the mechanisms for adaptations in ambulatory mechanics in aging, with overuse injury and in response to mechanical and pharmacological interventions. This research uses a stimulus response experimental model to probe interaction between gait mechanics, neuromuscular function, systemic biological marker and joint injury and degeneration.

She has a related interest in the development of non-invasive interventions such as shoes or apparel that stimulate or support functional needs to enhance sports performance, minimize injury risk, and/or reduce painful disease symptoms.

Dr. Zhenhua Liu joined the Department of Nutrition faculty as an Assistant Professor from the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, where he worked as a Scientist II. Prior to that, he completed his Ph.D. at Auburn University and postdoctoral training at Tufts University.

Dr. Liu’s laboratory investigates how dietary and lifestyle factors mediate the development of chronic diseases. Particularly, his research field centralizes on the nutritional modulation of the Wnt-signaling pathway as it tightly relates to many chronic diseases including cancer and obesity-associated complications. His laboratory uses cell culture and animal models, biochemical and molecular techniques, as well as systems biology approaches to understand the etiology of human chronic diseases.

The ultimate goal of his laboratory is to integrate biological research with dietary and lifestyle strategies to diminish the burden of chronic diseases in our society.

Dr. Lisa M. Troy joined the Department of Nutrition faculty as an Assistant Professor. She earned her Ph.D. at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Her postdoctoral work on diet and chronic disease outcomes was conducted at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Dr. Troy served as Congressional Fellow through Columbia University, where she worked in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on legislation related to chronic disease prevention.

Dr. Troy studies the effect of overall diet quality and components of a healthful diet on under-nutrition, obesity, metabolic syndrome and risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. She also is interested in how government programs and policies affect diet quality and public health outcomes. Toward accomplishing these goals, Dr. Troy and her colleagues at Tufts University developed an index to measure adherence to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This index has been used in epidemiologic studies to examine how a diet consistent with federal guidelines relates to the prevention of chronic diseases of aging including hip fracture, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. The index is being updated for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she will expand upon her diet and chronic disease research to examine the impact of diet quality and exercise on sleep outcomes in relation to metabolic syndrome and diabetes in older adults.

Dr. Krishna Poudel joined the Division of Community Health Studies in the Department of Public Health as an Associate Professor of Community Health Education. He received his Ph.D. from The University of Tokyo, Japan; he also holds Master’s degrees from The University of Tokyo and Tribhuvan University in Nepal.

Dr. Poudel’s primary research interests include HIV prevention, health promotion and disease prevention, HIV health service delivery, hepatitis C virus and other co-infections among HIV-positive individuals, the relationships between various micronutrients and HIV disease progression, and continuum of HIV prevention and care. He is also interested in community-based participatory research, particularly the evaluation of community-based behavior change interventions. He has studied the factors associated with HIV risk behaviors and has designed, implemented, and evaluated HIV risk behavior change interventions.

His research to date has involved international migrants, injecting drug users, HIV-positive individuals, men who have sex with men, female sex workers, traditional healers, policy makers, school students, and other people from the general population, mainly from Asian (such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, PNG, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, and others) and African (such as Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda) countries. His present research projects include measurement of STI prevalence, sexual risk reduction intervention, and longitudinal assessment of nutrient intake and the association with metabolic markers, oxidative stress, and disease progression among HIV-positive individuals. He is also assessing the causes of death among HIV-positive individuals and HIV service delivery in six Asia Pacific Countries.

Dr. Alicia Timme-Laragy joined the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the Department of Public Health as an Assistant Professor. She holds a Ph.D. from Duke University.

Dr. Timme-Laragy is a developmental toxicologist specializing in the molecular mechanisms of chemical-induced oxidative stress and antioxidant defenses during embryonic development. Her recent studies have examined how transcription factors, such as Ahr and Nrf2, play a role in the ontogeny and adaptive response of antioxidant defenses during early-life stages. She has used small fish models to study many chemical exposures that result in oxidative stress, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PCBs, dioxin, brominated flame retardants, pesticides, and food preservatives; much of her work and training has been sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Superfund Research Program, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Dr. Timme-Laragy’s laboratory at UMass Amherst will use the zebrafish model to investigate the molecular mechanisms that define stage-dependent differential sensitivity of embryos to oxidative stress, and the regulation of cellular redox state and antioxidant defenses during development. Her research will pursue a mechanistic understanding of how oxidative stress from early-life pollutant exposures contributes to birth defects, as well as to the developmental origins of disease.