SPHHS Hires New Faculty in 2013-14

Oct 25 2013

The School of Public Health and Health Sciences has welcomed 11 new full-time tenure and non-tenure track faculty members into its ranks this academic year. The school has been adding many faculty, including seven new hires last year. New faculty hires in 2013-2014 include: Dr. Julia Choi, Dr. John Sirard, and Thomas St. Laurent (Kinesiology), Dr. Lindiwe Sibeko (Nutrition), Dr. Louis Graham, Dr. Nicholas Reich, Dr. Alexander Suvorov, Dr. Laura Vandenberg, Dr. Rachel Volberg, Dr. Jennifer Whitehill and Dr. Ning Zhang (Public Health):

Julia Choi

2013-2014 Faculty Hires:

Dr. Julia Choi will join the Kinesiology faculty as an Assistant Professor in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, Dr. Choi was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Copenhagen and at Emory University and Georgia Tech.

Dr. Choi’s research uses different experimental tools to expose subjects to novel and challenging walking environment, and examine how the nervous system plan and execute movements. Measurements of joint kinematics, forces and neuromuscular activity during walking provide a rich set of data to study the interplay between biomechanical demands and neural control mechanisms. Her current studies address how somatosensory and visual information interact with walking control at multiple levels of the central nervous system. Read more about Dr. Choi here.

John SirardDr. John Sirard joins the Kinesiology faculty as an Assistant Professor. He holds a Ph.D. from The University of South Carolina and an M.S. from UMass Amherst. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The long-term goals of Sirard's research program are to develop, test, and disseminate successful intervention programs that work at multiple levels of influence to increase youth physical activity and decrease screen media use, leading to long-term improvements in physical, social, and mental health. To accomplish these long-term goals his research embraces the Social Ecological Model as a framework to better understand the multiple levels of influence on youth physical activity and sedentary behavior.  

At the heart of the Social-Ecological Model are the individual-level behaviors and their health outcomes.  Therefore, another integral facet of this research is to better understand how to quantify physical activity and sedentary behavior in youth.  Sirard uses accelerometers to objectively quantify frequency, intensity, and timing of physical activity and inactivity but also relies on questionnaire data, when appropriate, to assess relevant contextual information. Read more about Dr. Sirard here.

Thomas St. Laurent joins the Kinesiology faculty as a Lecturer. Thomas holds a M.S. from James Madison University. Read more about Thomas here.

Dr. Lindiwe Sibeko joins the Nutrition Extension faculty as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Sibeko holds a Ph.D. and a M.Sc. from McGill University. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, Dr. Sibeko was a postdoctoral research fellow with the journal Transcultural Psychiatry.

Dr. Sibeko’s research interests are in working with under-served, vulnerable population groups, including families served by Extension programs. Specifically, Dr. Sibeko’s research focuses on women, newborns and children, including adolescents. Within this context, her research addresses prenatal, perinatal and postnatal health, prevention of childhood obesity, promotion of optimal infant and young child feeding and elucidating the role of breastfeeding in healthy child development. Dr. Sibeko is also interested in the interplay of health disparities and food security. More specifically, her research examines how local food systems and community-based food strategies impact intra-household food consumption. Her global health research has also focused on maternal and child health issues, primarily in the area of nutritional status assessment, infant feeding practices and the role of breastfeeding in the prevention of pediatric HIV infections. Read more about Dr. Sibeko here.

Dr. Louis Graham joins the Division of Community Health Studies in the Department of Public Health as an Assistant Professor of Community Health Education. Dr. Graham holds a Dr.P.H. from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an M.P.H. from Morehouse School of Medicine.

Graham's scholarship uses community-based participatory research (CBPR) to understand psychosocial health determinants among ethnic, gender and sexually marginalized groups – including mental health promotion and HIV prevention among black and Latino gay and bisexual men and transgender women. His approach to CBPR facilitates power sharing whereby community stakeholders are engaged in the entire research process from beginning to end.

He is a co-principal investigator of a four-year, Ford Foundation funded ethnographic research project, “Detroit Youth Passages,” (detroityouthpassages.org) which seeks to examine and positively transform structural conditions that contribute to sexual vulnerabilities. In this role, he is the director of all research, communication, and dissemination activities in partnership with the Ruth Ellis Center and African-American transgender communities in Detroit. Read more about Dr. Graham here.

Nicholas ReichDr. Nicholas Reich joins the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health as an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics. Dr. Reich holds a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, he completed postdoctoral work there as well.

Dr. Reich's primary research interests are in developing models for complex and dynamic disease systems, developing statistical methods that can draw accurate inferences from disease surveillance data, and optimizing design and analysis strategies for cluster-randomized studies. As a teacher and a collaborator, he focuses on creating reproducible research and on communicating statistical results and concepts clearly and intuitively. He also spends a lot of time thinking about what makes for effective data visualization. Read more about Dr. Reich here.

Alexander SuvorovDr. Alexander Suvorov joins the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the Department of Public Health as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Suvorov holds a Dr.Sci. and Ph.D. from Ecology and Evolution Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, he completed postdoctoral research at Boston University and Sherbrooke University.

His research focuses on environmental endocrine disruptors, a specific class of xenobiotics molecules that have the ability to interfere with endogenous hormonal signaling by a diverse array of molecular mechanisms. Exposure to these substances during critical periods of prenatal or neonatal life may cause permanent reprogramming of target tissues, likely epigenetic in nature, which often do not present immediate phenotypes but can ultimately lead to adulthood onset diseases.

His main research interests consist in the study of toxicity of environmental endocrine disruptors in mammal models using a variety of approaches including traditional methods of toxicology as well as state of the art genomic (RNA-seq) and epigenetic methods (ChIP-seq, DHS-seq) which capitalize on recent advances in high throughput sequencing. In particular he focuses on long-term reprogramming of metabolic and neuro-behavioral functions by developmental exposures to endocrine disruptors. Read more about Dr. Suvorov here.

Dr. Laura Vandenberg joins the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the Department of Public Health as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Vandenberg holds a Ph.D. from Tufts University School of Medicine. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology and Center for Regenerative & Developmental Biology at Tufts University and a postdoctoral fellow & research associate at The Forsyth Institute Center for Regenerative & Developmental Biology and Harvard University School of Dental Medicine.

Vandenberg's research explores how early life exposures to chemicals and chemical mixtures can predispose individuals to diseases that manifest later in life. Classical toxicology often focuses on how fetal chemical exposures can produce birth defects, an important part of chemical safety. Her work instead addresses how low doses of chemicals during critical windows of development can alter gene expression, cell differentiation, and tissue organization in subtle ways that can lead to adult diseases such as cancer, obesity, and infertility. Dr. Vandenberg is specifically interested in the class of chemicals termed ‘endocrine disruptors’ and have worked extensively with one chemical, bisphenol A (BPA). Her work also focuses on how traditional toxicology assays have failed to identify a number of ubiquitous endocrine disruptors, and how current risk assessment practices can be improved in the study and regulation of this class of chemicals. Read more about Dr. Vandenberg here.

Rachel A. VolbergDr. Rachel Volberg joins the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health as a Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology. Dr. Volberg holds a Ph.D. from The University of California, San Francisco. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, she directed and consulted on numerous gambling studies throughout the world.

Dr. Volberg has been involved in epidemiological research on gambling and problem gambling since 1985 and has directed or consulted on numerous gambling studies throughout the world. In 1988, she was the first investigator to receive funding from the National Institutes of Health to study the prevalence of problem gambling in the general population. Dr. Volberg is currently the Principal Investigator on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) study. In addition to her work in Massachusetts, Dr. Volberg is working on projects in Canada to assess the impacts of the introduction of online gambling and to identify best practices in population assessments of problem gambling. She is a member of research teams in Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden conducting large-scale longitudinal cohort studies to identify predictors of transitions into and out of gambling and problem gambling. Dr. Volberg has published extensively, presented at national and international conferences, and testified before legislative committees in states and provinces throughout North America. Read more about Dr. Volberg here.

Jennifer M. WhitehillDr. Jennifer Whitehill joins the Division of Health Policy and Management in the Department of Public Health as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Whitehill holds a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining the faculty at UMass Amherst, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Pediatric Injury Research Institute at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more about Dr. Whitehill here.

Pediatric Injury Research Institute at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle - See more at: http://www.umass.edu/sphhs/newsletter/phs-newsletter-issue-17#sthash.m45...
Pediatric Injury Research Institute at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle - See more at: http://www.umass.edu/sphhs/newsletter/phs-newsletter-issue-17#sthash.m45...

Ning ZhangDr. Ning Zhang joins the Division of Health Policy and Management in the Department of Public Health as an Assistant Professor. Read more about Dr. Zhang here.