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Menopause Research Group

Menopause Research Group 


Established during 2019-2020 academic year, CRF is excited to host a new research collaboration; The Menopause Research Group is an interdisciplinary group of researchers who come together each month in order to share their interests in older women’s health. Started by Lisa Troy (Nutrition) it includes faculty from multiple UMass colleges as well as Smith College. The members of the group study menopause, midlife, and aging in human, macaque, and rodent models using a variety of methods, including secondary data analyses, questionnaires, fMRI, muscle biopsies, movement monitors, hormone levels, ambulatory hot flash monitors, and more. Members frequently collaborate on grant proposals and publications. The group uses their time together to present their work to each other and sort through challenges. The members find that having so much expertise and different points of view in the same room makes for a supportive and enjoyable environment that nurtures ongoing and future research.

Here are a few highlights of their work: 

  • Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson and Brian Whitcomb (School of Public Health) study age at menopause and changes in levels of anti-Müllerian hormone (a measure of ovarian follicle reserve) across the lifespan.  
  • Nicole VanKim (FRS 2019-20, School of Public Health) collaborated with Bertone-Johnson and Lynnette Sievert (Interim Director, Center for Research on Families, 2015-16 FRS 2004-05 & 2008-09, Anthropology) in a study of age at menopause and symptoms at midlife among lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women in the Nurses’ Health Study II.  
  • Jane Kent, Mark Miller, and Stuart Chipkin (Kinesiology,) focus on the physiology of aging and share an interest in understanding and preventing the age-related loss of muscle performance.  
  • Sarah Witkowski, an exercise physiologist, joins the group from Smith College. Witkowski studies the relationship between fitness, exercise, and hot flashes. 
  • Agnès Lacreuse and postdoc Emily Rothwell (Psychological and Brain Sciences) study cognitive changes, sleep, estrogen, and hot flashes in aging macaques.  
  • Stephanie Padilla (FRS 2020-21, Biology) uses a rodent model to understand how kisspeptin neurons are involved in the trigger of hot flashes. 
  • Michael Busa (Department of Kinesiology and the Center for Human Health & Performance) and Katie Colfer (CHHP) are working to develop better hot flash monitors that eventually integrate a device-based cooling intervention. 
  • Lynette Sievert’s (Anthropology) current project examines hot flashes in relation to brown adipose tissue activity.  


Menopause Research Group

Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Health Sciences


Ellizabeth Bertone-Johnson studies nutritional epidemiology, focusing on Vitamin D and women's health conditions including premenstrual syndrome, depression and breast cancer. She recently received a five-year, $868,857 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institutes of Health to study women’s mental health, with special emphasis on premenstrual syndrome and the role vitamin D may play in counteracting its effects on women.

Director - Center for Human Health & Performance


Michael joined IALS as the founding director of the Center for Human Health & Performance having completed two postdoctoral fellowships - one in biomechanics and the other in physical activity monitoring. Michael has wide ranging research experience spanning many domains including: biomechaics, motor control, exercise physiology, and physical activity and health measurement. Michael holds a BS in Engineering from the University of Portland, MS in Exercise Physiology from Eastern Michigan University, PhD in Biomechanics/Motor Control from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is a Certified Bone Densitometry Technologist. Michael is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology. 

Research Professor


My interests have focused on approaches to minimizing consequences of diabetes and related cardiovascular complications through lifestyle modification and improved delivery of community health services. Major areas of research have focused on:

  • Working with medical home teams and minority communities to develop meaningful approaches to lifestyle modification in the clinic and in the neighborhood to positively affect consequences of chronic diseases; 
  • Evaluating the impact of mild physical activity on glucose concentrations and insulin sensitivity in sedentary individuals;
  • Defining the relationship between walking activity and exercise intensity;
  • Examining combinations of medications with physical activity on insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular risk.

Other interdisciplinary collaborations have included: determining the impact of factors such as medications, inflammation or exercise on skeletal muscle structure and cellular signaling.  

Current efforts emphasize the need for developing a well-trained public health workforce. One group of great interest is “front-line” health care workers who have the potential to greatly improve the delivery of care to people at risk for or those living with diabetes. Their importance in monitoring and reinforcing healthcare messages and strategies, through systems such as the patient centered medical home, is a new area of investigation.

Professor and Department Chair


My primary interest is in the area of human skeletal muscle function and fatigue. In particular, our work examines the mechanisms of fatigue, and how these vary depending upon age, gender, chronic health status and habitual physical activity level. A related interest is an examination of the influence that fatigue has on functional capacity. We take a state-of-the-art, integrated approach to understanding human muscle function from the cell to the organism. The main problem we are working on now is how to minimize the loss of mobility and health that occur in old age.

Associate Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Family Research Scholar, 2013-14


Agnès Lacreuse’s research addresses the biological factors that contribute to differential aging trajectories in males and females. Because human cognition is strongly influenced by sociocultural and environmental factors, sex differences in cognitive and brain aging may be best studied in an appropriate primate model. As a Family Research Scholar, she developed a grant proposal for the National Institutes of Health entitled “Sex Differences in Cognitive and Brain Aging: A Primate Model.” Lacreuse has used her data to identify possible targets for sex-specific interventions designed to promote cognitive health throughout the lifespan in aging men and women.

Professor, Anthropology
Interim Director, Center for Research on Families, 2015-16
Family Research Scholar, 2004-05 & 2008-09
Co-Director, Stress Research Group


Lynnette Leidy Sievert is a biological anthropologist whose research has focused on age at menopause and symptom experience at menopause as two aspects of human variation. She is also interested in the evolution of menopause and post-reproductive aging as a human trait. As a Family Research Scholar, Leidy Sievert studied three interconnected aspects of everyday life: marriage and family, religion and spiritual practices, and economic security in relation to symptom experience among women at midlife.

She conducted this research in Mexico. She is currently working to understand variation in age and symptom experience at menopause in Puebla, Mexico; Asuncion, Paraguay; and Hilo, Hawaii. She has received funding in the past from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the AAAS, and UMass Amherst. She has also received the Young Investigator Award (twice) from the North American Menopause Society.

Assistant Professor


My primary interest is investigating the effects of aging and exercise on human skeletal muscle in males and females at the whole body, tissue, single fiber and molecular levels. The goal is to understand how alterations at the molecular and single fiber levels affect whole muscle contraction in order to find potential sex-specific countermeasures to prevent the age-related loss of muscle performance. The laboratory combines the use of advanced engineering methods to measure muscle function at the molecular and single fiber levels with imaging techniques to examine muscle structure from the myofibril to the tissue level, biochemical techniques to quantify proteins as well as techniques to analyze the whole body skeletal muscle contractile performance.

Assistant Professor of Biology


Stephanie Padilla, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Biology. Her lab studies the neural basis of behavior and physiology using a combination of mouse and viral reagents. With targeted light delivery, her team can study how distinct neurons impact mouse behavior. Her research is focused on:1) Understanding how sex hormones impact behavioral decisions and emotional state and 2) Resolving the neural circuitry underlying sex differences in body weight regulation.

Dr. Padilla plans to develop a proposal to investigate the neural mechanisms of postpartum depression. In a recent study, her team found that estrogen-sensitive Kiss1 neurons in the hypothalamus can influence mood and motivational states in mice. Dr. Padilla aims to establish a circuit diagram to describe how Kiss1 neurons influence depression and anxiety in response to circulating estrogen and progesterone. This will provide potential targets for interventions to help alleviate postpartum depression in mothers.

Departmental Website:


Postdoctoral Researcher, Psychological and Brain Sciences


Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Neuroscience & Behavior


Assistant Professor, Nutrition
Commonwealth Honors College Professor of Nutrition
Family Research Scholar, 2013-14


Lisa M. Troy uses the novel application of pattern analysis to examine diet and exercise on chronic disease prevention. She also studies how government programs and policies impact diet quality and public health outcomes. Toward accomplishing these goals, she developed the DGAI_2010, an index to measure adherence to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The DGAI_2010 has been used in epidemiologic studies to assess how a diet consistent with federal guidelines relates to chronic diseases of aging such as hip fracture, inflammation, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

As a Family Research Scholar, Dr. Troy developed a grant proposal entitled “How Diet and Exercise Improve Sleep: Implications for Diabetes and Heart Disease.” This research examined diet and exercise patterns in younger (18 to 30 year old) and older (50 to 80 year old) adults as these age groups may respond differently to diet and exercise given the physiology of aging. Poor sleep at all ages is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. A better understanding of the ways to improve sleep through diet and exercise will contribute to chronic disease prevention.