Research Labs & Projects

Faculty Research Labs 

Health, Well-being, and Mindfulness LabDr. Elizabeth Cotter

  • Primary Aims
    Prevention and treatment of eating and weight-related concerns; mindfulness-based approaches to improving health behaviors. Active projects include a nationwide study on antecedents and consequences of loss of control eating; qualitative research to examine how DC families think about healthy eating; developing peer-led health promotion programming at faith-based organizations in DC Ward 7.
  • Recent Student Roles
    Conduct and analyze interviews with mothers to understand how parenting stress influences child feeding behaviors; design materials and artwork for a mindful-parenting intervention manual; explore obesity stigma in medical students through coding qualitative open-ended survey data.
  • Project Example: NCCIH K23 Award, Reducing Maternal Stress to Improve Obesity-related Parenting Practices (K23AT011049). Currently conducting Aim 1, interviews and focus groups with mothers in Washington, DC. 

Visit: Health, Well-being, and Mindfulness Lab

Healthy Schools, Healthy CommunitiesDr. Stacey Snelling

  • Primary Aims
    Addressing individual and community needs within the social, economic, and cultural contexts where people live, work, learn, and worship. With a focus on DC Wards 7 and 8, project stress methods of facilitating changes, from the individual level to system-wide policies, to support healthy behaviors, increase access to healthy foods and physical activity, and reduce risk factors that contribute to chronic disease.
  • Recent Student Roles
    Data collection in community locations such as schools and corner stores; data entry and analysis. Lifestyle change program planning, delivery and evaluation. Evaluate impact and outcomes of programs. Prioritize underserved populations in all projects to support health equity. 

Visit: Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities

Nutritional Neuroscience LabDr. Kathleen Holton

  • Primary Aims
    Studying how food additives negatively influence neurotransmission and how dietary nutrients may help prevent excitotoxicity, especially on ways exposure to dietary excitotoxins can lead to neurological symptoms, including pain, cognitive dysfunction, paresthesia, gastrointestinal disorders, memory loss, inattention, impulsivity and centrally mediated fatigue, as well as psychiatric symptoms like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and attentional difficulties.
  • Recent Student Roles
    Research roles include presenting research and helping market studies on social media platforms; actively collecting data; entering data into Excel and Nutrition Data Systems for research; analyzing data in statistical programs like SPSS, SAS and R.

Visit: Nutritional Neuroscience Lab

Youth and Family Resilience & Wellbeing LabDr. Caroline Kuo

  • Primary Aims
    Development, testing, and bringing to scale policy relevant and context appropriate interventions for young people and their families in low resource settings. Active projects include studies in South Africa focused on primary prevention of perpetration of violence and prevention of HIV risk among boys; evaluation of a combination prevention designed to prevent acquisition of HIV among girls and young women; and a resilience focused family intervention to bolster adolescents mental health and diminish HIV risk.
  • Recent Student Roles
    Monitor and maintain the integrity of data systems including high quality data; analysis of qualitative and quantitative data; design of intervention materials including program implementation manuals and training materials.
  • Project Example: Testing the Efficacy of Safe South Africa: An Intervention to Prevent HIV Risk and Interpersonal Violence Among Adolescent Boys (with Dr. Catherine Mathews, Brown Univeritsy), NIH/NIMH 1R01MH129-161-01A1, 2023-28. This study investigates the efficacy of an integrated intervention for preventing or reducing risk behavior related to acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus and perpetration of intimate partner violence among adolescents in South Africa.



Selected Health Studies Research

Advancing Telehealth Technology & Innovation in DC WICDr. Jessica Owens-Young

  • Recent Student Roles
    Supporting research evaluation activities to understand the adoption, implementation, and outcomes of telehealth use in local DC WIC agencies. Activities include survey data analysis, interviewing key informants and clients, analyzing qualitative data,  and preparing manuscripts and presentations.

Corner Store Communities in COVID-19

Dr. Melissa Hawkins

  • Primary Aims
    Illustrate the impact of the pandemic on DC residents’ food security by interviewing residents about their experiences at community corner stores. We document the food security challenges and residents' resilience during COVID-19 in DC Ward 7 and 8 with the AU Humanities Truck, DC Central Kitchen Healthy Corners Program, and Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities).
  • Recent Student Roles
    Analyzing transcripts and collecting data for this qualitative project examining the lived experience of DC residents.

Selected Publications

Snelling, A, Hawkins M,, McClave R, & Irvine Belson S. (2023). The Role of Teachers in Addressing Childhood Obesity: A School-Based Approach. Nutrients

Wells A., McClave R., Cotter, E. W., Pruski T., Nix D., & Snelling A. (2022). Engaging faith-based organizations to promote health through health ministries in Washington, DCJournal of Religion and Health. 

Hawkins H, Clermont M, Wells D, Alston M, McClave R, Snelling A. (2022). Food security challenges and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic: Corner store communities in Washington, D.C. Nutrients. as part of the Special Issue: The Impact of Policy and Food Environment on Food Purchase and Dietary Behavior. 

Hagedorn-Hatfield RL, Richards R, Qamar Z. Hood LB, Landry M, Savoie-Roskos MR, Vogelzang JL, Machado SS, Norasak K, Cuite CL, Heying, E, Patton-López MM, Snelling AM. (2022). Campus-based programs to address food insecurity vary in leadership, funding, and evaluation strategies. Nutrition Bulletin. 

Kuo, C., LoVette, A., Slingers, N., Mathews, C. (2021). Predictors of resilience among adolescent girls and young women who have experienced intimate partner violence and sexual violence in South Africa. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 8: 8862605211005158. 

Kuo, C., Sibeko, G., Akande, M., Allie, S., Tisaker, N., Stein, D., Becker, S. (2021). Advancing a Cascading Train-the-Trainer Model of Frontline HIV Service Providers in South Africa: Protocol of an Implementation Trial. Addiction Science and Clinical Practice. 16(1): 27. PMCID: PMC8085637. 

Murray S., Holton K. Post-traumatic stress disorder may set the neurobiological stage for eating disorders: A focus on glutamatergic dysfunction. Appetite. 167. July 2021.

Kirkland A., Baron M., VanMeter J., Baraniuk J., Holton K. The Low Glutamate Diet Improves Cognitive Functioning in Veterans with Gulf War Illness and Resting-State EEG Potentially Predicts Response. Nutritional Neuroscience. July 2021.

Chrisler, A.J., Claridge, A. M., Staab, J., Daniels, S. R., Vaden, V., & McTaggart, D. (2021). Current evidence for the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for children undergoing medical procedures. Child: Care, Health and Development.