• The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science Research Fund at the New York Academy of Sciences

  • With support from The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science provides direct funding to stimulate research in important gap areas, through grants and an annual competitive award.

  • New Request for Proposal–Collaborative Research Initiative on Adolescent Nutrition:
    Click Here for info and download the RFP here


    Results of The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science Research Award
    Call for Proposals 2016


    Marissa Burgermaster
    Marissa Burgermaster, PhD

    Columbia University

    Research Project: "Personalizing Prevention: Developing Methods for Precision Behavioral Nutrition"

    Dr. Burgermaster holds a PhD in behavioral nutrition from Columbia University and is an expert in intervention design and evaluation. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University. Her research integrating behavioral nutrition and biomedical informatics aims to reduce the burden of chronic disease and health inequity. Previously, Dr. Burgermaster worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Columbia University Medical Center's Division of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition and as a researcher at the Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College Columbia University. She holds master's degrees in Nutrition and Food Science from Montclair State University in New Jersey and Curriculum and Instruction from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. Before pursuing her degrees in nutrition, Dr. Burgermaster had a career as a teacher and school administrator.

    Project Summary

    Nutrition is important in the prevention and management of chronic disease; therefore, nutrition education and behavior change interventions are an essential component of improving public health. However, these interventions typically have small effects. When it comes to dietary behavior, for many there is a disconnect between intention and action—dietary goals often collapse under the weight of innumerable barriers. Successful approaches to surmounting these barriers differ depending on the psychological, social, and environmental resources available to an individual. Recently, significant attention has been placed on precision medicine, the study of how to personalize healthcare for individual patients. Currently, precision medicine approaches are almost exclusively used in the medical treatment of disease; however, we hypothesize that different people also respond to behavioral interventions in different ways.

    The Sackler Nutrition Award will support the development of methods for psychosocial phenotyping—characterizing the combination of barriers and resources that determine individuals' nutrition behaviors. As part of this research, we will work with members of the Washington Heights and Inwood community to characterize patterns of psychosocial determinants of dietary behavior in a cohort of Latino New Yorkers. Then we will develop an app-based tool that efficiently identifies individuals' psychosocial phenotypes. Psychosocial phenotyping represents a first step toward precision behavioral nutrition and personally optimized nutrition interventions.


    Jeannette Beasley
    Jeannette Beasley, PhD

    Albert Einstein College of Medicine


    Dr. Beasley is a nutritional epidemiologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She obtained her BSc in biology at the College of William and Mary, MPH/RD in nutrition at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and PhD in epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her postdoctoral training, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, focused on the development and evaluation of novel dietary assessment methods. Beasley's recent work with the Women's Health Initiative demonstrated an inverse association between dietary protein and frailty that was more evident after accounting for measurement error using biomarker calibration of energy and protein intake.

    Rolf DW Klemm
    Rolf DW Klemm, MPH, DrPH

    Helen Keller International and Johns Hopkins University


    Dr. Klemm is Vice President of Nutrition at Helen Keller International (HKI) and Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHBSPH). He is trained as a nutritional epidemiologist and has more than 25 years of experience in international public health with expertise that spans nutrition efficacy and effectiveness research and program design, management and evaluation. Dr. Klemm served as Country Director for HKI in the Philippines, Technical Director of USAID's flagship A2Z micronutrient project, and as nutrition faculty at JHBSPH. He is the principle instructor of the Food and Nutrition Policy course at JHSPH. As VP Nutrition for HKI, he provides scientific and technical leadership to HKI's regional and country nutrition programs.

    Tooraj Mirshahi
    Tooraj Mirshahi, PhD

    Geisinger Clinic


    Dr. Mirshahi received his PhD in Pharmacology from Virginia Commonwealth University. After a post-doctoral fellowship at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, he joined the faculty at Geisinger, where he is an Associate Professor at the Weis Center for Research. Dr. Mirshahi is also a member of the Geisinger Obesity Institute. His current work is funded by grants from the NIH (NIGMS and NIDDK) as well as a collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceutical. Dr. Mirshahi's training is in cell biology and signal transduction. A major interest of his has been signaling in the leptin–melanocortin pathway that controls feeding, satiety and energy expenditure. At Geisinger, we have extensive longitudinal clinical data on a large cohort of patients, many of whom are obese and a large number of whom have undergone bariatric surgery. In addition, we have collected genetic data both genotyping and whole exome sequencing from over 60,000 patients. He has combined his understanding of cellular and molecular basis of obesity with the available genetics data to look at factors that play critical roles in obesity as well as outcomes after bariatric surgery.

    Karandeep Singh
    Karandeep Singh, MD, MMSc

    University of Michigan


    Dr. Singh is a physician, researcher, and educator interested in studying learning health systems, making new discoveries about disease, and improving patient care through technology. His research areas include natural language processing of clinical notes, risk prediction using high-dimensional data, and mobile health. He is an assistant professor of Learning Health Sciences in the Division of Learning and Knowledge Systems and an assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the University of Michigan Medical School. He teaches a course on applied data science in health to doctoral and masters students. Dr. Singh completed his internal medicine residency at UCLA Medical Center, where he served as chief resident, and a nephrology fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He completed his medical education at the University of Michigan Medical School and holds a master's degree in medical sciences in Biomedical Informatics from Harvard Medical School. He is board certified in internal medicine, nephrology, and clinical informatics.

    Claire Wang
    Claire Wang, MD, ScD

    Columbia University


    Dr. Wang is Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She co-directs the Obesity Prevention Initiative, a cross-disciplinary team focusing on environmental and policy approaches to preventing obesity at the community level. She is also the faculty director of the MPH certificate in Comparative Effectiveness and Outcomes Research and teaches decision analysis and economic evaluation of health technologies to graduate students and clinical scientists. During 2015-2016, she was selected as Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health policy fellow, serving in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Wang's research often applies mathematical modeling to synthesize evidence for informing policy and practice. She is particularly interested in the distribution of modifiable risk factors (e.g. diet, physical activity, and smoking) and their joint implications on disease burden in the whole population and between demographic subgroups. Her present research focuses on developing and evaluating policies to promote healthy choices and to address obesity epidemic in adults and in children, especially in terms of cost-effectiveness and downstream health and cost impact. Wang is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine and of The Obesity Society. She served on the advisory committee of AGree, a cross-sector initiative funded by nine world's leading foundations to drive positive, transformative change in the food and agriculture system.

    Wang has a MD from National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, as well as a MS in Epidemiology and ScD in Health Policy and Decision Sciences from Harvard School of Public Health.

    The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science Research Grant
    Call for Proposals 2016


    This year's grant was awarded to an early career investigator (a scientist who completed her PhD within the last five years) for a research project at the interface of Digital Health and Nutrition Science.