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Red Apples

Our Team

Who We Are: Our Team
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Director and Associate Professor

Juliana Cohen, ScM, ScD

Juliana Cohen is a Professor of Nutrition and Public Health at Merrimack College and an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. She is also the Director of the Center for Health Inclusion, Research and Practice (CHIRP). Additionally, she is a member of the The EVidEnce-based Research GRoup to EvaluatE Nutrition policy (EVERGREEN), an interdisciplinary research group at Harvard. Her research centers on the identification, evaluation, and dissemination of effective nutrition policies and initiatives to address diet-related disparities and reduce the risk of obesity among children. Previously she was an ORISE Policy and Science fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity. Dr. Cohen has a doctorate in nutrition from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, where she also received a Master’s in society, human development, and health.

Janet Blum, MS, ScD

 Dr. Janet Whatley Blum is Interim Dean and a Professor in the School of Health Sciences at Merrimack CollegeDr. Blum’s scholarly activity has focused on the prevention and treatment of obesity in children and adults. She has conducted large, randomized clinical trials, as well as community and public health-based research. Dr. Blum is past-president of the New England Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine and former Chair for the Department of Exercise and Rehabilitation Science at Merrimack College. Dr. Blum earned a Sc.D. in nutritional sciences from Boston University, an M.S. in clinical exercise physiology from Northeastern University and a B.S. in health and physical education from the University of Maine.

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Eleanor Shonkoff, MA, PhD

Eleanor Shonkoff is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Public Health at Merrimack College. Her work examines child obesity prevention and treatment techniques in under-resourced communities. Example topics include stress, parental feeding practices, and food insecurity; positive deviance (outliers) in culturally-appropriate nutrition intervention; and minimal interventions to achieve high-impact, sustainable, equitable improvements in health outcomes. Dr. Shonkoff received her master's degree in Social Psychology from Wake Forest University, doctorate in Preventive Medicine from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and she conducted postdoctoral work at ChildObesity180 with the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Laura Kurdziel, MS, PhD

Laura Kurdziel is an assistant professor of neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Merrimack College. Her work examines the neurological and behavioral functions of sleep. In particular, she examines the role of sleep, and sleep hygiene, in learning, memory, executive function, and emotion regulation among children. She also investigates how sleep physiology changes throughout development, and the role of sleep in health promotion. Dr. Kurdziel also oversees the Learning, Memory, and Sleep Lab (Lumos Lab), a 118 square foot room dedicated to assessing sleep physiology. The room is equipped with the Brain Vision, LLC V-Amp to record Polysomnography (PSG), a 14-electrode montage of electroencephalography (EEG), electrooculography (EOG), and electromyography (EMG). PSG is used to identify sleep microarchitecture (sleep staging) as well as sleep microarchitecture (spectral power of brain waves during sleep). Laura has a master’s degree from Bucknell University, and a doctorate in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Post-Doctoral Fellows

Deborah A. Olarte, PhD, RDN, MS

Dr. Deborah A. Olarte is a Registered Dietitian and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Health Inclusion Research and Practice (CHIRP) at Merrimack College. Dr. Olarte received her MS in Nutrition and Public Health from Columbia University and her PhD in Behavioral Nutrition from Columbia University. She is the NOPREN School Wellness Workgroup Fellow and the 2022-23 APHA Food and Nutrition Section Fellow. Her research goals include improving students’ nutrition and overall health through school wellness and increasing the role teachers play in school meals. Her current research focuses on universal free school meals in California and Maine and the de-implementation of universal free school meals in Anchorage, Alaska.


Leah Chapman, PhD, MPH

Dr. Leah Chapman is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Health Inclusion Research and Practice (CHIRP) at Merrimack College. Dr. Chapman recently completed her PhD in Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her dissertation examined the impacts of a city-wide, policy-mandated minimum wage increase on various health outcomes, including diet, food insecurity, and stress. Leah also completed her MPH at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2016 and her bachelors degree at the University of Florida in 2011. Her research interests include the nutritional causes of obesity, dietary assessment methods, and the design and evaluation of community-based nutrition intervention trials.

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The NOURISH Lab is committed to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, as well as post-doctoral fellows interested in studying children's nutrition, health behaviors, and/ food policies. Students interested in learning about directed studies, fellowships, or paid opportunities to get involved in the NOURISH Lab should email Dr. Juliana Cohen at

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Who We Are: Research
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