Our Nutrition Team

Valerie Duffy

Valerie B. Duffy, PhD, RD

Professor, Allied Health Sciences (Principal Investigator)

Valerie B. Duffy (PhD, RD) and her team have two complimentary research interests. First, we attempt to understand variation in chemosensory perception in humans and how this variation influences food flavor, food preference and food intake. Our ultimate goal is to understand how chemosensory variation influences our ability to follow a healthy diet for the prevention of chronic disease and obesity. Second, we collaborate with community agencies across the state to promote healthy diets and healthy weights of children and their, particularly those of economic disadvantage. Through involvement of undergraduate and graduate student research, we are investigating the effectiveness of community-based interventions to improve vegetable intake and level of physical activity of children. Dr. Duffy and her students have numerous publications and presentations at national and international meetings. She has received several awards for excellence in teaching, research and service. Students who have trained with Dr. Duffy are advancing nutrition and health through research, practice or public health leadership.

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Phone: 860-486-1997
valerie.duffy@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101
Tina Dugdale

Tina Fox Dugdale, MS, RDN, RN, CD-N

Extension Educator

Tina is an Extension Educator in the Department of Allied Health Sciences. Implementing curricula she developed, Tina supervises dietetics undergraduates, interns, and Masters students through community nutrition practicum courses that include hands-on experiences and the opportunity to deliver tailored nutrition education to the income challenged and food insecure. Tina has been funded by USDA SNAP Education for 18 years. She has served as the President of the CT Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and as its Delegate. Tina is married with three children, and in her spare time enjoys exercise, cooking and gardening.

Phone: 860-306-0228
tina.dugdale@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101
donna-zigmont

Donna Zigmont, RDN, CD-N

SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator

Donna joined the UConn School & Family SNAP-Ed nutrition team in 2009 with a broad background in food service management, health promotion, and marketing communications. She currently oversees dietetics undergraduates, interns, and Masters students during their community nutrition rotation within the Allied Health Sciences Dietetics Coordinated Program and Internship. She also oversees SNAP-Ed program reporting for the UConn School & Family SNAP-Ed project. Donna is committed to helping others make healthy dietary and lifestyle changes to enjoy the benefits of eating well and feeling great.

 

donna.zigmont@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101
Rachel Hildrey

Rachel Hildrey RDN, CDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Rachel is a Graduate Student, Research Assistant, and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) studying Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Rachel earned a Bachelors of Science in Dietetics from the University of Connecticut and her RDN licensure in 2019. She is passionate about food, cooking, and helping people of all ages work towards living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Rachel’s research focuses on providing nutrition education and instilling healthy habits in pre-teens and teenagers ages 11-18 years.

rachel.hildrey@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101
Haley Gershman

Haley Gershman, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Haley is a Graduate Student, Research Assistant, and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) studying Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Haley earned a Bachelors of Science in Dietetics from the University of Connecticut and her RDN licensure in 2019. She is passionate about helping others reach their nutrition goals. Haley’s research focuses on feeding practices by parents of toddlers. 

haley.gershman@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101
Jaclyn Lerner

Jaclyn Lerner, RD

Registered Dietitian (RD)

Jaclyn is a Graduate Student, Research Assistant, and Registered Dietitian studying Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Jaclyn earned a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Pittsburgh and completed her Dietetic Internship at the University of Connecticut. She received her RD license in 2020 and is passionate about improving health and nutrition for all groups of people. Jaclyn's research focuses on tailored messaging to promote good nutrition and dental health for children ages 2-17.

jaclyn.lerner@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101

Faculty Advisors

Carolyn Lyn

Carolyn Lin PhD

Professor, Department of Communication

Professor Lin (Ph.D. in Media and Information) focuses her research and teaching on topics concerning health, risk, science, environmental, marketing, multicultural and computer-mediated communication at individual, community and societal levels.  Motivated by her interest in the emerging digital technologies, she founded the Communication Technology Division at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication. Professor Lin has developed or co-developed a commercialized bioinformatics system, a serious game for health and a mobile application for personal risk management. Combining this eHealth expertise with her marketing communication background, her work has examined the persuasive effects of positive health promotion messages on motivating the acceptance and adoption of healthy behavior. Since 2014, Dr. Lin has been partnering with Dr. Duffy in developing communication messages to promote healthy eating habits and physical activity among children. She has also collaborated with Dr. Duffy on projects that assess the effectiveness of community-based intervention programs to help children develop healthy lifestyles that can be sustained throughout their adulthood.   

carolyn.lin@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101

Student Collaborators

Shane Sacco

Shane J. Sacco

Game Developer

Shane J Sacco is a fourth year Health Promotion Sciences PhD candidate in Allied Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut. His primary focus is applied statistics. He joined the CAHNR nutrition team in Summer 2018 as game developer for the Healthy Family Connecticut, UConn's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Outside of academia, Shane enjoys hiking, reading, and playing video games.

shane.sacco@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101

Olivia Mitchell

Social Media Coordinator 

Olivia Mitchell is a fourth year student at the University of Connecticut studying Allied Health Sciences and Spanish on a pre-physician assistant track. She joined the CAHNR nutrition team in Fall 2020 as the social media coordinator for Healthy Family Connecticut, UConn's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Outside the classroom, Olivia enjoys cooking, exploring new places, and making memories with her friends.

olivia.mitchell@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101
Lavar Johnson

Lavar Johnson

Game Design and Development

Lavar Johnson is a third year Allied Heath Sciences Major at the University of Connecticut. He joined the CAHNR Nutrition Team as a part of the McNair Fellows program in Fall 2020. Lavar is currently working alongside Dr. Valerie Duffy investigating the effectiveness of serious gaming on health promotion. His research involves various aspects of game design and development. In his free time, Lavar enjoys the company of friends and family as well as reading.

lavar.johnson@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101
Karah Lewis

Karah Lewis

Karah is a first year Dietetic Coordinated Master’s student studying Health Promotion at the University of Connecticut. She earned a Bachelors in Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science from California State University, Northridge in Los Angeles, California. She hopes to focus her research on reducing health disparities among communities of color. When she is not volunteering or in the classroom, she enjoys cooking, spending time with family, and playing Animal Crossing on Nintendo Switch.

karah.lewis@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101

Rama Kattan

Rama is a master's student studying Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Rama completed her Bachelors in Science with a double major in Business Administration and Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Rhode Island. She believes that nutrition is very important in the prevention of disease. Rama’s research focuses on parental prevention of childhood obesity.

rama.kattan@uconn.edu
Address: Department of Allied Health Sciences 358 Mansfield Road, Unit 1101 Storrs, CT 06269-1101