Valerie B. Duffy, PhD, RDN
Professor, Allied Health Sciences (Principal Investigator)
Valerie B. Duffy (PhD, RDN) 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.
Tina Fox Dugdale, MS, RDN, CD-N, RN
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.
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.
Jaclyn Lerner, RDN
Jaclyn is a second year master's student studying Health Promotion Sciences. She received her bachelor's of science in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Pittsburgh in 2019, and she completed her dietetic internship through the University of Connecticut in 2020. Her interests include food justice, whole-person health, and evidenced-based nutrition. Jaclyn's research focuses on dietary and dental health changes of young children in Connecticut.
Daniela Carolina Avelino, BS
Daniela is a Graduate Student, Research Assistant studying Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Daniela is an international student from Brazil and earned a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition from the Federal University of Vicosa. Also, she completed an exchange program at State University of New York at Plattsburgh and Summer Internship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is passionate about learning how to prevent obesity, especially in disadvantaged populations. Daniela's research focuses on improving dietary outcomes through interactive nutritional strategies such as using leveraging technology.
Kate Killion, MPH, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
Kate Killion is a doctoral student, research assistant, and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) studying Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Kate earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science from Boston University in 2018, and a Master of Public Health degree in Dietetics from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2021. She also earned her RDN credential in 2021. Kate is passionate about public health nutrition, nutrition education, and ensuring all people have the tools they need to eat a healthy, enjoyable diet. Her research focuses on community-based programs and policies to improve diet quality in people across the lifespan.
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.
Shane J. Sacco
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.