Our Team

Principal Investigator

Tashara M. Leak, Ph.D., R.D.

Dr. Leak is the Lois and Mel Tukman Assistant Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. As a health disparities researcher, she conducts interventions that address socioeconomic and environmental influences on food choices, while drawing upon her expertise in mixed methods and community-based research. More specifically, Dr. Leak designs innovative and culturally relevant interventions that aim to improve dietary behaviors among minority adolescents that reside in urban, low-income communities. She is deeply committed to conducting research that informs public health programming and policy.




Post-Doctoral Students

Alexandra (Lexi) MacMillan Uribe, Ph.D., R.D.

Lexi is a postdoctoral fellow for the NIH-funded Institutional Training Grant in Maternal and Child Nutrition. Her PhD dissertation (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2018) focused on delivering nutrition education to the mother-infant dyad within a primary-care group approach. Lexi’s long-term research goal is to find effective community-focused strategies that address health equity by helping mothers and children establish healthy dietary patterns. Specifically, she would like to use dissemination and implementation models and information and communication technologies to enhance the effectiveness of nutrition education interventions and inform public health policy. When not engaged in research and service, Lexi enjoys exercising, cooking Peruvian dishes passed down from her mother and grandmother, and spending time with her family and Duck-Tolling Retriever mix, Ginger.


Doctoral Students

Navika Gangrade, R.D.

Navika is a combined Ph.D./R.D. student and predoctoral fellow for the NIH-funded Institutional Training Grant (T32) in Maternal and Child Nutrition. Navika earned her B.S. in Dietetics from the University of Delaware where she developed an interest in examining how the built environment influences food choice. She completed her dietetic internship at Cornell University/University of Rochester Medical Center and became a Registered Dietitian in 2019. In her current position, she will implement a culturally appropriate, snacking-based intervention for diverse adolescents from a low-income, urban community, in an overall aim to remediate diet-related health disparities and promote health equity. Navika hopes to stay on the academic track and form a career as a health equity-focused research faculty member. Outside of work, she enjoys yoga and indulging in the local food scene.




Felicia J. Setiono, MSPH

Felicia Setiono is originally from Indonesia. She earned an MSPH in Human Nutrition from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a BS in Biological Sciences from Cornell University. Through her studies and research, Felicia has developed an interest in understanding how environmental and social factors impact dietary behaviors, especially in low-income communities. At her current position, she hopes to serve and build local capacity to improve the nutritional status and well-being of underserved communities. Felicia is also interested in the role of nutrition education and participatory research in shaping health policies at both the local and national levels. In her free time, Felicia enjoys cooking, baking, and sharing the end products with those around her.




Undergraduate Research Assistants

Elizabeth Kane

Elizabeth Kane is a junior majoring in Global and Public Health Sciences in the College of Human Ecology. Elizabeth loves learning about community challenges and assets that influence human nutrition and health. She hopes to pursue an MD/MPH or similar degrees to become a practicing physician dedicated to serving underserved communities and improving population health. Outside of class, Elizabeth is a tutor through the Cornell Public Service Center and an undergraduate TA in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS). She is also a DNS Student Advisor and is active in Cornell’s Food Recovery Network.



Hailey Schwartz

Hailey Schwartz is a junior majoring in Food Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and minoring in Nutrition and Health. Hailey’s interests include learning about the challenges of food safety that influence human health. She also is interested in product development of food products consumed by immunocompromised and vulnerable populations and hopes to pursue a career in the product development field in the food science-nutrition industry. Outside of class, Hailey is an undergraduate Culinary Science TA in the Department of Food Science. She is also a photographer for Cornell’s Food Magazine, Crème de Cornell, and spends her free time taking pictures, cooking and traveling.




Sarah Hwang

Sarah Hwang is a sophomore majoring in Food Science in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She also plans on minoring in Nutritional Sciences and is hoping to pursue a career in Product Development. Sarah is greatly passionate about the culinary arts, and is interested in mixing the creative aspects of cooking with the more analytical side of food chemistry. Her hobbies include baking, drawing, and playing the viola. Outside of class, Sarah is currently the Co-Band Director of Cornell’s musical theatre troupe, Anything Goes and Treasurer of Cornell University’s Food Science Club.





YeonJin Jung

YeonJin Jung is a sophomore majoring in Food Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She is originally from South Korea but lived in Vietnam before coming to Cornell University. She is passionate about applying her scientific knowledge to make an impact on the surrounding community. YeonJin is also interested in food chemistry and sensory science and hopes to go into a related field of research in the future. On campus, she is an active member of Cornell Health International and outside of class, she enjoys rock climbing and cooking.




Isabel Lu

Isabel Lu is a senior majoring in Nutritional Sciences and minoring in Inequalities Studies in the College of Human Ecology. She is passionate about plant-based nutrition, food justice, and health inequalities. She hopes to pursue a PhD in Community Nutrition or Public Health in the future. Outside of class, Isabel heads nutrition education and marketing for Anabel’s Grocery, is the co-president of Cornell Students for Animal Rights, and is the Communication Manager for Bread N’ Butter Food Pantry. She spends her free time watercolor painting, drawing, and participating in animal activism.



Aditi Joshi

Aditi Joshi is a junior majoring in Human Development in the College of Human Ecology and minoring in Policy Analysis and Management. Aditi is passionate about the complexities of healthcare and how environmental and social determinants impact human health. She hopes to help ameliorate quality and access to care in low-income populations and pursue a career in hospital administration. Outside of class, Aditi is an administrative assistant in the Cornell Alliance for Science and undergraduate research assistant in the Johnson Business Simulation Lab. She is also a member of the Indian folk dance team Cornell Big Red Raas, and spends her free time reading and painting.




Mara Kebret

Mara Kebret is a junior majoring in Biology and minoring in Global Health in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is interested in recitifying inequality and improving the health of historically disenfranchised demographics around the globe. She hopes to pursue an MD/MPH and her Ethiopian and Eritrean background has inspired her to one day return to the region to work to improve the health of those in the continent. Her hobbies include tennis, baking, and enjoying world literature. On campus, she serves as the Vice President of Programming of PreM3 and an Event Lead for EESA.





Emily Zhou

Emily Zhou is a senior majoring in Biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and minoring in Psychology. Hailing from Brooklyn, she is interested in how health inequity manifests in both rural and urban communities. More specifically, she seeks to understand its direct impacts on minority youth populations. Beyond the classroom, Emily is President of The Smart is Strong Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to women’s empowerment and youth development through mentorship and educational engagement. Emily also serves as a Kessler Presidential Scholars Mentor, helping first generation and low income students transition to college. You’ll also find Emily volunteering at the free clinic in downtown Ithaca. 


New York City-Based Research Staff

Project Manager

Courtney Locus

Courtney Locus is currently pursing a MS in Clinical Nutrition at New York University. Her path to nutrition was not linear, beginning with a career in food journalism and later evolving into documenting food experiences through photography, freelance writing and community nutrition in New York City. Courtney has received a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from UNC-Chapel Hill and MS in Management from The New School. Committed to helping people eat well and lead healthy lifestyles, Courtney is passionate about teaching sustainable nutrition practices that improves the health of people within the African Diaspora and Caribbean Hispanics. After completing her graduate coursework at NYU, her goals include completing her dietetic internship and becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.


Research Assistants

Elizabeth Chiu

Elizabeth Chiu earned her B.S. in Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University and is also pursuing her MS in Clinical Nutrition at NYU. Elizabeth is interested in learning about various factors that shape nutrition choices and participatory research to better develop nutrition education. She hopes to work with pediatric populations in the future. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys learning about new cultures through food and travel, trying out new restaurants, reading, and exercising.



Zainab Hussain

Zainab Hussain recently graduated from The City College of New York where she earned a B.S. in Biology and double minored in Sociology and Chemistry.  Zainab is interested in combating healthcare inequities faced by underrepresented minority groups. As a youth empowerment volunteer at a women’s social service non-profit, Zainab works to provide culturally sensitive services for the children of domestic violence survivors within her community. She hopes to pursue an MPH in Epidemiology in the future. In her free time, Zainab likes to explore her city, read, and travel.



Priyanka Jonnalagadda

Priyanka Jonnalagadda is currently pursuing her Masters in Dietetics at Montclair State University. Priyanka plans to pursue a path towards integrative nutrition where she will combine her knowledge and skill to help her patients achieve mental and physical wellness. She enjoys working with different cultural communities to help individuals build healthier lifestyles. Priyanka is also active in working with the Food Recovery Network, a national organization, to help reduce the amount of food waste by redirecting food to people who experience food insecurity in the community. In her spare time, Priyanka likes to read, explore the city, and try new experiences.


Lauriel Stewart

Lauriel Stewart, M.S. is a researcher and Food Scientist with a passion for food sovereignty & holistic health. She received her Bachelor of Science from Tuskegee University in Food and Nutritional Science with a Food Science Concentration in 2016. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, she went on to The Pennsylvania State University to pursue a Master of Science in Food Science. Her graduate research measured the efficacy of extracted phytochemical compounds at targeting colon cancer stem cell vitality in vitro. After taking a nutrition course during her graduate studies, Lauriel re-discovered her passion for Nutritional Science and determined she was interested in going back to school in the near future to pursue a Ph.D. in Human Nutrition. In her free time Lauriel created a mindfulness movement called The Aperçu Collective where she hosts webinars to discuss holistic health techniques and practices for the everyday consumer. Occasionally Lauriel also partners with other holistic health advocates and fitness experts to bring diverse perspectives to her workshop platform. In addition to her academic and career interests, Lauriel also enjoys being a free-lance social media strategist and graphic designer and is interested in theater.