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Meet Our Students


Xiaochen Liu

Those that walk, often arrive. Those that do, often achieve." --- Yan Ying (578-500 BC)

Year: 2nd

Program: PhD

Advisor: Dr. Trina Norden-Krichmar/Dr. Karen Edwards

Research Interests: Bioinformatics, epigenetics, gene expression, gut microbiota, genetic epidemiology.

Phd Graduates

Maribel Cervantes-Ortega

"You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So... get on your way!" —Dr. Suess

Year: 4th

Program: PhD

Advisor: Dr. Luohua Jiang

Research Title: Understanding the ways in which Latino cultural processes and experiences impact social determinants of health  

Research Description: My research focuses on diabetic interventions within Latina mothers and adult-daughter dyads. In this study, we aim to implement a culturally-tailored, community-based, family-oriented lifestyle intervention to help with the management and/or prevention of diabetes. I propose to expand on existing literature by transitioning to an intergenerational and multi-perspective assessment of the family context in order to examine how the onset and management of chronic conditions along with family life influence health outcomes.


Rachel McFarland Lucia

"Just Keep Swimming" —Dory, Finding Nemo

Year: 4th

Program: PhD

Advisor: Dr. Hannah Lui Park

Research Title: DNA methylation biomarkers of environmental exposures and breast cancer risk factors  

Recent Publications: 

1. Lu HM, Li S, Black MH, Lee S, Hoiness R, Wu S, Mu W, Huether R, Chen J, Sridhar S, Tian Y, McFarland R, Dolinsky JS, Davis BT, Mexal S, Dunlop C, Elliott A.. Association of breast and ovarian cancers with predisposition genes identified by large-scale sequencing. JAMA oncology. 2018 Aug 16

2. LaDuca H, McFarland R, Gutierrez S, Yussuf A, Ho N, Pepper J, Reineke P, Cain T, Blanco K, Horton C, Dolinsky JS (2018). Quality of clinician-reported cancer history when ordering genetic testing. JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics, 2: 1-11. [co-first author].


Shantell Cerise Nolen

"Let's wander where the WiFi is weak " —Anonymous

Year: 4th

Program: PhD

Advisor: Dr. Karen Edwards

Research Title/Description: Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Risk in Cancer Survivors Over Age 90  

Recent Publications:

1. Nolen, S. C., Evans, M. A., Fischer, A., Corrada, M. M., Kawas, C. H., & Bota, D. A. (2017). Cancer—incidence, prevalence and mortality in the oldest-old. A comprehensive review. Mechanisms of ageing and development164, 113-126.


Valeria Elahy

“Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger” — Caldwell Esselstyn

Year: 3rd

Program: PhD

Advisor: Dr. Trina Norden-Krichmar

Research Description: My research focus is in genetic and nutritional epidemiology. I am particularly interested in studying the association between dietary interventions and chronic diseases as well as gene-environment interactions

Jiahui Dai

The secret of getting ahead is getting started” —Mark Twain

Year: 1st

Program: MS

Advisor: Dr. Jiang

Research Interests: My research focuses on diabetic epidemiology. I am interested in studying the association between diabetes complications and some chronic diseases.