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Penny Gordon-Larsen, Ph.D., Professor, Nutrition

Associate Dean for Research, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Penny Gordon-Larsen's NIH-funded research portfolio focuses on individual-, household-, and community-level susceptibility to obesity and its cardiometabolic consequences, and her work ranges from molecular and genetic to environmental and societal-level factors. Much of her research focuses on identifying modifiable factors to reduce disparities in obesity and its consequences by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. She is also particularly interested in the pathways linking environment and behavior to cardiometabolic and cardiovascular disease risk.

For over 20 years my work has focused on obesity and its cardiometabolic disease consequences, spanning molecules to behaviors to societal factors using population-based data, primarily in the US and China. A major focus of my research has been on the integration of biological, behavioral, and environmental data, incorporating -omics data, such as genetics, metabolome, and microbiome data. As such, my research is highly trans-disciplinary and has allowed me to work with a range of scholars from the U.S. and around the globe, particularly in China. My National Institute of Health (NIH) funded-research uses data from: (1) the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) on the effects of urbanization on the human microbiome and metabolome and another on complex pathways from urbanization to cardiometabolic disease; (2) the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) on the genetic underpinnings of obesity across diverse race/ethnic groups; and (3) the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) on the molecular pathways to cardiovascular disease with a focus on heterogeneity in effects by obesity. I also lead the Obesity Creativity Hub, which is a team science pan-UNC project focused on understanding of heterogeneity in obesity using animal models, population-based data, and a precision behavioral weight loss program. My work has received national and international recognition. In 2010, I received the Lilly Scientific Achievement Award and in 2020 the George A. Bray Founders Award, both from The Obesity Society. I served as President of The Obesity Society (TOS), a scientific community of 2,500 professionals dedicated to researching, preventing and treating obesity and as Chair of the NIH Kidney, Nutrition, Obesity, and Diabetes (KNOD) study section. I am currently serving on the Advisory Council of the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive Diseases (NIDDK) and as Associate Dean for Research at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. I have research collaborations with CPC Fellows Popkin, Adair, Howard, Sylvia, Guilkey, Thompson,and Aiello.

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