Researchers & Support Staff

        Principal Investigator

Naiman Khan, PhD., RD

Dr. Naiman Khan’s research interest is in the area of Nutritional Neuroscience. Our laboratory utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to integrate knowledge in the disciplines of dietetics, body composition, and cognitive neuroscience to understand the interactions between lifestyle behaviors (e.g., diet and physical activity), abdominal adiposity, and cognitive and brain health in the pediatric and adult population. The knowledge gained from this work is used to develop effective behavioral or environmental strategies of mitigating the detrimental effects of obesity and metabolic risk on measures of physical and mental health.    

Ph.D., Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
M.S., Nutritional Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Click here to Download Naiman Khan’s CV

Research Coordinator


Ginger ReeserGinger Reeser, MS, RDN, LDN

Ginger Reeser received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Mobile and completed a Master of Science in Nutritional Science degree along with the dietetic internship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010. Ginger is a research coordinator for the laboratory. She works with Dr. Khan and his staff to support, facilitate, and coordinate daily research activities. Her primary project is the SHELL study.



Graduate Students

Corinne Cannavale

Corinne Cannavale received a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology degree with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017. She then joined the BCNN lab and started a PhD program in Neuroscience. Corinne’s main research interests are in learning and memory, specifically, how memory can be enhanced through diet and exercise. Her first main research project is investigating cognitive function in preschool aged children. Her second main project is understanding how probiotics affect memory and cognition in adults. In her free time, Corinne enjoys reading and cooking.


Jonathan Cerna


Jonathan Cerna received a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics degree from Iowa State University and is currently completing a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences degree at the University of Illinois.  His main research interests include cognitive health and its interplay with lifestyle variables and behaviors.  Jonathan’s current project focuses on the relationship among pigmentation levels in the macula and structural changes in the retina and surrounding areas in individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis.  In his free time, Jonathan enjoys reading, working out, meditating, and playing bass.


Andrew Dinsmoor
Andrew graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience degree and a minor in Creative Writing in 2014.  After graduation, he worked as a Lab Manager at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Attention and Perception Lab and Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab, where he collected data to understand the effects of lutein on breasted infant brain development.  He joined the BCNN Lab in 2018 as a Nutritional Sciences graduate student.  In the BCNN lab, his research focus is on the relationships between body composition, microbiome, nutrition, and cognition among pre-school-aged children in the STRONG kids 2 cohort.  In his free time, he enjoys writing, being outside, and spending time with family.


Monica Kashi

Monica received a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience degree with a minor in English from Stonehill College. During her undergraduate, she conducted in vitro research with mouse hippocampal cells. She studied the effects of dietary fatty acids on neuroinflammation and how it would translate to affect those with obesity-induced Type 2 diabetes. She also interned for a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital and assisted research on persons with schizophrenia. Her main role was to help administer neuropsychological assessments on participants and data analysis. Monica is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences degree. Her main research interests focus on nutritional interventions for neurodegenerative diseases. Her current research examines the impact of nutritional supplementation on symptoms in persons with Multiple Sclerosis.

Click here to download Monica Kashi’s CV

Shelby Keye

Shelby Keye received a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise degree from Virginia Tech in 2017. During her undergraduate program, she worked as a college mentor for elementary aged kids and did undergraduate research in various labs studying exercise and diet interventions.  She received a Master of Science in Exercise Science degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2019. While completing her masters she taught youth fitness classes, helped to introduce movement breaks into the classroom at a local elementary school, and assisted in doing research on women using exercise prescriptions. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Kinesiology. Her research interests are on physical activity and exercise in children its impact on their body composition as well as cognitive function. In her free time, Shelby likes eating, working out, spending time with friends and family, and watching reality TV.


John Kim

John Kim received a Bachelor of Science in Life Science and Biotechnology degree from Yonsei University, South Korea.  During his time as an undergraduate student, he conducted in vitro research examining the effects of FK-506 derivatives on neurogenesis in mice. In 2016, he took a brief break from his studies to fulfill his obligatory military conscription where he served as a member of the Republic of Korea’s Naval Special Warfare program. John is currently pursuing a M.S. in Kinesiology. His main research interested focuses on examining the mechanism behind the relationship between physical activity and cognitive function. Outside of the lab, John enjoys lifting, BJJ, swimming, and running.


Arden McMath


Arden McMath completed a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Nutrition, with a concentration in Dietetics, degree at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) in 2018. She completed her Master of Science in Kinesiology and Health degree from Miami University in 2019. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies, her research focused on biomechanics of balance and knee injuries, athlete injury predisposition screening, exercise physiology, insulin resistance, and adipocytokines. Currently, Arden is pursuing her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences, under the advisement of Drs. Naiman Khan and Sharon Donovan. Her research focuses on answering questions related to contributors of childhood and adult obesity, dysmetabolism, and dysbiosis of the gut (diet patterns, exercise, parental characteristics, and sedentary behavior). Outside of lab, Arden enjoys running, biking, cooking, hiking, traveling, and camping.

Click here to download Arden McMath’s CV


Nate Willis


Nate received his Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Administration from Boston University in 2010, at which point he began his culinary training in various restaurants in the mid-west. His food service experience led to a role developing and operating school food service programs in the Chicago area. These programs focused on scratch-cooking and nutrition education as a way to improve the food literacy and health of the students and drove Nate to pursue an advanced degree in nutrition. He joined the BCNN lab in the fall of 2018 and is completing a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences degree. He is working primarily on examining the relationships between hydration status and cognitive health in both children and adults.


Samantha Iwinski

Samantha received a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Psychology degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018. During her undergraduate program and after graduating, she worked in the BCNN lab as a laboratory technician. Sam is currently in the Human Development and Family Studies department as a PhD student. Sam’s main interests include child development (physical and mental) and parent-child interactions within the home. She is currently examining physical health and cognitive function in preschool aged children. In his free time, Sam enjoys cooking, taking pictures, and playing with her dog.

Click here to download Samantha Iwinski’s CV

Laboratory Technicians

Savannah Burkhalter 

Savannah Burkhalter received an Associates in Radiologic Technology from Parkland College and is a certified Radiologic Technologist RT(R). She is currently working towards her Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Savannah is currently examining physical health and cognitive function in preschool aged children. In her free time she enjoys swing dance, traveling, and cooking new things.



Undergraduate Students

Rebecca Barone ●  Carolyn Francart ● Ashley Garcia ● Meera Joshi ● Emma Lamblin ● Kavin Lavari ● Jack Lindstrom ● Alyssa Martin ● Eilish Newcomb ● Abby Rich ● Naman Thakrar ● Sumeet Thosar ● Kara Zehr