Lab Members

Laboratory Director

Naiman Khan, Ph.D., RD

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

Research Coordinator

Ginger Reeser, MS, RDN

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 Urbana-Champaign in 2010. Ginger is a research coordinator for the laboratory. She works with Naiman Khan and his staff to support, facilitate, and coordinate daily research activities. Her primary project is the ICONS study.

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Chris Kinder, Ph.D.

Christopher Kinder received his Ph.D. in Kinesiology in 2022 from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include examining the influence of child physical activity, body composition, and arterial health on cognitive functioning. More recently, he has explored the relationship between arterial stiffness indices and cognitive control in preadolescents and adolescents. Chris is also working to develop and implement interdisciplinary, community-based interventions for underserved children (e.g., those with low socioeconomic status or low school attendance, social or emotional concerns). His primary project is STRONGKids 2.

Graduate Students

Ajla Bristina

Ajla received a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience from Grand Valley State University in 2023. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked as a chemical analyst, nutrition tech, and conducted research in the lab of Dr. Mario Fific. Her research consisted of cognitive decision making and mathematical psychology. She also spent time working in a neuropsychiatric clinic in northern Florida partnered with the Mayo Clinic, evaluating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other patients experiencing rare neurodegenerative disorders. Ajla is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience. Her primary research interests are nutritional neuroscience, specifically looking at the effects of soy isoflavones on neurocognitive health, body composition, and the gut microbiome in children. Outside of the lab, Ajla enjoys lifting weights, going for walks, cooking dinner, and spending time outdoors!

Tori Holthaus

Tori joined the NHB lab in 2021 and is completing a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences. Her research interests include examining dietary patterns and the role of the food matrix for the promotion of cognitive function. Tori received her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin in 2016 and has been practicing clinical dietetics for several years. Tori’s hobbies include weightlifting, travel, and spending time with her husband, friends, and her two cats, Topaz & Aurora.

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.

Ilber Manavbasi

Ilber received his B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Psychology from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2021. As an undergraduate, he worked as a research assistant in the lab of Prof. Elizabeth Stine-Morrow. His research focused on the influence of motivation on training efficacy. After graduation, he continued in the lab as a lab manager for 2 years. Ilber is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience. His primary research interests are looking at the effects of a soy diet on learning and attention, body composition, and the gut microbiome in children. Outside of the lab, Ilber likes to dance, swim, cook, and figure out new cocktail recipes.

Shelby Martell

Shelby Martell received a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology in 2021 from Eastern Illinois University. Shelby joined the lab in 2021 and is completing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Shelby’s research focuses on cognitive and visual function in persons with multiple sclerosis and the potential role of nutrition to improve these deficits.  In her free time Shelby enjoys coaching softball, watching sports, and cooking.

Emma McCabe

Emma McCabe received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with minors in Biology and Neuroscience from Elon University in NC. During her undergraduate career she conducted several original studies concerning student-athlete cognition and mental health in the BrainCARE concussion lab with Dr. Caroline Ketcham and Dr. Eric Hall. She spent two years as a research fellow at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism with Dr. Vijay Ramchandani, studying genetic, environmental, neurobiological, and lifestyle factors that contribute to alcohol use and misuse. For her PhD in Kinesiology, she is interested in studying how biological and psychosocial factors influence mental, cognitive, and cardiometabolic health outcomes of developing populations in the Neurocognitive Health Behavior Lab. Emma enjoys playing sports, lifting and running, and indulging in movies, both good and bad. 

Charlotte Roman

Charlotte Román received a B.S. in Psychology with minors in Human Services and Spanish from the University of Georgia in 2022. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Allison Skinner-Dorkenoo investigating how biases are formed and maintained. Charlotte is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience. Her primary research interests are nutritional neuroscience and dietary factors as they relate to cognition. She is currently examining how carotenoid consumption impacts cognition and academic achievement in childhood in a placebo-controlled clinical supplementation trial with lutein and zeaxanthin using EEG, heterochromatic flicker photometry, reflection spectroscopy, optical coherence tomography, and cognitive and academic tests. In her free time, Charlotte enjoys reading, watching horror movies, and spending time with her two cats. 

Laura Rosok

Laura Rosok received a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Jazz Performance from the University of Miami in 2020. As an undergraduate research assistant in the Brain Connectivity and Cognition Lab, Laura examined brain connectivity in children with autism using fMRI, as well as the relations between major depressive disorder and the default-mode network. Currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience, Laura’s research investigates the links between cognitive development and nutritional status in children via MRI, EEG, cognitive batteries, reflection spectroscopy, heterochromatic flicker photometry, blood markers, and dietary recalls. In her free time, Laura enjoys singing, listening to live music, reading, going to coffee shops, and working out.

Shreya Verma

Shreya received her Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from India in 2017. She joined the healthcare product manufacturing and automation team at Schneider Electric after her undergraduate program. Her experience led her to pursue a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering in 2021 where she developed an interest in using machine learning approaches to improve brain health. She worked on projects focused on individualized treatment outcome prediction and conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s using multimodal Artificial intelligence (AI) during the program. She joined the NHB lab in Spring 2023 and is interested in understanding the vascular underpinnings of brain health as well as developing AI empowered precision diet/physical activity interventions to improve brain function. Beyond her research, Shreya enjoys practicing Hatha and Kundalini yoga, listening to podcasts, spending time with friends, and absolutely loves her dogs AND the mountains!

Laboratory Technicians

Melannie Pascual-Abreu

Undergraduate Research Assistants