The Metabolic Kitchen and Children’s Eating Behavior Laboratory - Research Team

Principle Investigator

Kathleen Keller

Kathleen Keller

Kathleen received her B.S. in biology from Marquette University in 1995 and her Ph.D. in nutritional sciences from Rutgers University in 2002. She completed a post-doc in pediatric obesity at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center and was an Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons before coming to Penn State in 2012 to join the Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Food Science. She is the Director of the Metabolic Kitchen and Children’s Eating Behavior Laboratory at Penn State. Current studies in the laboratory involve understanding the effects of genes on children’s fat preferences and identifying neural pathways involved with overeating and obesity. In addition, she and her team are currently conducting home-based interventions to help children consume more vegetables. She hopes that one day this research will help develop new treatments for childhood obesity. Kathleen also enjoys teaching, reading, cooking, and watching movies with her husband.

View Kathleen Keller's CV

Lab Manager & Research Coordinator

Terri Cravener

Terri L. Cravener

Terri received her B.S. (1986) in Animal Production and her M.S. (1988) in Nutrition from Penn State University. She has an extensive professional background in agricultural research and food production systems. As the Lab Manager and Research Coordinator, she is very interested in studies which induce children to eat healthier foods through marketing, branding and nutrition education. As an avid draft horse and hobby farmer, she has great interest in sustainable agricultural practices and local vegetable and fruit production in Pennsylvania.

View Terri Cravener's CV and Publications

Research Coordinator

Marissa Reynolds

Marissa Reynolds

Marissa is a 2013 Penn State graduate with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in History. She is coordinating a new RO1 funded study on portion size determinations in relation to obesity and brain responses. She also manages a study on motor control and ADHD in the Kinesiology department with Dr. Kristina Neely. She is currently training for her Project Management Professional certification. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing yoga, volunteering at Centre County PAWS, and exploring local biking trails.

Graduate Students


Shana Adise

Shana Adise received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (cognitive neuroscience) from the City College of New York. A third year graduate student, Shana holds a fellowship from the USDA Childhood Obesity Prevention Training Program. She came to Penn State with an interest in using fMRI to understand the neural correlates of food selection. Since then, her interests have expanded (or narrowed) to understand how inhibitory control and reward sensitivity differences apply to food-based decisions. Shana is interested in exploring how these decisions differ amongst healthy and overweight children. Her future goals are to continue conducting research in an academic environment.

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Lizz Carney

Lizz Carney

Lizz started working in the Metabolic Kitchen and Children’s Eating Behavior Laboratory in 2013. She is currently enrolled at Penn State in the Integrated Undergraduate Graduate program through the Schreyer Honors College. She will graduate in 2017 with her Master’s degree in Food Science and Bachelor’s degrees in Food Science and Nutritional Sciences. She has contributed significantly to many projects in the laboratory, but is currently in charge of the Children’s Taste Study. This project investigates flavor preferences and vegetable intake in preschool-aged children. After graduation, Lizz plans to pursue a Ph.D. to continue her research on prenatal taste development, flavor exposure, and the influence of early feeding practices on lifelong eating habits.

View Elizabeth Carney's CV


Juliana Fritts

Juliana is a Master’s student in Food Science from Atlanta, Georgia. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Science from the University of Georgia in 2016. Juliana is the project lead for the “Spice it Up” project. This cafeteria intervention study is looking at the impact of herbs and spices on vegetable liking and intake in a local middle and high school lunch program. After developing new recipes using herbs and spices, the team conducted taste tests with the students to fine-tune the recipes. The team is now adding the recipes to the school lunch line to test whether the spices do improve vegetable favorability. After her Master’s, Juliana hopes to work as a food scientist in product development focused on improving the palatability of healthy foods for children and families.

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Travis Masterson

Travis Masterson

Travis is from Alpine, Utah. He has a BS in Exercise and Wellness and a Master’s degree in Exercise Science from BYU. He has been doing martial arts for over 20 years and managed a successful martial arts studio in Saratoga Springs with nearly 200 students before coming to Penn State. He has worked as a personal trainer and health coach and loves seeing the amazing progress people can make towards a healthier life and the happiness that achieving their goals can bring. His current focus is in understanding how children's environments and daily activities can effect their eating behavior as well as their responsiveness to food cues through specialized tools such as fMRI. He is currently working towards his PhD in nutritional sciences.

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Undergraduate RAs


Marielle Austen

Marielle Austen

Marielle is a senior majoring in Nutritional Sciences in the Dietetics option with a minor in Health Policy and Administration. She began working in the Metabolic Kitchen in January of 2016, and is currently a research assistant for the Commercials Study. Marielle is also an active member of the Health and Human Development National Honor Society and volunteers in the Nutrition Department at the Mount Nittany Medical Center. Upon graduation, Marielle hopes to become a Registered Dietitian and work as a clinical dietitian. Her interests include childhood obesity prevention, nutrition therapy for eating disorders, and nutrition support. In the future, she hopes to obtain a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) certification and work in a hospital.

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Carly Belko

Carley Belko

Carly is an undergraduate student planning on majoring in Biobehavioral Health. She is currently a research assistant for the Decision-Making Study, but has also worked on different studies including the Energy Balance Study. Carly aspires to become a physician assistant focusing on clinical research.

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Maria Bermudez

Maria Bermudez

Maria is from Guayaquil, Ecuador. She received her B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Penn State University. She is currently a research assistant for the Commercial Study and leads the Test Retest Study. Maria plans to attend to graduate school where she will focus on Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Her ultimate goal is to conduct research in Ecuador that would lead to the development of successful nutritional programs through collaborations with governments, nonprofit organizations, and food planning/food delivery systems at a scale that would reach populations diverse in age and lifestyle. She is motivated to return to Ecuador after graduate school and work with national health and nutrition programs, to improve the level of nutrition available to all people in Ecuador.

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Lauren Firetto

Lauren Firetto

Lauren is an undergraduate student majoring in Nutritional Sciences and minoring in Biology. She began working in the Metabolic Kitchen in January of 2016, and is currently a research assistant for the Decision-Making Study. Upon graduation, she plans to attend dental school and specialize in pediatric dentistry. She truly enjoys working with children and looks forward to learning more about how food-based decisions differ amongst healthy and overweight children.

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Ella Lundquist

Ella Lundquist

Ella is a senior majoring in Nutritional Sciences in the Dietetics option and is a member of the Schreyer Honors College. She began working in the Metabolic Kitchen in October of 2016 and is currently a research assistant for the Commercials Study. In addition, Ella is writing her Honors Thesis on how specific coping behaviors during a Delay Discounting paradigm influence caloric intake in children ages 7-9. After graduation, Ella hopes to become a Registered Dietitian and work in a clinical pediatric unit. Her interests in the field of nutrition include pediatric care, eating behaviors and disorders, and chronic disease.

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Nicole Reigh

Nicole Reigh

Nicole is a senior majoring in Nutritional Sciences with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. She began working in the Metabolic Kitchen in April of 2015, and has worked on several different studies including the Children’s Taste Study, the Decision Making Study, and the McCormick Study. In addition to being a research assistant, she also works as a research interviewer at the Penn State Diet Assessment Center. Upon graduation, Nicole hopes to become a Registered Dietitian and obtain a master’s degree in Health Policy. Her interests include early childhood nutrition and development, prenatal nutrition and childhood obesity prevention. In the future, Nicole hopes to obtain a position in government working with food industry regulation.

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Ariel Weidler

Ariel Weidler

Ariel is a senior majoring in Nutritional Sciences in the Dietetics option with a minor in Psychology. She began working in the Metabolic Kitchen in April of 2016 and took over the Hunger and Fullness Study. Ariel is an active member of the Student Nutrition Association and was recently as the PR/Social chair. Upon graduation, Ariel hopes to become a Registered Dietitian and work in a clinical setting with young children. Her interests include childhood obesity prevention and early childhood development. In the future, she hopes to work in a children's hospital.

View Ariel Weidler's Resume