Faculty Listing


Mario G. Ferruzzi, Ph.D.
Director of ACNC
Dr. Ferruzzi is a Professor and Chief of the Section of Developmental Nutrition in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  He received his B.S. (1996) in Chemistry from Duke University and Ph.D. (2001) in Food Science and Nutrition from The Ohio State University.  Dr. Ferruzzi joined the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center as the Director in 2021 having previously served on as a David H. Murdock Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute (2016-2021) and as a Professor of Food Science and Nutrition Science at Purdue University (2004-2016).  Dr. Ferruzzi’s research interest interface of agriculture, food, and nutrition sciences in the study of micronutrient and phytochemical bioavailability, metabolism, and impact to human health.  He has a particular interest in strategies that can be leveraged to improve the nutritional and functional quality of food products for at risk populations.

Aline Andres, Ph.D.
Associate Director of ACNC
Dr. Andres is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS, leads the Clinical Research Core and directs the Clinical Nutrition Lab at ACNC. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture, a Master’s in Nutrition, and a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She joined the ACNC in 2007 as a Postdoctoral Fellow before being appointed as to the faculty in 2008. Her research interests are focused on optimizing pediatric nutrition to prevent childhood and adult diseases, and on understanding the effects of the pregnancy environment on the future health and development of children. When not working, she enjoys time outside with her family and friends, yoga, meditation, travelling, cooking and eating!


Elisabet Børsheim, Ph.D.
Associate Director of ACNC
Dr. Børsheim is a Professor in both the Department of Pediatrics and Department of Geriatrics at UAMS, serves as the Director of the ACNC Physical Activity Core Laboratory and leads the Physical Activity, Energetics and Metabolism Research Lab. She has a B.Sc. in Sport Sciences and a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and also a B.Sc. in Natural Sciences and a M.Sc. in Physiology from the University of Oslo, Norway. Before coming to Little Rock in 2013, she was the Metabolism Unit Director at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Galveston, and Associate Professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Her research interests are in the regulation of metabolic processes, specifically related to muscle protein, regional fat, and energy metabolism, and how physical activity affects health and development throughout the lifespan.


Jin-Ran Chen, Ph.D.
Dr. Chen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS, and directs the Bone Development Lab at ACNC. He received his M.S. and Ph.D., both in Bone Biochemistry, from Hamamatsu University in Japan, and an M.D. from China Medical University. He has been a researcher at ACNC since 2005, where his interests revolve around bone health and skeletal development in early life. He is currently studying how dietary phytochemicals from blueberries and soy affect skeletal development and bone growth. Other studies are exploring how maternal obesity impacts bone health in offspring, and the influence of diet and obesity on bone cell metabolism. When Dr. Chen is not at work, he enjoys running and fishing.


Sree V. Chintapalli, Ph.D.
Dr. Chintapalli is an Assistant Professor for the Developmental Nutrition Section in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS, and serves as a Bioinformatician at ACNC. He received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biochemistry from Andhra University, India, and a Ph.D. degree in Bioinformatics from The University of Essex, U.K. Before joining ACNC as a visiting scientist in May 2015, he worked as a postdoctoral computational biologist in both Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and University of California, Davis (UCD). His main research interest involves elucidation of protein molecular structures and their interactions with ligands (such as metabolites) using computational and biochemical tools. His current studies focus on understanding the role of myoglobin interaction with fatty acids and their derivatives in skeletal muscle. As a part of the ACNC Informatics Team, he collaborates on experiments that involve RNA-Seq, transcriptomics, microbiome and metagenomics analyses.

Dr. Eva Diaz, M.D., MMSc.
Dr. Diaz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS, and a member of the Physical Activity, Energetics and Metabolism Research Lab. She obtained her M.D. degree from Universidad Evangelica de El Salvador, completed a residency in Pediatrics from Universidad de El Salvador, and attained a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences with a focus in metabolism at the Unviersity of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. She joined the ACNC in 2013, initially as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Her main research interests are related to the roles of physical activity and diet during gestation on maternal-offspring health and childhood development. Outside of research, Dr. Diaz likes to swim, cook, read and spend time with her daughter.



Renny Lan, Ph.D.
Dr. Renny Lan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS and serves as the Director of the Metabolomics and Analytical Chemistry Core at ACNC. He received his B.S. in Microbiology at Soochow University in Taiwan, and continued his master’s study in Environmental Microbiology at North Carolina State University. He then moved to Washington DC to meet his wife and worked as a lab manager in a proteoglycomics lab at Georgetown University. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Program at The Ohio State University where his research mainly involves metabolomics and data science. Before joining ACNC, he was an Instructor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UAMS and worked at the UAMS Proteomics Core. Renny enjoys sports and music. He is also an active member of Immanuel Baptist Chinese Church where he leads Bible study and worship team.


Linda Larson-Prior, Ph.D.
Dr. Larson-Prior is a Professor of Psychiatry, Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences and Neurology at UAMS, and Director of the ACNC Brain Lab. Her laboratory research focuses on the interactions between the brain and sleep across the lifespan, and in both health and disease. The laboratory uses a number of neuroimaging tools to study this, from electroencephalography (EEG) to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), using both tasks and quiet wake. She is part of a large international team of investigators tasked with defining the brain connection patterns in normal adult human subjects based on both fMRI and magnetoencephalography (MEG), where she led the MEG operational team and is currently lecturing in MEG for the annual HCP course. This approach to looking at the way the brain works is called “connectomics,” and is another important tool her laboratory uses to better understand the role of behavioral and neural state on function across the lifespan.

Xiawei Ou, Ph.D.
Dr. Xiawei Ou received his doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University in 2007 with a concentration in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He continued his research at Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science as a research fellow before he joined the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and became a faculty member of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Dr. Ou’s past research includes the development of new quantitative MRI methods and their applications on small animal imaging. His current research focuses on using advanced pediatric neuroimaging methods to study brain injury in infants with extremely low birth weight and to evaluate the effects of nutrition/obesity on brain development in healthy children.

Brian D. Piccolo, Ph.D.
Dr. Piccolo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS. He received his B.S. in Nutritional Sciences at Bastyr University in 2006 and a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biology at the University of California, Davis in 2012. He did postdoctoral fellowships in Bioinformatics at the West Coast Metabolomics Center and the USDA-ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis. He joined ACNC in 2015 and is now the Associate Director of the Biostatistics and Data Innovation Team. His holistic approach to research utilizes “Big Data” (i.e., coupling “omics” platforms, clinical parameters, physical activity measurements, nutrition and lifestyle variables) in order to identify individual phenotypes reflective of health status. Outside of his work, Dr. Piccolo likes to cook and travel with his wife, and enjoys racquetball and biking.


Craig Porter, Ph.D.
Dr. Porter is an Associate Professor in the Developmental Nutrition Section of the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS. He came from the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he was an Associate Professor within the Department of Surgery and the Director of the Metabolism Unit at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Galveston. Craig received his undergraduate degree in exercise physiology and nutrition from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, before moving to the University of Nottingham in England, where he undertook his Ph.D – studying the role of carnitine availability in the integration of skeletal muscle carbohydrate and fat oxidation. In 2011, he took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch. There he developed an interest in the mitochondrion, spending much of his time studying the role that these organelles play in the metabolic stress response to severe burn injuries. At ACNC, he plans to establish a bioenergetics themed research program focused on better understanding the impact of nutrition, physical activity and chronic disease on cellular energetics.

Taren M. Swindle, Ph.D.
Dr. Swindle is an Assistant Professor in both the Family and Preventive Medicine Department and the Department of Pediatrics within the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the College of Public Health. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Master’s degrees in Human Development and Family Science and Clinical Nutrition, and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research from the University of Memphis. Broadly, her research program focuses on understanding and improving health and developmental outcomes for children impacted by poverty. Dr. Swindle has a particular focus on obesity prevention and nutrition promotion for young children in low-income families. She is interested in increasing adoption of evidence-based practices and interventions in community settings through application of Implementation Science. Taren enjoys golf, Crossfit, travel, hiking and pursuing Christian discipleship.

Keshari M. Thakali, Ph.D.
Dr. Thakali is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS, and directs the ACNC Vascular Programming Lab. She received her Bachelor’s in Environmental Science at the University of Arizona and received her Ph.D. in Cardiovascular Pharmacology at Michigan State University. She has been working at the ACNC since September 2011, initially as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research interests are maternal programming and development of the cardiovascular system in health and disease. Current research projects in her lab include a project studying how maternal diet affects the offspring’s cardiovascular system and a project to study how exercise modifies the function of perivascular adipose and underlying blood vessels. When she is not in the lab, she is an avid mountain biker and rock climber.


Umesh D. Wankhade, Ph.D.
Dr. Wankhade is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS and directs the Metabolic Programming Lab at the ACNC. He graduated with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Nagpur, India in 2003, and a Ph.D. in Human Nutrition from Virginia Tech University in 2010. Before joining ACNC in 2015, Dr. Wankhade was at the National Institutes for Health (NIDDK) as a postdoctoral fellow studying the role of TGF b signaling in adipose tissue development. His research interests are the developmental origins of adipose tissue and its impact on offspring health. Outside of research, Dr. Wankhade enjoys reading, watching football and tennis, and listening to podcasts.


D. Keith Williams, M.P.H., Ph.D.
Dr. Williams is Director of Biostatistics and Data Innovation at ACNC, as well as a Professor and Vice-Chair of Education in the Department of Biostatistics at UAMS in the Colleges of Medicine and Public Health. He received his B.S. in Mathematics Education at the University of Central Oklahoma, a M.S. in Statistics at Oklahoma State University, and a Ph.D. in Biostatistics at the University of Oklahoma. He joined UAMS in 1998. His research interests are in areas of linear models, graphics, and simulation methods. Outside of work, he enjoys cycling, tennis, fly-fishing, and music.

In Memoriam

R. Terry Pivik, Ph.D.
Dr. Pivik was a Research Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAMS and directed the ACNC Brain Function Laboratory. He obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Psychology from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology from Stanford University. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School. He had been at ACNC since 2000. His research interests were in nutrition, developmental neurophysiology, psychophysiology, developmental cognitive neuroscience, and the physiology and psychology of sleep. He was studying the effects of early infant diet on brain development and function from infancy to preadolescence.

Collaborating Faculty