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The People of the Elizabeth Ryan Lab


 Contact Us

  • ​Lab Office:  970-491-2100
  • Dr. Ryan's Office: 970-491-1536

Elizabeth Ryan, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor

Dr. Ryan is an Assistant Professor in the Toxicology section of ERHS. Her research explores the complex interactions of food components with gut microbiota and the immune system.  Her interests span both enteric disease and cancer control and prevention, with collaborators and translational application to the broader fields of microbiology, immunology, oncology, pediatrics and nutrition.  Dr. Ryan's global health research program also includes developing innovative solutions to food systems that will enhance food security.  The multi-platform research strategy for the research group covers molecular biology, laboratory animal models, companion animals, and human trials.  She also holds joint appointments with the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, the Colorado School of Public Health, and the University of Colorado Cancer Center

Erica Borresen, MPH,
Research Associate 

Erica Borresen received her Master of Public Health (MPH) at the Colorado School of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health and Health Disparities in 2012.  She has worked for over six years coordinating and planning public health research studies, particularly focusing on health promotion through dietary interventions.  As the Public Health Nutrition and Clinical Trials Research Coordinator in the Ryan Lab, Erica manages the implementation of the human clinical trials and public health research activities.  She has also received training in the Community Readiness Model to provide context and understanding on how a public health issue is perceived and what types of strategies can be developed at the community level to provide sustainable solutions that improve overall health.  Her research interest in public health nutrition and behavior change to prevent both infectious and chronic diseases provides a strong role in clinical trials that aids in the translation of research from bench to bedside and beyond.

Luis Enrique Zambrana Gutiérrez, MD, MPH,
MTOX Student

Luis Zambrana is a Fulbright Masters student in the Toxicology program. He graduated from the University of Nicaragua, where he became a physician. After completing medical school, he completed one year of social service in Waspan, an extremely poor and isolated rural region along the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. At the end of his social service, Luis started to work for the NGO, “Save the Children.”

During his work at Save the Children, Luis was located in the town of Achuapa, the area with the highest poverty rate within the Department of León, Nicaragua. During this time there, he developed a Community Nutrition Program for children under five years of age, called “PROCOSAN”, and a Birth Plan Program for community women in the rural reaches of Achuapa. Later, he started to work at the Centre for Demographic and Health Research in León, Nicaragua that is part of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, where he made a master in science focus on epidemiology.  He also had the opportunity to work in different health research projects in Nicaragua, in collaboration with other universities such as UNC University of Chapel Hill and Uppsala University in Sweden. The studies range from the causes of childhood diarrhea, rotavirus vaccine effectiveness, and household management of diarrhea in Nicaragua.

Luis is part of the Rice bran clinical trial, first as part of the field team that collected information and samples from the Nicaraguan children cohort, and currently working with the analysis of these samples.  

Hannah Haberecht,
Undergraduate Student

Hannah is an undergraduate student studying Biomedical Sciences.  She hopes to eventually join the Peace Corps.



Katherine Li, MTOX Student

Katherine is a Masters candidate in Toxicology at Colorado State University. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology and Immunology from the University of Toronto, where she worked on developing assays for drug screening applications. Prior to coming to Colorado, Katherine worked for several years as an Associate in the Food & Nutrition Group at Intertek Scientific & Regulatory Consultancy, where she was involved in the evaluation of toxicological data for the safety assessment of food ingredients across global jurisdictions, as well as in the critical analysis of human clinical studies for the scientific substantiation of food health claims. Her current research is focused on investigating the effects of navy bean and rice bran consumption on the plasma metabolome of children with elevated cholesterol, as well as identifying dietary biomarkers of intake. Having grown up on 3 continents, Katherine has a penchant for collaborating with people with diverse backgrounds to generate health solutions that have major global impacts. Outside of the lab, Katherine can be found doodling in her sketchbook, booking her next adventure, or taste-testing the best foods in town.

Nora Jean Nealon, DVM/Ph.D. Student

Nora is currently a DVM/PhD student at Colorado State University. She received her B.S. from Rutgers University: School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in 2013, where she majored in veterinary science, nutrition, and biology, and minored in endocrinology and companion animal science. Pursuing a career in veterinary medicine is a bit of a lifelong dream; growing up, she thought of doing nothing else. However, throughout high school and college, she developed deeper interests in science and research. As an undergraduate, she was involved in many projects investigating the roles of diet and nutrition in behavior, development, and reproduction. Simultaneously, while working in veterinary clinics and student teaching, she realized how critical effective scientific communication is between clinicians, investigators, and the public. These experiences made me aware of how valuable pursuing a dual degree could be, and influenced her to come to CVMBS.

Her current research focuses on understanding how rice bran influences the metabolism of probiotic gut microbes. Probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, are found natively in the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and many animals. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that consuming rice bran can increase the health-promoting activities of these probiotic species, specifically their ability to protect the host from enteric pathogens. With her research, she is investigating how rice bran enhances the ability of probiotics to reduce the growth and virulence of Salmonella and Rotavirus. Using metabolomics-based approaches, she is evaluating the small molecules produced by probiotics as they break down rice bran, and working to understand how these profiles of molecules reduce or eliminate these enteric diseases in the host.

In addition, she works on projects that evaluate novel diets for companion dog health and weight loss. The marked rise in canine obesity over the past few decades emphasizes that there is a need to develop health-promoting, sustainable diets for our dogs. Using plant-based ingredients such as rice bran and beans are one way that this can be accomplished. Furthermore, this work ties directly into our understanding of probiotic metabolism; a dog’s microbiome and its diet are inextricably linked. Therefore, creating a diet that maintains a healthy microbiome is crucial to ensure the health of our pet dogs.

In the future, Nora would like to work to further our understanding of small animal nutrition, so that translationally, we can feed our dogs better to give them a higher quality of life. Outside of school, she enjoys baking, listening to music, and tutoring high school and undergraduate students. Most of all, she loves spending time with animals, including her lovely west highland white terrier Sir Winston!   her lovely west highland white terrier Sir Winston!  

Renee Oppel,
Research Associate

Renee Oppel began studying Food Science and Human Nutrition at Texas A&M University in 2005 and graduated from Colorado State University in 2010 with a BS in Nutrition and Exercise Science. After graduation she began teaching hot yoga and traveling abroad. She became interested and involved in local sustainable food systems around the world which further developed her love for helping people live a healthier life through nutrition and exercise. She continued her education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition becoming a certified holistic health coach. In 2015, she moved back to Fort Collins and began working as a Research Associate in the Ryan Lab. Her passion and appreciation for environmental and health sciences continues to expand as she studies metabolomics and the nutritional benefits of whole grains and legumes. She hopes to contribute her time and energy to create a healthier planet and happier life for people in her local community and abroad.

Iman Zarei,
Visiting Research Fellow

Iman Zarei is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. He is currently enrolled in the PhD program in Human Nutrition at the University of the Philippines Los Banos and completed his B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology in Iran. Iman received his Master’s in Biochemistry at the University of Pune, India. He worked over three years as a researcher/PhD scholar at Grain Quality and Nutrition Center (GQNC) as well as Genetic Transformation Laboratory (GTL) of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. Iman's work at IRRI included rice metabolomics experiments and development of predictive models as well as iron and zing biofortification in rice.  His PhD research is focused on identification of dietary biomarkers using metabolomics from human intervention studies including "Beans/Bran Enriching Nutritional Eating For Intestinal Health Trial (BENEFIT)" and "Effect of Rice Bran and Cooked Navy Beans on Cholesterol Levels in Healthy Children". His passion for food and disease prevention in humans led him to pursue an education in Human Nutrition and join Dr. Ryan’s lab. Cooking is a relaxing and enjoyable hobby for him and, as a nutritionist, he likes to add new healthy twists to traditional dishes.

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