Our faculty members are internationally known for their groundbreaking research in the area of Maternal and Child Nutrition, and have been highly influential in shaping both U.S. and international policy with respect to maternal and child health. Specific professional and research interests of participating faculty include:

  • The influence of diet during pregnancy on embryonic and fetal development
  • Zinc metabolism during pregnancy and lactation
  • Teratogenic effects of deficiencies and excesses of trace elements
  • Nutritional status, growth, and development of infants
  • Risk factors for insufficient breast milk production
  • Impact of maternal nutrition and exercise on lactation
  • Complementary feeding of breastfed infants
  • Determinants of infant feeding practices
  • Causes, complications, treatment, and prevention of childhood malnutrition in developing countries
  • Assessment of child growth in developed and developing countries
  • Association between infection and nutritional status in infants and children
  • Food intake and health outcomes among diverse populations
  • Nutrition interventions in young children
  • Breast milk's role in preventing gastrointestinal diseases in infants

Reina Engle-StoneReina Engle-Stone, Ph.D.is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis. She researches global public health nutrition, with a focus on micronutrient nutrition among women and young children in low-income settings. Research themes include planning, monitoring, and evaluation of food fortification programs; cost-effectiveness and coherence among micronutrient intervention programs, and nutritional assessment.  


Jane HeinigJane Heinig, Ph.D., IBCLC, is an academic administrator in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis and the executive director of the UC Davis Human Lactation Center. She is an international board-certified lactation consultant. Heinig’s research area is maternal and child nutrition in public health settings, focusing on infant feeding and lactation. Current topics of investigation include: a) behavioral theory and its relation to infant and toddler feeding intentions and practices among diverse populations; b) translation and scale-up of research findings to broad-scale programmatic interventions, c) influence of medical practices and policies on breastfeeding rates; and d) behavioral factors influencing growth trajectories of infants and toddlers.


Carl KeenCarl L. Keen, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis. Keen's research group has three main areas of activities. The first concerns the influence of diet on embryonic and fetal development. A major theme in his laboratory is that a significant proportion of birth defects are the consequence of embryonic and/or fetal malnutrition. Thus, the correction of nutritional deficiencies during early development should result in a marked reduction in pregnancy complications. A second research theme in his group is the study of gene-nutrient interactions, with an emphasis on how subtle changes in cell mineral concentrations influence the expression of select genes. The third major research theme in his laboratory is the study of how diet influences oxidant defense systems, and as a consequence the occurrence of cellular oxidative damage. Keen was awarded the American Institute of Nutrition Bio-Serv Award in Experimental Animal Nutrition in 1985 and the American Institute of Nutrition Research Award (the Bordon Award) in 1995.


Elizabeth PradoElizabeth Prado, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis. Her research focuses on nutrition and child development, caregiving, health and other influences on child development in low-resource settings, as well as evaluating programs and policies to support child development, cross-cultural developmental and cognitive assessment. She directs the Translational Research in Early Life Learning for Impact at Scale (TRELLIS) lab, which researches efficacy; effectiveness and impact evaluations; longitudinal cohort studies; systematic reviews and meta-analyses; and methodological studies and reviews on assessing child development and cognition in low-income contexts. 


Christine StewartChristine Stewart, Ph.D., M.P.H., is an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis. Her research is related to maternal and child nutrition in low income communities, primarily in developing country settings. Her focus is on both the immediate and long-term effects of poor nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood on birth outcomes, infant and child survival, child growth, and risk of chronic disease in later life.


Mark Underwood, M.D., M.S.A., is an associate professor of clinical pediatrics and the chief of the Division of Neonatology, UC Davis Health System. His clinical activities are in the care of premature and sick newborn infants in the neonatal intensive care unit at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Dr. Underwood’s research focuses on the gastrointestinal disease necrotizing enterocolitis; development of intestinal innate immunity; and mechanisms of action of probiotics and prebiotics in pre-term infants. His research projects include clinical trials of probiotics and prebiotics in premature infants, analysis of human milk oligosaccharides and human milk peptides, and animal models of necrotizing enterocolitis.