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


Lauren Au, Ph.D, R.D.

Lauren Au, Ph.D., R.D., examines the research of dietary intakes and the food environment to prevent obesity in low-income, racially diverse infants and children. Her focus is on understanding how to promote healthier eating and prevent obesity in federal nutrition assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and the National School Lunch Program.


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 Heinig headshot

Jane 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.


Adrienne Hoyt-Austin, M.D.

Adrienne Hoyt-Austin, M.D., is a pediatrician and clinical researcher in breastfeeding medicine. She practices general pediatrics to provide patient-centered care from prenatal, pediatric visits through adolescence. Her clinical practice is primarily based at Sacramento County Health Center. She works with families in her practice to provide evidence-based preventive care to the children in our community and hopes to participate in national and local research regarding infant feeding decisions. Her long-term goal is to train the next generation of physicians to manage common breastfeeding problems.


Laura Kair, M.D., M.A.S.

Laura Kair, M.D., M.A.S., serves as the medical director of Well-Newborn Care at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. She works clinically in the mother-baby postpartum unit and as a pediatric hospitalist on the pediatric hospital medicine service. She conducts clinical research focused on improving maternal and child health by designing and implementing evidence-based interventions to overcome breastfeeding barriers and disparities.


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. 

Francene Steinberg, Ph.D., R.D.

Francene M. Steinberg, Ph.D., R.D., is a professor and department chair at UC Davis whose research focuses on the physiologic effects of bioactive food components to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular and obesity-related chronic diseases. Her research aims to examine nutritional phenotypes of individuals responding to intakes of food phytochemicals and characterize metabolic responses that promote health and chronic disease risk reduction.


Christine Stewart, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Christine 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.