Research Opportunities

Research Opportunities

Students presenting research posters at conference

Research Opportunities in Dietetics and Human Nutrition

Faculty and staff in Dietetics and Human Nutrition encourage students to become involved in undergraduate research and appreciate the support of undergraduate students in many of their research projects. In some cases, students may earn research course credit (1-3 credit hours) for DHN 591: Special Topics in Dietetics and Human Nutrition. For more information about undergraduate research, how to get involved, and potential sources of funding, visit the University of Kentucky Office of Undergraduate Research

Explore the world of opportunity that awaits you in Dietetics or Human Nutrition research alongside our world class faculty members.

Makenzie Barr


About Dr. Barr’s Research: My research focuses largely on two populations (1) bariatric surgery populations in Appalachia to provide support for individuals post-operatively through avenues such as dietary and mental health and (2) young adult populations/college students and chronic disease prevention. I use community-based participatory research (CBPR) and mixed methods approaches (qualitative and quantitative data) to work with, and understand, a population more extensively.

Undergrad Research Activities: Common activities include body composition testing, focus group note taking, writing literature reviews, data entry and data cleaning.

Top Qualities Dr. Barr Looks for in Student Researchers: Critical thinker, motivated and collaborative

Fall 2022: This fall, Dr. Barr is seeking 3 students to work on a bariatric surgery texting intervention and a college student health intervention. Contact her at to learn about more about these opportunities.

About Dr. Bastin’s Research: Working with small-volume producers, my research is designed to assist farmers in value-added product development and entrepreneurship for economic development. Additional food systems research revolves around the environmental, economic, health, and community benefits of local food systems in order to provide practitioners, community members, and interested consumers with the knowledge to make informed decisions. My Extension youth nutrition education and cooking programs are designed to enhance participants' nutrition knowledge, food preparation skills, cooking self-efficacy, and intention to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Bastin is currently working on an Extension educational curriculum to enhance the understanding and excitement of different cultures through food preparation. The series, Travel the World without Leaving Your Kitchen - International Cooking Series, includes publications, recipes, and other supplemental materials. This year, German Inspired Classics, Traditions of the Emerald Isle, and The Foods of Greece were part of a virtual cook-along series, where Extension Family and Consumer Science Agents inspired their county residents to learn about the history and participate in hands-on preparation of these countries’ foods. Dr. Bastin is looking for individuals who are interested in researching the culinary history of other countries and writing an education publication. If you are interested in exploring the world, please contact Dr. Bastin. The next countries to be explored might include Israel, India, Egypt, Thailand, and Portugal, or any place you might be interested in.

Undergrad Research Activities: Common activities include Extension publication and curriculum development and educational presentations, as well as program development.

Top Qualities Dr. Bastin Looks for in Student Researchers: Desire to Learn, Contagious Enthusiasm, Strong Core Values, Good Conversationalist and Presenter, Independent

Fall 2022: Contact Dr. Bastin to learn about opportunities.

Sandra Bastin


Dawn Brewer


About Dr. Brewer’s Research: The purpose of my research is to encourage people to increase the quantity and variety of fruit and vegetable consumption. I work with community leaders to develop community nutrition education programs that in some cases provide community members with access to fruits and vegetables. I also develop Cooperative Extension education materials that teach people how to protect their health from environmental pollutants by eating healthy. More information about current projects can be found here by scrolling down to the "activities" section of the Superfund Research Center website

Undergrad Research Activities: Dr. Brewer needs an undergraduate to assist her graduate students with developing an Extension Curriculum focused on healthy eating and sustainability. Other activities include helping with data entry and qualitative data analysis (no experience necessary).

Top Qualities Dr. Brewer Looks for in Student Researchers: dependable, good with people, good writing skills, can research literature on various topics and pays attention to detail even during monotonous tasks

Fall 2022: Contact Dr. Brewer to learn more.

About Dr. Flack’s Research: My research focuses on improving weight loss and weight loss maintenance. I have a background in exercise science and a lot of my work is looking at how exercise can influence eating behaviors and be better used for weight loss, focusing on skeletal muscle metabolism and the neuroscience of eating.

Undergrad Research Activities: Common activities include working with human volunteers to test body composition, metabolic rate, exercise capacity and other clinical tests related to health and obesity.

Top Qualities Dr. Flack Looks for in Student Researchers: Eager to learn, good interpersonal skills and reliable

Fall 2022: Contact Dr. Flack to learn about opportunities.

Open Research Studies:

  • You're Invited for Exercise Research Study - Researchers at the University of Kentucky are seeking men and women who do not currently exercise for a 12-week study. Download flyer for more details and to see if you are eligible.
  • Exercise Study Now Enrolling - Researchers at the University of Kentucky are conducting a study to see how exercise may change cognitive performance. Download flyer for more details and to see if you are eligible.

Kyle Flack


Courtney Leucking


About Dr. Luecking’s Research: The SNACK Lab has a mission of Supporting Nutritious and Active Children in Kentucky. We focus on multi-level interventions that support the creation and maintenance of healthy environments and practices that promote healthy eating patterns and active play during the prenatal to preschool period. My research aims to better understand how health promotion interventions work, for whom they work, under what conditions they produce successful change, and testing strategies to support adoption and implementation of interventions. 

Undergrad Research Activities: Dr. Luecking is seeking support for a content analysis to determine how obesity and weight have been represented in professional development opportunities for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists over the past 20 years. Duties include training, certification on, and application of a coding protocol. Estimated time commitment is ~5 hours per week for the duration of the semester. We plan to collect a lot of information, so there could be opportunities to identify research questions and conduct secondary data analyses of the data set. 

Top Qualities Dr. Luecking Looks for in Student Researchers: Critical thinker, detail-oriented, strong interpersonal skills 

Fall 2022: Contact Dr. Luecking to learn about opportunities

About Dr. Norman-Burgdolf’s Research: My research examines the role of Cooperative Extension Agents as a form of primary prevention for diet-related diseases in rural Kentucky. We look at the impact of Extension Agents on knowledge gained in clientele through direct education focused on nutrition and healthy living. In addition, we look at improvements to the built environment facilitated by Extension Agents as a form of obesity and diabetes prevention.

Undergrad Research Activities: Common activities include data entry and cleaning

Top Qualities Dr. Norman-Burgdolf Looks for in Student Researchers: Detail-oriented, hard-working and enthusiastic

Fall 2022: Contact Dr. Norman-Burgdolf to learn about opportunities.

Heather Norman


Julie Plasencia


About Dr. Plasencia’s Research: 

My research focuses on designing and conducting mixed-methods studies in various aspects of health disparities, mainly focusing on cultural food practices of Hispanics/Latinos. Most of my work is applied research, a methodology used to solve practical problems, particularly in ways that nutrition and dietetics professionals can use. 

  • 2022-2024: I am currently seeking students who speak Spanish to assist with two nutrition-related studies with Latinx families.
  • To learn about other opportunities visit

Undergrad Research Activities: Other common activities include weekly lab group meetings, learning to do data analysis using various software, writing results and methods, and experience presenting at campus or regional conferences.

Top Qualities Dr. Plasencia Looks for in Student Researchers: Ability to effectively multitask task (maintaining course grades & work on research projects), organized, resourceful and problem-solver

Fall 2022: Contact Dr. Plasencia to learn about opportunities

About Dr. Stephenson’s Research: My research has four main areas of focus - increasing consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables, developing innovative strategies to address food insecurity, understanding the role of diet in optimizing exercise performance, and developing learner-centered teaching strategies.

Undergrad Research Activities: Common activities include surveying at farmers markets throughout Kentucky, assisting with on-campus survey collection and entering data, developing and evaluating programming (e.g. Farm-to-Fork program providing healthy meals to UK students).

Top Qualities Dr. Stephenson Looks for in Student Researchers: Enthusiastic, personable, creative, innovative and detail-oriented

Fall 2022: Contact Dr. Stephenson to learn about opportunities.

Tammy Stephenson


Connect With Us

Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition

204 Funkhouser Building
Lexington, KY 40506


Dr. Tammy Stephenson

DHN Department Chair

Contact Dr. Tammy Stephenson


Office of Undergraduate Research

Contact the Office

Contact Information

Dr. Tammy J. Stephenson, PhD, FAND
Department Chair & Professor

202 Funkhouser Building Lexington, KY 40506-0054

+1 (859) 257-3800