Our People


Jamie A. Cooper, PhD

Director, UGA Obesity Initiative
William P “Bill” Flatt Professor,
Department of Nutritional Sciences

Profile | Email | 706-542-4903

Dr. Cooper has been a faculty member in the Department Nutritional Sciences since 2015. She holds BS and MS degrees in Kinesiology (exercise physiology) from Michigan State University and a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. As the Director of the Human Nutrition Lab, Dr. Cooper’s research focuses on the impact of obesity on health through the use of clinical nutrition interventions in adults. More specifically, her research interests are aimed at studying how nutrients, diets, and/or exercise impact energy balance regulation and obesity risk. Her lab also studies innovative behavior modification techniques to prevent weight gain during susceptible times of the year, such as holidays and vacations. Dr. Cooper’s work has led to a number of peer-reviewed articles, books, and book chapters as well as several externally funded projects. She has been actively involved in graduate student, undergraduate student and postdoctoral fellow mentoring while also holding several leadership positions with The Obesity Society, the American Society for Nutrition, and UGA.

In her role as Director of the Obesity Initiative, Dr. Cooper provides strategic direction for the Initiative while fostering multi-disciplinary, collaborate research in the areas of obesity treatment and prevention. She will continue to foster the presently established affiliations and work to build new collaborations with other entities at UGA and outside Universities. In addition to coordinating the annual research symposium, Dr. Cooper is looking forward to assisting faculty with their obesity-related research needs to ensure the highest quality of obesity research at UGA.

Program Staff Support

Donna Holcomb

Program Staff Support, UGA Obesity Initiative
Program Coordinator, Department of  Nutritional Sciences

Profile | Email | 706-542-9920

advisory committee

Michelle vanDellen, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

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Dr. vanDellen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology. She earned her PhD in Social Psychology from Duke University. Her research expertise spans self- regulation processes, including management of physical activity, healthy eating, and smoking. She uses a cognitive-motivational approach to understand how people pursue multiple goals through individual and interpersonal means. Her interests in Obesity research include developing behavioral interventions to prevent and treat obesity by improving behavioral regulation strategies. She has published in leading journals including Psychological Review, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Jennifer Gay, PhD

Associate Professor
Health Promotion & Behavior, Institute of Gerontology

Profile | Email | 706-542-6698

Dr. Jennifer Gay conducts research in the area of physical activity and public health. More specifically her interests include how built environment and social contexts influence physical activity in children, adolescents and adults. Since joining the University of Georgia, Dr. Gay has focused primarily on the health benefits of occupational physical activity and how to increase time spent in activity during work hours. Her secondary areas of interest include built and social environment determinants of activity, growth and maturation as indicators of decreases in physical activity, measurement and methodological issues in physical activity research, and program evaluation.

Nathan T. Jenkins, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Kinesiology

Profile | Email | 706-542-0631

Nathan Jenkins, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Kinesiology. With longstanding interests in exercise, obesity, and cardiovascular disorders, key findings from Dr. Jenkins’ research include (i) exercise favorably influences novel and traditional cardiometabolic health markers; (ii) exercise improves postprandial lipemic, glycemic, and cardiovascular responses to meal challenges, and (iii) the benefits of exercise and pharmacologic treatments for type 2 diabetes are additive and operate through different mechanisms. The current aim of Dr. Jenkins’ research is to test the overall hypothesis that the power of exercise to improve health is found toward the anaerobic end of the metabolic spectrum. Ongoing studies are examining the impact of high intensity functional training on an array of physiological and clinical markers of cardiometabolic disease.


Chad Paton, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Nutritional Sciences, Department of Food Science and Technology

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Dr. Paton studies the transcriptional regulation of metabolism. His research is focused on the role of functional foods and nutritional factors that regulate metabolic activity. He is actively investigating compounds that act as ligands for DNA-binding transcription factors to alter epigenetic regulation of metabolism.

apply for affiliation

Affiliates of the Obesity Initiative (OI) represent a variety of disciplines across campus. Anyone carrying out obesity-related research may request to become an Affiliate of the OI.