MS Program Faculty
Each year, our core teaching faculty are joined by adjunct faculty and guest lecturers who are at the top of their fields to bring you a world-class, cutting-edge education.
Brooke Aggarwal, EdD, MS, FAHA
Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences
Dr. Brooke Aggarwal is an Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences in the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. As a behavioral scientist and clinical health education specialist, her program of research focuses on the impact of behavioral and psychosocial factors on adherence to cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines, and the application of novel educational strategies to improve lifestyle behaviors.
Sharon Akabas, PhD
Former MS Program Director
I received a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science from Columbia University and recently retired from my role as Director of the MS in Nutrition at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, and Associate Director for Educational Initiatives. I have taught for over 35 years at Columbia University, first at Teachers College, and currently at The Institute of Human Nutrition. In 2010, I was awarded the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, Columbia University. The courses ranged from Advanced Nutrition, Growth and Development, to Nutritional Ecology, Women and Weight, and Obesity: Etiology, Prevention and Treatment, and Essentials of Nutrition Counseling and Medical Nutrition Therapy. I have organized several symposia in recent years; the goal of the symposia has been to convene national and international experts on controversial topics, and to make recommendations for research, practice and policy. I have also worked nationally on the integration of nutrion within inter-professional education. Most recently I have focused on childhood obesity with an emphasis on working with communities to develop prevention strategies. I have also acted in a consulting capacity to sports teams, government agencies, and private industry on issues relating to the translation of science to public policy and to clinical and public health settings.
Kim Hekimian, PhD
MS Program Director, Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Kim Hekimian, PhD is the Director of the MS Program and Assistant Professor of Nutrition (in Pediatrics and the Institute of Human Nutrition) at Columbia University. She teaches public health nutrition, survey research, qualitative methods, and research methods. She is also the Associate Director of Education for the Program for Global and Population Health at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and was recently the Associate Director of the Medical Nutrition Program for Health Professionals at the IHN.
Before joining Columbia University, she taught at the American University of Armenia’s College of Health Sciences where she was the Associate Director of the MPH Program and Director of the Center for Health Services Research and Development. She consults for international health projects and has worked for USAID, UNICEF, World Vision and the World Bank among others.
R. Ariel Igal, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
R. Ariel Igal received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of La Plata, Argentina. He did postdoctoral research with Dr. Rosalind Coleman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, before being appointed in the tenured position of Research Investigator by the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) in 1997. In 2005, Dr. Igal joined the faculty at Department of Nutritional Sciences, Rutgers University. Since 2014, he is member of the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics and the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University.
Moneek Madra, PhD
MS Program Associate Director, Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Moneek Madra is the MS Program Associate Director, and Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the Institute of Human Nutrition and the Department of Pediatrics. She received her BS degree from University of Windsor in Biology, her MS from Columbia University in Human Nutrition, and her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Nutritional & Metabolic Biology. As a faculty member in the IHN MS program she teaches courses on Physiology & Nutrition through the Lifecycle and Research Methods. She is also responsible for the coordination the MS thesis process. Her PhD studies focused on the development of a novel mouse model of Anorexia Nervosa used to identify the triggers and potential therapeutic targets of the disease. She is currently a member of Kara Gross-Margolis' research group where she focuses on the role of serotonin in the development of irritable bowel disease.
Jeri Nieves, PhD
Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology
Dr. Jeri Wanzor Nieves is a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Nutrition at Columbia University in the Mailman School of Public Health and the Institute of Human Nutrition. At Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, she is a Senior Research Scientist working on the clinical research program. She is the Principal Investigator on an NIH grant to evaluate pelvic fracture healing. Dr. Nieves has co-authored over 150 journal articles, reviews, and book chapters on osteoporosis, nutrition, and epidemiology. Dr. Nieves’ research has focused on various aspects of bone health and osteoporosis including peak bone mass, stress fractures, vitamin D, anabolic and antiresoptive treatments, quality control of DXA, and fracture healing. In addition, her research includes aspects of nutritional epidemiology and determining the role of nutrition in various disease states. Dr. Nieves is a recipient of grants from the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Health and an editor of Osteoporosis International.
Sekhar Ramakrishnan, EngScD
Senior Research Scientist
My research activities are in applying biostatistics and biomathematics to clinical research projects inside and outside the Department of Pediatrics. I also run a clinical research elective, taken by nearly all second year pediatrics residents, to help them finalize their resident research project proposals from the viewpoint of power analysis, and also to teach them statistical tools to help them be self-sufficient. I also teach in a Master of Science program in the Institute of Human Nutrition at the medical center.
Aviva Sopher, MD, MS
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
I am a pediatric endocrinologist with interests that include polycysytic ovary syndrome (PCOS), bone health, disorders of puberty, thyroid disorders, pituitary disorders and growth disorders. In addition to my training in pediatrics and pediatric endocrinology, I have Master of Science degrees in Nutrition (1999) and in Patient Oriented Research (2014) and have completed a research fellowship at the Body Composition Unit of Columbia University Medical Center (2003). I comleted the TRANSFORM KL2 program sponsored by the Irving Institute of Clinical and Translational Research, a mentored career development program.
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
I completed Bachelor's, Master's, and Ph.D degrees in Human Nutrition at McGill University. My Master's degree thesis focused on the impact of kefir, a fermented milk product, on cholesterol synthesis rates and circulating lipid profile in men with overweight and mild hypercholesterolemia. I developed a passion for research and a strong interest in foods that could influence disease risk factors. I therefore decided to pursue a Ph.D, this time studying the effects of medium chain triglyceride oil consumption on energy expenditure, body composition and cardio-metabolic risk factors in men and women with overweight/obesity. Upon completion of my training at McGill, I joined the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center and the Institute of Human Nutrition as a Post-Doctoral Fellow to further my knowledge in the area of energy metabolism and body composition.