Crystal Karakochuk, PhD, RD; Principal Investigator

Dr. Karakochuk is an Associate Professor in Human Nutrition at The University of British Columbia, an Investigator at the BC Children’s Hospital Research and Women’s Health Research Institutes, and a Canada Research Chair Tier 2 in Micronutrients and Human Health.

She is a Registered Dietitian and has worked as a Clinical Pediatric Dietitian at the BC Children’s Hospital, as a Dietitian Manager for Pregnancy Outreach Programs in BC, and as a Regional Nutritionist for the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Programs in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. She has also worked internationally as a Nutritionist for the UN World Food Programme (Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Italy HQ) and UNICEF (New York HQ, Timor-Leste) in humanitarian aid, operations research, and nutrition programming. Dr. Karakochuk’s broad research interests include: perinatal and child health, micronutrients, and global health. She is specifically interested in the measurement and interpretation of hemoglobin concentration for individual- and population-level anemia assessment, iron metabolism, and genetic hemoglobinopathies (e.g., sickle cell, thalassemia).

Dr. Karakochuk’s current research is focused on advances in analytical measurement of hemoglobin and the risk-benefit assessment of micronutrient interventions in eight countries. She is an invited member of the WHO guideline development group for the interpretation of hemoglobin concentration for anemia assessment.

Awards received: CIHR Vanier Scholar, Thrasher Research Foundation Early Career Award, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) North America Future Leaders Award, the ILSI Award for Early Career Contribution to the Alleviation of Micronutrient Malnutrition Award, a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Scholar Award, the 2021 CNS-CIHR INMD New Investigator Award and the 2023 American Society for Nutrition Mead Johnson Award.


Lulu Pei, PhD Human Nutrition

Lulu completed a MSc in Biostatistics in April 2021 with a specific focus on evaluating the performance of non-linear mixed effects approaches in modelling HIV viral dynamics and pharmacokinetics. She completed her BSc in Integrated Science at UBC (2019) studying the crossroads between immunology and nutrition and was able to exercise this knowledge through assisting in an iron supplementation trial in Cambodia.

Lulu’s research interests include the integration of genomics in nutrition research as well as the use of administrative data for nutrition findings. She spearheaded data analysis on a Karakochuk lab project to determine the potential for automated hematology analyzers to predict whether a woman has a genetic hemoglobinopathy – this exciting work was published in Diagnostics 2021. She also investigated the predictors of a hemoglobin response to iron supplementation in Cambodian women using receiver operating characteristic approaches, where initial results were presented at the 2020 BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute’s Summer Student Research Program and her manuscript was published in The Journal of Nutrition 2021. Her PhD research will evaluate the efficacy and side effects of two forms of iron supplements (ferrous fumarate vs. ferrous bisglycinate, a novel iron amino acid chelate) among pregnant women in Vancouver, Canada.

Awards received: UBC Four Year Fellowship (4YF) Award; Canadian Institutes of Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award 2023, Killiam Research Award 2023.  Email:



Cassi Sauer, MSc Human Nutrition

Cassi is currently working on her MSc under the direction of Dr. Karakochuk. Her research is based in Cambodia, assessing pregnant women’s adherence and acceptability of prenatal supplementation with a multiple micronutrient versus iron folic acid, which is the current standard of care in Cambodia. The aim of this formative research is to assist the Cambodia Ministry of Health with their informed and evidence-based revision of their national prenatal nutrition guidelines in Cambodia.

Cassi graduated with a BSc in Food, Nutrition and Health at UBC in 2021. After graduation, she joined the Lamer’s Lab at UBC as a clinical research assistant looking at the impacts of nutrition in the growth and development of toddlers. Her research interests include maternal and child health, with a focus on international nutrition. She is excited to work in Cambodia and be involved in the research on maternal care advancements in Cambodia.

Awards received: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s Award (CIHR CGS-M) 2024.




Annie Saint, Project Assistant (Global Health Nutrition Research)

Annie is in the 3rd year of her studies in Microbiology and Immunology at UBC. She is a Work Learn student in the Karakochuk Lab, investigating the prevalence of gut pathogens  in Cambodian women who received iron supplementation.

In her second year, she was a Work Learn student in the Sly Lab at BC Children’s Hospital researching mechanisms of fibrosis in Crohn’s disease.








Elisa Cirigliano, Project Assistant (Global Health Nutrition Research)

Elisa graduated with a BSc in Behavioural Neuroscience and a minor in Nutritional Science from UBC in 2023. With an interest in pursuing international nutrition further, she undertook a International Undergraduate Work Learn position with Dr. Karakochuk where she spent two months in Cambodia working on a project to improve food security in rural Cambodia.

Her current work with Dr. Karakochuk involves measuring enteropathogen presence in Cambodian women of reproductive age that received 12 weeks of iron supplementation.







Graduates and past trainees of the Karakochuk Lab

Dr. Brock Williams, PhD Human Nutrition, 2023

Brock is a Registered Dietitian who completed his PhD in Human Nutrition under the supervision of Dr. Karakochuk in September 2023. Brock previously completed his graduate dietetic internship at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) (2014), MSc in Human Nutrition at McGill University (2012), and his BSc at St. Francis Xavier University (2010). As a dietitian who has had a career in clinical nutrition at SickKids, working in the areas  of Gastroenterology/Hepatology/Nutrition, Rheumatology, Critical Care, and Physiology & Experimental Medicine, his primary research interests lie in infant/child health, micronutrients, and in optimizing clinical care and health outcomes of paediatric populations.

His PhD research examined the effectiveness of folic acid supplementation in children with sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder. The findings from his clinical trial provide evidence to inform nutritional management and supplementation practices in Canadian children living with this disease. Brock is a postdoctoral fellow at BC Children’s Hospital (CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship and IMPACT Fellowship) and pursing a clinician-scientist position in pediatric nutrition and food allergy.

Awards received: Canadian Institutes of Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award 2020, UBC Four Year Doctoral Fellowship, 2018 SickKids Dietitian Preceptor of the Year, 2019 Canadian Nutrition Society Conference Infographic Award Winner, UBC Land and Food Systems Nutritional Research Fellowship.  Email:



Dr. Kelsey Cochrane, PhD Human Nutrition, 2023

Kelsey is a Registered Dietitian currently who completed her PhD in Human Nutrition in May 2023 under the supervision of Dr. Karakochuk. Her research interests include developmental origins of disease, establishment of epigenetic marks, and optimization of maternal and infant diet. Her thesis research examined supplementation of folic acid vs folate in low-risk pregnant women. She spearheaded a clinical trial in Vancouver to determine if a natural form of folate (5-MTHF) is as effective as folic acid in increasing plasma and RBC folate concentrations during pregnancy, and to determine if supplementation with 5-MTHF results in lower plasma unmetabolized folic acid. Key publications: British Journal of Nutrition and Scientific Reports.

Kelsey’s professional experience includes work as a clinical dietitian in pediatric nephrology, and most recently as the Saskatchewan territory manager for Nestle Maternal & Infant nutrition. Where is Kelsey now? She is an Assistant Professor in Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan.

Awards received: Canadian Nutrition Society PhD Dissertation Award 2024; Canadian Institutes of Health Research Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award 2021; Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Award/CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship 2019; CIHR Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement 2019; BC Provincial Government Scholarship 2020; Saskatchewan Dietitians Association Scholarship 2014; University of Saskatchewan Undergraduate Scholarship 2013. Email:



Dr. Tebby Leepile, PhD Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems, 2023

Tebby completed her PhD (Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems) under the supervision of Drs. Jovel and Karakochuk. Her prior education includes an MSc. in Human Life and Environmental Sciences (Nutrition), Ochanomizu University, Japan, 2011 and BEd. Home Economics (Food and Nutrition), University of Botswana, 2006. She previously worked in several nutrition research projects in Botswana before pursuing graduate studies. Her work primarily focuses on understanding and exploring strategies to mitigate food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition among vulnerable populations especially women and young children in developing countries.

In her PhD research, she examined the challenges of household food insecurity and anemia prevalence among the Indigenous Peoples of Botswana (the San). She hopes to expand this work into other African countries in the future due to the scarcity of information on these groups across the continent. Her other research interests include women empowerment, ethics of research and policy design and evaluation. As a future instructor, she is also interested in issues around active learning strategies to effectively engage both the students and communities. In her spare time, she enjoys quiet moments, running, reading, writing, hiking and cooking. Where is Tebby now? She is now an IMMANA Fellow!

Awards received: Public Scholar Initiative, IDRC Doctoral Research Award, UBC Graduate Support Initiative, 3MT First place winner (UBC).  Email:


Jordie Fischer, MSc Human Nutrition, 2021

Jordie graduated from The University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in April 2018, studying both Nutrition and Nutraceutical Sciences and International Development. This unique interdisciplinary study opportunity is what fostered her interest in international nutrition. She was a research student at SickKids Hospital in the Centre for Global Child Health where she researched the effects of the introduction of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine on pneumococcal carriage in infants in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She completed her MSc. in Human Nutrition in April 2021 at The University of British Columbia, under the supervision of Dr. Karakochuk and has the exciting opportunity of living in Cambodia conducting her research.

Her research interests include micronutrient deficiencies, maternal and child nutrition and global health. Her MSc. thesis project examined the adverse effects of untargeted iron supplementation in populations where iron deficiency is not the cause of anemia in non-pregnant to Cambodian women of reproductive age (Journal of Nutrition 2023). She has also co-authored an excellent review on the effects of iron supplementation and fortification on the gut microbiome (Gastrointestinal Disorders 2020) and first-authored a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of ferrous bisglycinate supplementation on hemoglobin and ferritin concentrations in adults and children (Nutrition Reviews 2023). Where is Jordie now? Jordie is currently working for Sight and Life Foundation.
Awards received: Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Award/CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship 2019; CIHR Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement 2019, Go Global Self-Directed Research Abroad Award 2019; Canadian Home Economics Foundation Graduate Award. Email:



Kaitlyn Samson, MSc Human Nutrition, 2020

Kaitlyn’s research interests lie in the areas of global health, micronutrient deficiencies, and women’s health — and her research project encompassed all of these areas. Her MSc. thesis project was on once weekly folic acid supplementation for the prevention of neural tube defects. The objective was to determine if the current dose of weekly folic acid recommended by the World Health Organization is able to raise red blood cell folate to a level associated with a reduced risk of neural tube defects. She defended her MSc in July 2020 and has continued to work in the Karakochuk lab on a variety of research projects and manuscripts. Her trial findings have been published in BMJ Global Health 2020 and are the driving force behind advocacy to include the iron and folic acid supplement formulation with 2.8 mg folic acid on the WHO Essential Medicines List (see: Advances in Nutrition 2021).

She graduated (2017) with a BSc in Food, Nutrition, and Health from the University of British Columbia with a major in Nutritional Science. During her undergrad degree, she worked as a research assistant in both a clinical and laboratory setting. In 2017 she participated in the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute’s Summer Student Research Program where she examined the Vitamin D status of children and adolescents with sickle cell disease. See the full publication here: J Clin Med 2018.

Awards received: 2021 BCCHR Outstanding Achievement Award for a Masters Student; Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Award/CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship 2018; CIHR Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement 2018, Indrajit and Manjula Desai Prize in Nutritional Sciences; UBC Nutritional Research Fellowship; Thrive: 4th Annual Canadian Haemoglobinopathy Conference Best Allied Health Abstract. Email:



Shannon Steele, MSc Human Nutrition, 2019

Shannon completed a MSc in Human Nutrition at UBC in 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Karakochuk. In her MSc thesis, she studied biomarkers of mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and telomere shortening in Cambodian women who received daily oral iron supplements in accordance with the 2016 World Health Organization guidelines. Her MSc work has been published in The Journal of Clinical Medicine (2019) and Nutrients (2021) which describes investigations of the risk of oral iron supplementation on non-transferrin bound iron, mitochondrial DNA dysfunction, and telomere length in Cambodian women.

Shannon’s interest in human nutrition research began at The University of Toronto, where she completed her undergraduate training in Nutritional Sciences. Her research interests include iron and other micronutrients, women’s health and global health. Her MSc. thesis project focuses on the potential risks of iron supplementation in non-pregnant Cambodian women of reproductive age.  Awards received: UBC Graduate Support Initiative (GSI) and the Indrajit and Marjula Desai Prize in Human Nutrition. Where is Shannon now? Shannon is at SickKids Hospital in Toronto working as an Academic Assistant in Molecular Medicine.





Jeff Holmes, BSc Food Nutrition and Health, 2019

Jeff completed a BSc in Food, Nutrition, and Health at UBC in 2019. With an interest in international nutrition, he undertook a Directed Studies course with Dr. Karakochuk in January 2018, where he investigated the effect of a multiple micronutrient supplement on serum zinc, copper, and selenium concentrations in Cambodian women. He presented this research at the CNS conference in Halifax (2018) and his work was later published in the Journal of Nutrition. See the full manuscript here: J Nutr 2019. Awards received: The 2018 Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism Undergraduate Research Excellence Award and the 2019 BCCHR Outstanding Achievement Award (Undergraduate Research category – see more details here). Email:







Cara Mayer, BSc Food Nutrition and Health, 2019

Cara graduated with a BSc in Food, Nutrition, and Health in May 2018. She was a UBC work learn student in the Karakochuk Lab and participated in the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute’s Summer Student Research Program in 2018. Under Dr. Karakochuk’s guidance, she assisted on a study investigating the prevalence and causes of iron deficiency among female varsity athletes. The manuscript (first-authored by Cara!) is published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, Metabolism – see here. Where is Cara now? Cara is currently working as a Research Assistant in the Lamers Lab at BCCHR. Email: