Crystal Karakochuk, PhD, RD; Principal Investigator

Dr. Karakochuk is an Assistant Professor in Human Nutrition at The University of British Columbia, an Investigator in Healthy Starts at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHR), and a member of BC Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI).

She is a Registered Dietitian and has worked as a Clinical 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. Her Masters research was undertaken in Ethiopia (UToronto) and her PhD research in Cambodia (UBC).

Dr. Karakochuk’s broad research interests include: maternal and child health, micronutrients, and global health. She is specifically interested in hemoglobin and anemia, iron and zinc biomarkers, the effect of inflammation on nutrition biomarkers, and genetic hemoglobinopathies and blood disorders (e.g., sickle cell, thalassemia).

Awards: CIHR Vanier Scholar, Thrasher Research Foundation Early Career Award, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) North America Future Leaders Award, and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Scholar Award.

View Dr. Karakochuk’s bio here.


Tebby Leepile, PhD Student (Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems)

Tebby is currently working on 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.

For her PhD she will be examining 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. Awards received: Public Scholar Initiative, IDRC Doctoral Research Award, UBC Graduate Support Initiative.  Email:




Brock Williams, PhD Candidate (Human Nutrition)

Brock is a Registered Dietitian currently undergoing his doctoral training in Human Nutrition under the supervision of Dr. Karakochuk. 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 current doctoral research involves conducting a randomized clinical trial to re-evaluate folic acid supplementation practices in children with Sickle Cell Disease. Awards received: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) Doctoral Award 2020, UBC Four Year Doctoral Fellowship (4YF), 2018 SickKids Dietitian Preceptor of the Year, 2019 Canadian Nutrition Society Conference Infographic Award Winner, 2019 UBC Land and Food Systems Nutritional Research Fellowship.  Email:





Jordie Fischer, MSc Student (Human Nutrition)

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. Currently, she is working towards her MSc. in Human Nutrition 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 will examine 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. Follow along with her international nutrition work as she lives and researches in Cambodia: 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 Student (Human Nutrition)

Kaitlyn’s research interests lie in the areas of global health, micronutrient deficiencies, and women’s health — and her research project encompasses all of these areas. Her MSc. thesis project is on once weekly folic acid supplementation for the prevention of neural tube defects. The objective is 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 recently 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: 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:




Kelsey Cochrane, PhD Student (Human Nutrition)

Kelsey is a Registered Dietitian currently working towards a PhD in Human Nutrition 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 will examine supplementation of folic acid vs folate in low risk pregnant women. The aim is 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.

Kelsey graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 2014 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition with distinction. She completed her dietetic internship with the Saskatoon Health Region, including research to develop a malnutrition screening tool for patients with IBD. See abstract here. Professional experience includes work as a clinical dietitian in pediatric nephrology, and most recently as the Saskatchewan territory manager for Nestle Maternal & Infant nutrition. 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; BC Provincial Government Scholarship 2020; Saskatchewan Dietitians Association Scholarship 2014; University of Saskatchewan Undergraduate Scholarship 2013. E-mail:




Kaela Barker, NUTRI-HEME Lab Coordinator

Kaela leads the operations in Dr. Karakochuk’s NUTRI-HEME laboratory. She also assists with manuscript and protocol preparation as needed. In the past, Kaela worked with Drs. Karakochuk and Green on a research project investigating anemia and iron status in Congolese children with genetic blood disorders. She presented her findings at the 2017 International Congress of Nutrition in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she won an Early Career Travel Grant. Kaela completed her BSc in Health Sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, USA where she played NCAA Division 1 Field Hockey and is now completing a BSc in Nursing at UBC. Select awards: Dean’s List, NCAA All-American, Scholar Athlete of the Year and 100 Most Influential Seniors. During her undergrad, courses in Nutrition and Genetics sparked her interest and led her to complete her MSc in Human Nutrition at UBC. Her thesis work assessed dietary intakes of children with mental health conditions treated with second-generation antipsychotics at BC Children’s Hospital. Select awards: UBC LFS Graduate Student Award and Nutritional Research Fellowship and a 2014 Experimental Biology Conference Abstract Award.

Kaela is extremely passionate about health sciences, and she has a broad interest in global paediatric health and specifically how genetics may contribute to disease.  She is also an avid field hockey player and coach and she loves sports, traveling, hiking and outdoor activities. Email:




Graduates and past trainees of the Karakochuk Lab


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. Some of her work has already been published: J Clin Med 2019. Shannon has one more publication underway investigating the risk of oral iron supplementation on mitochondrial DNA dysfunction and telomere length.

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!) has just been accepted to 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: