Our research group uses animal models to investigate the pathways by which consumption of high fat food promotes overeating.

What Do We Study?

The bug-gut-brain axis

  • Gut-brain communication and regulation of food intake

    • All along the gastrointestinal tract signals sensing the quantity and quality of food are being sent to the brain

    • Proper gut-brain communication is critical to regulate food intake

    • Ingestion of certain foods leads to dysregulation of gut-brain signaling and weight gain

Diet notably influences the composition of the gastrointestinal microbiota

  • The microbiota influences gut-brain communication, food intake and obesity

  • Bacterial originating inflammatory factors seem to have an important role in the development of obesity

Recent Awards

Outstanding Dietetic Student-Intern Award, Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2017, Carolina Cawthon

Georgia Nutrition Council Holley B. Alley Scholarship, 2017, Carolina Cawthon

Participant in Little Brain Big Brain, 2016, Claire de La Serre

Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Love of Learning scholarship and award, 2016, Sunhye Lee

Regional Winner (North America) in the Graduate category of Alltech’s Young Scientist Competition, 2016, SunHye Lee

University of Georgia Amazing Students, 2016, Brittany Whitlock (Mentor: Claire de La Serre)

View all Foods and Nutrition Awards

Research Projects

Key personnel:
Claire de La Serre, Joan Fisher, SunHye Lee*, Rebecca Kirkland

Project Description:

This project explores the potential protective role of blueberry on high fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome. We are especially investigating the consequences of blueberry consumption on microbiota composition, gut health and gut-brain communication.

Funding Source:
The work is funded by the USDA

*SunHye Lee is the recipient of the 2013-2014 Sharone Boone Hamner Graduate Scholarship and the 2016-2017 Ruth Rowan Morrison Scholarship. She also won the 2016 North America Altrech Young Scientist competition for her work on this project.

Key personnel:
Claire de La Serre, SunHye Lee

Project Description:
In collaboration with the UGA Department of Food Sciences, we are investigating if pectin encapsulation can increase probiotic delivery to the distal gut and increase probiotic efficiency in relieving high fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome.

Key personnel:
Claire de La Serre, Carolina Cawthon

Project Description:
In this project, we are investigating the potential neurotoxicity of bacteria and/or bacterial products being released into the circulation in when high fat foods are consumed.

Funding Source:
Carolina Cawthon is the recipient of a Graduate School Assistantship.

Key personnel:
Claire de La Serre, Jiyoung Kim, Carolina Cawthon

Project Description:
This project investigates the influence of the microbiota on reward signaling and motivation for food as well as the route of communication between the microbiota and the brain

Funding Source:
Dr. de La Serre received a R21 grant from NIH-NIDKK to support this project.

Key personnel:
Claire de La Serre, Elizabeth Klingbeil, Ruth Schade

Project Description:
This project investigates if manipulation of feeding patterns, such as a reduction in snacking episodes, can improve microbiota composition, systemic inflammation and prevent HF diet-induced insulin resistance.

Funding Source:
Dr. de La Serre was awarded a UGA Junior Faculty Research grant in 2016 to support this project.

Key personnel:
Claire de La Serre, Rebecca Kirkland, Brittany Whitlock*

Project Description:
Maternal microbiota has a great influence on the offspring microbiota composition. In this project, we are investigating the potential detrimental effect of maternal obesity on offspring microbiota composition, gastrointestinal functions and predisposition towards obesity.

Funding Source:
*Brittany Whitlock worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the lab. She received a CURO assistantship in 2014 and the Carolyn Berdanier award in 2015 for her work on this project. She graduated with Summa cum laude in 2016 and is now attending Emory School of Medicine.

Key personnel:
Claire de La Serre, Zachary Grunewald*

Project Description:
In this project we are investigating the molecular pathways by which a pro-inflammatory factor (endotoxin) can impair insulin signaling and promote pre-diabetes.

Funding Sources:
UGA Junior Faculty Research Grant

*Zachary Grunewald received the 2015 Kappa Omicron Nu Masters Fellowship to support this work. He graduated with his Master's degree in 2016, and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Missouri.

Meet the Staff

Name Job Title / Department Contact
Claire  de La Serre

Claire de La Serre

Assistant Professor

Foods and Nutrition

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Dr. de La Serre is an Assistant Professor in the department of Foods and Nutrition, her research examines the influence of diet composition on gut microbiota, gut-brain signaling and regulation of food intake.

372 Dawson Hall
305 Sanford Dr.
Athens, GA 30602
706-542-4873

Rebecca Kirkland

Rebecca Kirkland

Laboratory Manager II

Foods and Nutrition

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

372 Dawson Hall
305 Sanford Dr.
Athens, GA 30602
706-542-4873

Sunhye Lee

Sunhye Lee

Ph.D. Candidate

Foods and Nutrition

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

372 Dawson Hall
305 Sanford Dr.
Athens, GA 30602
706-542-4873

Carolina Cawthon

Carolina Cawthon

PhD/DI Student

Foods and Nutrition

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Carolina Cawthon is a third year PhD Student and Dietetic Intern.

372 Dawson Hall
305 Sanford Dr.
Athens, GA 30602
706-542-4873

Jiyoung Kim

Jiyoung Kim

Ph.D. Student

Foods and Nutrition

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Jiyoung Sammi Kim is a second year PhD student.

372 Dawson Hall
305 Sanford Dr.
Athens, GA 30602
706-542-4873

Elizabeth Klingbeil

Elizabeth Klingbeil

PhD/DI Student

Foods and Nutrition

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Elizabeth is a second year doctoral student and dietetic intern.

372 Dawson Hall
305 Sanford Dr.
Athens, GA 30602
706-542-4873

Ruth Schade

Ruth Anne Schade

Accelerated MS Student

Foods and Nutrition

College of Family and Consumer Sciences

372 Dawson Hall
305 Sanford Dr.
Athens, GA 30602
5089488786