Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry/Redox Biology Center
Limei Zhang joined UNL in 2015, after completing her Ph.D. training in the University of Saskatchewan and postdoc training at the California Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the structure-function relationships of transition metal-bound proteins (metalloproteins) in the host - pathogen interactions. Transition metals are used as a powerful tool of attack and defense for both hosts and pathogens owing to their versatile reactivity. To survive and thrive in the host, bacterial pathogens have evolved complex systems for acquiring, regulating and utilizing metals for their physiological functions and for defense against redox assaults launched by the host immune system. Such systems are promising targets for new antimicrobial therapies because of their imperative roles in the survival and virulence of the pathogens. To fully leverage the mechanisms of transition metal and metalloproteins usage in host-pathogen interactions into active drug design, a fuller understanding of the molecular details of these interactions and the action mechanisms of potential drugs targeting either essential metalloproteins or metal homeostasis is required. For this reason, the research in the Zhang group is devoted to fill the knowledge gap in this regard with current focus on the structure-function relationships of Fe-based redox sensors in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The Zhang group aims to fill this knowledge gap by using biophysical and genetic approaches to define action mechanisms of these sensors, which will pave the way for designing drugs and/or strategies to interrupt functional Fe-based redox sensors in the pathogens.
Assistant Professor, Nutrition & Health Sciences
Virginia Chaidez came to UNL after serving as the lead Evaluation Analyst for the University of California CalFresh Nutrition Education Program (UC CalFresh NEP), State office. CalFresh Nutrition Education is the brand name in California for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education or SNAP-Ed. Her research focuses on health disparities, particularly those affecting the Latino population including obesity, diabetes and developmental disabilities. Her approach to research generally consists of mixed methods and more recently making deliberate attempts to work across disciplines for new insight and approaches to addressing complex public health problems. Her research on child-feeding practices in the context of obesity prevention has provided new insight into common parenting styles of Latino families which have been shown to affect outcomes. Her research in autism has provided a better depiction of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and diagnosis disparities in Latinos; a better estimate in the prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) problems in children; and established a link between GI problems and problematic behaviors in children with ASD. Current interests related to obesity include examining the effects of stress on coping behaviors or decision-making around food choices; and investigating whether Helicobacter pylori infection is an independent risk factor for development of diabetes.