Marissa Burgermaster receives Sackler Institute Research Award

The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science Names Winner of Research Award

Columbia University researcher awarded grant for research in behavioral nutrition


NEW YORK, February 2, 2017The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences today announced Marissa Burgermaster, PhD, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow of Biomedical Informatics and Behavioral Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center, is the winner of its fifth annual research award for her proposal, Personalizing Prevention: Developing Methods for Precision Behavioral Nutrition.”


Dr. Burgermaster will receive $35,000 to pursue an innovative research project at the intersection of digital health and nutrition science. It is intended to provide support to researchers working on under-explored, and often under-funded, research topics.


The Sackler Institute’s 2016 Small Grant program for early career scientists focuses on research that explores the potential of emerging digital technologies in supporting evidence-based nutrition interventions for the benefit of public health. As Dr. Gilles Bergeron, Executive Director of the Sackler Institute of Nutrition Science explains: “This award gives an opportunity for innovative researchers at the start of their career to make an immediate impact. This year our research interest focused on promoting behavior change in nutrition, a difficult but fundamental issue in improving public health and preventing chronic disease.”


The winner’s research focuses on personalizing nutritional interventions by identifying psychosocial phenotypes. In her proposal Dr. Burgermaster hypothesized that different people respond to nutritional interventions in different ways. Using the example provided by precision medicine, in the treatment of disease, she sought to develop an individualized approach to improving nutrition. Known as psychosocial phenotyping this represents the first step towards precision behavioral nutrition and personally optimized nutrition interventions. “The Sackler Nutrition Award will support the development of methods for psychosocial phenotyping – characterizing the combination of barriers and resources that determine individuals’ nutrition behaviors,” said Dr. Burgermaster. “Then we will develop an app-based tool that efficiently identifies individuals’ psychosocial phenotypes. Psychosocial phenotyping represents a first step toward precision behavioral nutrition and personally optimized nutrition interventions.” This process represents the first step towards developing more precise behavioral nutrition and personally optimized nutrition intervention approach to remedy malnutrition.


Research Award Process
The Sackler Institute disseminated a call for proposals and received abstracts from early career scientists from around the world.  Five reviewers were invited to grade, rank and provide comments on the abstracts related to their areas of expertise. The reviewers are all highly respected experts in their specific research areas related to the submitted proposals.

They include:

Jeannette Beasley, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Rolf Klemm, MPH, DrPH, Vice President of Nutrition at Helen Keller International and Senior Associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Tooraj Mirshahi, PhD, Associate Professor at the Weis Center for Research at the Geisinger Clinic

Karandeep Singh, MD, MMSc, Assistant Professor of Learning Health Sciences and of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Claire Wang, MD, ScD, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

The selection committee gave the most consideration to proposals addressing an important gap in nutrition science and instances where results could trigger significant advances in behavioral interventions and support systems in the interface of digital health and nutrition science. These criteria emphasize the New York Academy of Sciences’ mission in promoting the resolution of society’s global challenges through science-based solutions.


For more information on the winners and judging panel, as well as The Sackler Institute’s efforts to advance research, please visit and click on the “Research Fund” tab.


Calls for abstracts for The Sackler Institute’s sixth research award will begin in the fall of 2017.