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BHNRC Seminar Series 2020 - 2021
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Agricultural Research Service
Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center
Serving the Nation since 1906. Improving Health through Research

2020 - 2021 BHNRC Seminar Series

All Seminars will be held the third Tuesday of each month via Zoom from 10:30 to 11:30am with an additional 30 minutes to meet and greet our speakers. Biographical information will be forthcoming prior to seminars.


Tuesday, October 20th – Dr. Hande McGinty, PhD Research Scientist, Collaborative Drug Discovery (CDD Inc.). 

Title: “Introduction to Building Concordant Ontologies using KARMA”

Click here to watch the video of Dr. McGinty's talk (may take a few minutes to download).

Bio: Hande McGinty is currently a research scientist with Collaborative Drug Discovery, Inc., of Burlingame, CA.  She has a PhD in computer science from the University of Miami.

Her most recent research focuses on bio-ontologies and their applications for artificial intelligence and machine learning.  She is very interested in data mining, tools and applications that allow for sharing and reuse of data, and the challenges of big data, that is, datasets that are too large and/or complicated to be analyzed in traditional fashions.

Abstract: An ontology defines a set of concepts and relationships in a subject area. Ontologies show their concepts' properties and the relationships among them. In this way, they generate controlled, standardized vocabularies and mathematical models for the concepts of subject areas. A huge hurdle in developing such semantic knowledge models, or ontologies, is the knowledge acquisition bottleneck. Automated methods are still very limited, and significant human expertise is required. In this talk, we will describe a methodology to systematize this knowledge acquisition and representation challenge, termed KNowledge Acquisition and Representation Methodology (KNARM) and its Applications (KARMA).

We will touch on how we should approach generating ontologies so they can work concordantly. We will showcase how ontologies can work together to describe human understandable data to computers, so they aid artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications as well as providing a standard set of terms for scientific communication and knowledge representation.


Tuesday, November 17th – No Seminar


Tuesday, December 15th – Dr. Ilias Tagkopoulos, Director, AI Institute for Next-Generation Food Systems (AIFS), and Professor, Computer Science & Genome Center, University of California, Davis

            Title: ”Challenges and Opportunities in AI and the Food Systems”

Bio: Dr. Tagkopoulos is a Professor in the Computer Science and Genome Center at the University of California, Davis, and is the Principal Investigator and director of the newly formed USDA/NSF AI Institute of Next Generation Food Systems - AIFS.  He leads the predictive biology laboratory at Davis, an interdisciplinary group of computer scientists and experimental biologists working on the interface of AI, Bioinformatics, and Life sciences. He earned a Dipl.-Ing. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Patras in Greece, an MS in Microelectronics from Columbia University, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University.

Abstract: Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform US food systems by targeting its biggest challenges: improving food yield, quality, and nutrition, decreasing resource consumption, increasing safety, resiliency, and traceability, and eliminating food waste. Despite big leaps in AI capacity, food systems present several challenges in the application and adoption of AI: (1) Food systems are highly diverse and biologically complex, (2) ground-truth data is sparse, costly, and privately held, and (3) human decisions and preferences are intricately linked to every stage of food system supply chains. To address these challenges, we have founded the USDA/NSF AI Institute of Next Generation Food Systems, a collaboration of 6 institutions and 50 faculty on 6 clusters that include molecular breeding, agricultural production, food processing, and nutrition - with AI as the connective tissue that brings everything together. We will discuss the current challenges and recommendations on what we need to build as a community to overcome them.


Tuesday, January 19th – Mr. Mike Blum, USDA, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center IT Specialist

            Title: "Microsoft One Drive"

Click here to watch the video of Mr. Blum's talk (may take a few minutes to download).

 Bio: Mike Blum supervises the Area IT Section, which is responsible for supporting the network connectivity, voice, and data infrastructure, and security compliance for the Beltsville locations (NEA-ADO, BARC, BHNRC, USNA).  They assist in location IT support, provide and maintain centralized Beltsville storage and database servers, and coordinate with location IT, Business Service Centers, and ARS-OCIO on appropriate projects.  Mike has a degree in Microbiology from the University of Maryland and worked in  BARC labs before obtaining IT certifications and experience necessary to support ARS.  Mike has been with ARS since 1988.

Abstract: OneDrive is a component of the Microsoft Office 365 system that USDA employs to provide staff with standard tools and resources. OneDrive is a “cloud-based” service that Microsoft added to give users the option to store, backup and share their documents.  It seamlessly integrates into the Office programs like Word and Excel, and, in the near future, it will replace your current Home network drive, as those will be phased out.


Tuesday, February 16th – Ms. Alanna Moshfegh, Supervisory Nutritionist, and Ms. Donna Rhodes, Nutritionist, USDA Food Surveys Research Group

            Title: "Know Your Food, Now . . . Know FNDDS"

Click here to watch the video of Ms. Moshfegh's and Ms. Rhodes' talk (may take a few minutes to download).

Bios: Alanna Moshfegh is responsible for directing What We Eat in America, the dietary interview component of the U.S. Federal government’s primary health survey—the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  For that program, she directed the development and validation of USDA’s Automated Multiple-Pass Method, a 5-step 24-hour dietary recall system that is used in What We Eat in America.  What We Eat in America, NHANES has been in continuous data collection since 2002 providing thousands of dietary recalls on the U.S. population.  Prior to her position with the Food Surveys Research Group, Ms. Moshfegh served in numerous positions in USDA including Assistant to the Administrator in the Human Nutrition Information Service and nutritionist in the Food and Nutrition Service.  Her research interests and responsibilities focus on food consumption behavior and nutritional adequacy of American diets, food and nutrition policy, and dietary guidelines.  Ms. Moshfegh received her Master of Science in nutrition and food service management from the University of Nebraska and her Bachelor of Science in nutrition and Dietetics from North Dakota State University.

Donna Rhodes is a Nutritionist with the Food Surveys Research Group where she has worked for 21 years.  She plans and conducts research using data from What We Eat in America, NHANES and prepares publicly released data tables summarizing nutrient intakes, food consumption, and meal patterns of the U.S. population.  She oversees updates to USDA’s Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, as well as the WWEIA Food Categories.  Ms. Rhodes also conducts research focusing on validating the USDA Automated Multiple-Pass Method, the 5-step 24-hour dietary recall instrument used in What We Eat in America, NHANES.  Other research interests include assessing sodium intakes and food sources of sodium in the diets of Americans.  Before joining the Food Surveys Research Group, she was involved in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-Sodium Study.  Ms. Rhodes received her Master of Science in Nutrition from the University of Maryland and her Bachelor of Arts in Home Economics Education from Florida State University.

Abstract: The USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS) converts foods and beverages consumed in What We Eat In America (WWEIA), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey into gram amounts and determines nutrient values. It is developed by BHNRC’s Food Surveys Research Group for each two-year release of WWEIA, NHANES.  The most recent FNDDS for 2017-2018 is the ninth version of this national survey nutrient database.  It contains 7,083 foods and beverages, each having a complete nutrient data for 65 nutrients.  The objective of this presentation is three-fold:

1) describe 2017-2018 FNDDS, its enhancements and availability

2) discuss FNDDS’ relationship to USDA’s FoodData Central

3) depict unique strategies adapted for timely development and optimized use of FNDDS


Tuesday, March 16th – Dr. Naman Ahluwalia, Nutrition Monitoring Advisor & Acting Associate Director for Science, Division of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, NCHS, CDC

            Title: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): 5 Decades of Nutrition Monitoring in the US., Highlights and Updates

Bio: Dr. Naman Ahluwalia is the Nutrition Monitoring Advisor and Associate Director for Science (Acting) for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Ahluwalia serves as an expert advisor and consultant to represent the Center with respect to applying NHANES nutrition-related data to a wide range of planning, analysis, public health, and health policy issues.

Prior to joining CDC, Dr. Ahluwalia held a long and successful academic career as a tenured Professor at Penn State University and as Distinguished Chair in Nutrition Epidemiology at the University of Paris, France. Her research focused on iron nutrition and the role of nutrition in inflammation and cardiometabolic risk across the life span. Naman continues teaching and mentoring as Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at Penn State.  Since last 3 years, Naman has also been serving as Associate Editor of ASN’s Advances in Nutrition journal.

Naman holds a M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition, Ph.D. in Human Nutrition, and D.Sc. in Nutrition Epidemiology. Her interdisciplinary training and experiences span from bench science to policy, across the life span. In 2018 Naman completed the Senior Executive Service training for leaders in the U.S. government.

Naman is passionate about nutrition monitoring, translational research, mentoring, and building multidisciplinary, innovative collaborations to optimize nutrition and health across the life span.

Abstract: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been monitoring the nation’s health and nutrition for over 5 decades. NHANES is unique in collecting nationally representative data on the US non-institutionalized, civilian population through interviews and an in-person examination at Mobile Examination Centers (MEC). The interviews include demographic, socioeconomic, dietary, and health-related questions. The examination component consists of medical, dental, and physiological measurements, as well as laboratory tests. Since 1999, NHANES became continuous, and has conducted a series of cross-sectional surveys collecting and releasing nationally representative, comprehensive data on health and nutritional status continuously every 2 years.  Another key feature of continuous NHANES is the partnership with USDA on What We Eat in America – the dietary component of NHANES. 

NHANES provides critical national and large socio-demographic group level data that are useful in setting reference standards (e.g., obesity, osteoporosis, laboratory reference ranges) and in informing public health research, programs and policies.  NHANES data have been instrumental in setting and tracking several nutrition policies including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, FDA’s nutrition label, food fortification policies (iron, folic acid, and iodine), as well as in monitoring the nation’s health (obesity, cardiovascular disease, oral health, vision, cognition, hepatitis, HPV, etc.). Because data are collected using standardized methods, trends over time can be described overall and for large socio-demographic groups. NHANES program is flexible and evolves to address public health priorities and research needs. Additional content (questionnaire, exam) is added upon considering public health importance, respondent burden, time, and funding.


Tuesday, April 20th – Dr. Wendelyn Jones, Executive Director, IAFNS (Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences)

            Title: "Public-Private Partnerships: From Research to Action"

Bio: Dr. Wendelyn Jones is Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS). IAFNS is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) scientific organization that catalyzes knowledge by bringing together scientists from government, academia, and industry to drive, fund and lead actionable food safety and nutrition research in support of public health.  Dr. Jones has a strong background in the food, agriculture and chemical industries, with over 20 years of global experience in industry and government. She began her career at FDA and USDA APHIS. Additionally, Dr. Jones worked for Syngenta, DuPont, and a trade association.  Dr. Jones received her PhD from Vanderbilt University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at MIT.  Currently, she applies her PhD in life sciences to extend IAFNS contribution to, and impact within, diverse scientific and health communities.


Abstract: Principled, energetic and expert partnerships between the public and private sectors can enable research and accelerate positive change across the food and beverage ecosystem. This presentation will describe how the USDA Branded Foods Products Database – a public-private partnership dedicated to the sharing of open data – impacts action by multi-sector stakeholders by enabling new research analyses, allowing for efficient use of government resources, and identifying specific ways to improve the quality of data shared on branded food products. Additionally, the presentation will share specific examples where government officials, industry professionals and academic researchers have partnered to drive, fund and lead actionable food safety and nutrition research in support of public health - highlighting the work of the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS) – from carbohydrates to food packaging and from bioactives to sodium. Having many sectors involved as partners speeds communication and adoption of solutions, ensures outputs align with organizational priorities and constraints, and has more ultimate positive impact.


Tuesday, May 18th – Dr. Robin McKinnon, Senior Advisor for Nutrition Policy, FDA, and Captain Blakeley Fitzpatrick, Interdisciplinary Nutrition Scientist, FDA

            Title: TBA


Tuesday, June 15th – Dr. Helene Langevin, Director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

            Title: TBA