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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

DGIL Senior Scientists Biographies
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Dr. Joseph F. Urban, Jr.

Nutritional Immunologist


Provides leadership to the laboratory through program coordination, and approval of all research reports, personnel hiring, and budget oversight for the management unit. Develops mouse and pig models to study the interaction of nutrition and immunity, and studies parasitic diseases and immune regulation of protective immunity, and the parallels between allergic and inflammatory diseases.

Dr. Richard A. Anderson

Nutritional Biochemist


Performs studies to elucidate the role of natural products in the improvement of the function of insulin with emphasis on polyphenols from cinnamon and tea.  Performs studies on the role of dietary polyphenols on neuropathological changes including those associated with Alzheimer's disease.  Performs studies demonstrating the nutritional and biochemical effects of trace elements with special emphasis on chromium.  The ultimate goal of the research is to prevent or alleviate early signs and symptoms of the metabolic syndrome which is important in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular, Alzheimer's and related chronic diseases.

Dr. Harry Dawson



Dr. Dawson conducts research on the role of diet on host immunity in swine as a model for humans. Develops methodologies for quantitative porcine and human gene assessment and discriminatory bacterial determination.  Developed and maintains an annotated nutrition and immunology-based bioinformantics database.  Current research focus is on the effect of vitamin A status on immune function using functional genomics-based measures.

Dr. Allen Smith

Research Virologist


Allen Smith is a Research Virologist at the US Department of Agriculture Beltsville Human Nutrition Research center.  Dr. Smith conducts research on the effects of antioxidant micronutrients on gut mucosal immunity to viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections.  The goal of this research is to delineate the mechanism by which antioxidants affect mucosal immunity in order to improve our understanding of how diet can influence immune function.  Dr. Smith received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from MichiganStateUniversity and completed post-doctoral studies at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at RutgersUniversity, where he conducted AIDS research.  In 1997 Dr. Smith accepted a research position with the US Department of Agriculture Beltsville Human Nutrition Research center. 

Dr. Thomas Wang

Research Chemist


Dr. Wang's laboratory focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of phytochemicals on prevention of chronic diseases. Primary interest of the laboratory is on prevention of breast and prostate cancer. The topics of current research include; examining the interaction of phytochemicals with sex steroid hormones-mediated pathways, interaction of phytochemicals with nuclear receptors-mediated pathways. Both cell culture models as well as animal models are being used to test the cancer protective efficacies of phytochemicals. Technologies such as DNA microarray are also being used to elucidate molecular signature of phytochemicals in cells.



Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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