Melanson lab teaM

Edward Melanson, PhD

My research is focused on studying biological mechanisms that influence energy balance and thus the propensity towards weight gain and obesity. My research career at AMC started in 1998 as a post-doc in the Center for Human Nutrition.  During the early part of my career, I performed several studies using the whole-room calorimeter to determine the effects of exercise, diet, and obesity on substrate oxidation. In 2004, The University of Colorado Medical School Campus began a phased move from its original location on Colorado Boulevard in Denver to the former Fitzsimmon’s Army Medical Base in neighboring Aurora, now known as the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. As part of this move, a new room calorimeter was constructed in the Clinical and Translational Research Center located in the University of Colorado Hospital. As one of the primary users of the room calorimeter, I was asked to oversee the construction of the new room calorimeter. Although a challenging endeavor, this was a tremendous learning experience, which has created many new and exciting opportunities for my lab, and I continue to this day as director of the Room Calorimeter Core.

As the research of my group expanded, there became an increasing need to perform doubly labeled water (DLW) assessments of free-living energy expenditure. The traditional approach of performing the isotopic measurements for the DLW method is isotope ratio mass spectrometry. In 2012, I was approached about advancing an alternative, laser based approach (Off-axis integrated cavity spectroscopy, or ICOS) to perform isotopic measurements with the DLW method. Through a series of studies, we have shown that this approach is a feasible, valid, and less costly approach to performing these measurements. In 2019, my lab received an award from the Dean of the School of Medicine to establish a DLW core laboratory. This award permitted us to purchase a second ICOS instrument and greatly expand our capacity.

Aside from these activities, I maintain my own line of research. One of my primary areas of interest is understanding the regulation and physiological importance of brown fat in humans. Over the past 10-15 years, it has become evident that some humans have substantial amounts of brown fat, but how the metabolic activity of this tissue is regulated and its association with health outcomes is not fully understood. I am currently the PI of an R01 that is exploring the impact of ovarian hormones on brown fat activity. These studies built on previous collaborative research with Dr. Wendy Kohrt  where we demonstrated that suppressing ovarian function reduces energy expenditure, and that this can be attenuated by replacing estradiol.  My current brown fat stuies are being performed collaboratively with investigators from theUniversity of Ottawa and Sherbrooke University in Canada, and are utilizing novel radioactive tracers combined with PET/CT to measure oxidative metabolism in brown fat.

In addition to my research activities, I serve on several committees, including serving as a co-chair of the Scientific Advisory Review Committee (SARC), as well as Director of Enrichment Programs for the Colorado Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC).  In this latter role, I facilitate the development of educational and training opportunities for the next generation of researchers in obesity and nutrition.

When not in the lab, I enjoy spending time with my husband Jon and our two dogs, Blaze and Kelsi.

Seth Creasy, PhD

I am an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes. My research broadly focuses on improving lifestyle interventions that help to prevent and treat chronic diseases such as obesity. I completed my graduate training at the University of Pittsburgh and then completed my postdoctoral fellowship here at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus under the mentorship of Edward Melanson, PhD. My training with Dr. Melanson is focused on the theory and practice of doubly labeled water for measuring free-living energy expenditure in humans. In addition, I am receiving training in physical activity measurement and novel analyses of continuous physical activity accelerometer data. I currently hold an NIH Career Development Award (K01) to investigate how the timing and consistency of lifestyle behaviors (energy intake, physical activity, and sleep) influence weight loss and weight loss maintenance. 

When I am not working, I spend my time enjoying the outdoors with my wife, Hana. We enjoy running, hiking, fly-fishing, and appreciating all of the other outdoor activities Colorado has to offer. 

Alyssa Olenick, PhD

I completed my graduate training in Exercise Physiology and received my M.S. from Western Kentucky University and my Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. My thesis and dissertation work were largely focused on female physiology and metabolism. With my dissertation focusing focus on sex differences, menstrual cycle and oral contraceptive use on exercise and post prandial metabolism.

I currently am a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Ed Melanson and Dr. Wendy Khort. My research focus is on female physiology and how the loss of gonadal function during the menopause transition impacts metabolism, body composition, bone density and metabolic health. Furthermore, I am interested in the role that exercise may play in mediating these changes.  I am passionate about female health and closing the gender gap in health and exercise science research.  In my free time I enjoy traveling, hiking, trail and ultra-running, weight lifting and taking advantage of the many concerts Colorado hosts!

Shelby Panter, MS

I joined the lab in February 2019 as a Professional Research Assistant. I received my B.S. and M.S. degrees in Exercise Physiology and Chronic Disease from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, FL.

I work on multiple different studies for Drs. Catenacci, Creasy, and Melanson.

I love working for this team, and I am gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge about clinical research in the fields of physical activity, energy expenditure, and metabolism.

My goal is to improve the lives of people daily through our team’s research. Eventually, I hope to help create and implement disease-specific clinical exercise programs to treat and prevent chronic diseases.  

In my free time, I enjoy hiking, making pottery and training for my 2020 bike ride across the United States! 

Matt Breit, MS, RD

I am a graduate student in the Integrated Physiology PhD program and joined the lab in 2021. I completed my B.S. in Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and M.S. in Exercise Physiology from West Virginia University. My master’s thesis work investigated energy metabolism and hypothalamic appetite regulation in mice exposed to chronic e-cigarette vapor. Between my master’s and doctoral work, I completed my dietetic internship and worked as a clinical and outpatient dietitian at WVU Medicine. I am interested in the metabolic drivers and determinants of obesity (energy balance, appetite regulation, physical activity, sleep) to ultimately identify effective weight loss and weight maintenance strategies.

In my free time, I enjoy woodworking, mountain biking and hiking. A goal of mine is to summit all 58 “fourteeners” in Colorado.

Past Lab Members

Mallory Boyd, MS, ACSM CEP

I joined the lab in May 2021 as a Senior Professional Research Assistant. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Salisbury University, and my Master’s degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology from the University of Delaware. I am so excited to be a part of this laboratory, because I will implement my research experience and Clinical Exercise Physiologist certification to supervise various chronic disease populations.

In my free time, you can find me hiking or running. My boyfriend and I have the goal of visiting every national park in the US!

Yftach Gepner, PhD

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health, and has long been touted as a strategy for weight loss. However, only 20% of people meet physical activity guidelines and over 90% of people who lose weight will gain it all back. Dr. Yftach Gepner focuses on understanding the impact of exercise training, combined with dietary strategies, on muscle damage and mass, metabolism and performance across a range of populations. Dr. Gepner uses cutting-edge technologies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for assessing muscle damage and adipose tissue distribution, doubly labeled water to assess energy expenditure and labeled amino acid to determine protein synthesis by muscle biopsy. By combining applied and mechanistic metabolism and physiology adaptation studies using advanced monitoring devices, his goal is to elucidate the unique beneficial effect from physical activity.

Dr. Gepner, School of Public, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, completed his Ph.D. (2016) at Ben-Gurion University on the role of lifestyle intervention on various body fat depots. He then continued his training in the Department of Sport and Exercise at University of Central Florida, to better understand the field of exercise physiology in both applied and basic in nature. Dr. Gepner published over 53 peer-review articles.  Gepner has been awarded the 2020 Neufeld Memorial Research Grant, which will run concurrently with his BSF and other grants.

Sarah Purcell, PhD

I received my B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition, respectively, at Florida State University. I continued my research at the University of Alberta, where I earned my Ph.D. in Nutrition and metabolism. There, I investigated energy expenditure in relation to body composition, dietary intake, and current nutrition recommendations among individuals with active cancer.

I was funded by a nutrition T32 fellowship at the University of Colorado, under the mentorship of Dr. Marc Cornier and Dr. Edward Melanson. My research investigated relationships among appetite, body composition, physical activity, and energy metabolism and how structured exercise may impact these variables in people with obesity or previous cancer. I am passionate about exploring human physiology as it pertains to nutrition and exercise since it is an ever-growing field with potential to make substantial impacts on health and longevity. My love of nutrition and exercise translates to my personal life; in my free time, I enjoy training for triathlons and marathons, doing yoga, painting, eating a diverse array of foods (not necessarily cooking!), traveling, and spending time with my husband, Chase, and two Chihuahuas, Bobo and Bitsy.

Nassia Duncan, MLS (ASCP)

I joined the lab in July of 2019. I received my B.S. in Medical Laboratory Science in 2017 from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and passed my certification exams the same year. I worked as a clinical Microbiologist and Medical Laboratory Scientist at the University of Kansas Medical Center from 2017-2019, before relocating back to Colorado to be closer to family. I have completed a Masters in Public Health and graduated December 2021. My goal is to support researchers by optimizing the laboratory to give the most accurate results possible in a timely manner, using the best of modern technology and techniques.

In my free time, I like to explore Colorado with my dog, and experiment in my kitchen with new recipes and flavors. My goal is to visit all 50 states in the USA.

Jen Blankenship, PhD

I joined the lab in 2017 as a postdoctoral fellow. I received my B.S., M.S. and Ph.D from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. My primary research interests are to understand how daily patterns of physical activity affect health outcomes, specifically with regards to the interrelations between sleep and exercise. Currently, I am studying how exercise timing may differentially impact insulin sensitivity through its effects on sleep and nocturnal fat metabolism in individuals with metabolic syndrome. My overarching goal is to optimize the metabolic benefits of exercise to prevent and manage chronic cardiovascular and metabolic disease.  

One of my most favorite hobbies is travel. The above photo was taken in Jaisalmer, India with my camel, George. Like a good scientist, I document my travels in my personal travel blog

Jared Dahle, MS, RD

I am a graduate student in the Integrated Physiology program and joined the lab in 2018.  I’m also an active duty officer in the United States Air Force where I specialize in nutritional medicine and exercise science within the Biomedical Sciences corps.  I completed my dietetics internship with the U.S. Air Force at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas and earned masters degrees in exercise science and biomechanics from University of California at Pennsylvania and Utah State University, respectively.  Broadly, I’m interested in the metabolic drivers of obesity and weight loss recidivism, and my dissertation research focuses on the development of tissue-organ modeling to improve REE estimation in weight-reduced adults. 

In my free time, you can find me hanging out with my wife, Heather, and our four kids, working out, or possibly hunkered down on my couch with a good book.

Tracy Swibas, MS

I received my B.Sc. degree in Sociology/Psychology and M.Sc. degree in and Exercise Physiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  I have been working with the Melanson lab and the IMAGE group for 8 and 11 years, respectively.  I primarily worked on the BATE3 study, but also help out with other aspects of the lab.  As a researcher, I can say that one of the best parts of my job is interacting with so many wonderful research volunteers.  I also value knowing that what I am doing enables the scientific community to answer questions that ultimately improve people’s lives.

In my free time you can find me laughing with my husband & 7 month old son, on a run with my sister, tackling a new house project, traveling to a new part of the world, coordinating a neighborhood compost coop and building my backyard urban farm.