Department of Nutrition

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

People of the REACH Lab

The Research on Eating and Activity for Community Health (REACH) lab is directed by Dr. Sarah Colby. The REACH lab is the part of the Infant, Child, and Adolescent Nutrition Laboratory (ICAN) lab group. The ICAN Lab at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville conducts nutrition research with pregnant women, mothers and fathers, and children from infancy through adolescence. The REACH lab works primarily with adolescent populations (ages 9-19 years old). Current research projects with adolescents involve culinary and gardening family interventions. In addition to adolescent population research, projects in the REACH lab include foci on marketing and college environments.

Sarah Colby, PhD, RD, MHS


Dr. Colby received her doctoral degree in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She worked as a Nutrition Research Scientist for the USDA/ARS at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center and as an Assistant Professor in the Department Nutrition at East Carolina University. She is an obesity prevention behavioral researcher with a focus on health communication through novel nutrition education strategies (including marketing, arts, and technology). Outside of work Dr. Colby spends her time with her two boys, Dylan and Devin, and her loving husband Jason.


Kerri Martin, PhD, Program Manager


Kerri received her Doctorate in Special Education from the University of Virginia. She served on the faculty of East Tennessee State University for several years before giving up the commute to work as a Program Manager for grants at UT. In addition to her work with the Get Fruved program, she is a contributor for a college textbook company in their Special Education division. She began her career with a biology degree from North Carolina State University as a science teacher and materials development coordinator for 3 years in the US Peace Corps in The Gambia, West Africa. Her interests outside work include piloting a Cessna 172, sailing with her husband, painting, and hanging out with her son and daughter.

Graduate Students

Chelsea Allison

Chelsea graduated from the University of Tennessee in May 2016 with her BS in Nutrition. She is a first year graduate student studying Public Health Nutrition and plans to complete her Masters of Science and the Dietetic Internship. Chelsea’s current research interest is adolescent cooking and nutrition education within the school system.



Jessica Dietrich

Jessi Dietrich is a graduate student seeking a Master’s of Science in Public Health Nutrition. She was born in South Carolina but grew up in Jacksonville, Illinois. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Human Nutrition. Jessi’s research interests include Eating Disorders and the Human Microbiome.  Jessi enjoys hiking, listening to podcasts, the outdoors, and spending time with her cat, Rick.

Marissa McElrone

Marissa McElrone is a nutritional sciences doctoral student with a concentration in community nutrition and is planning to complete the dietetic internship. Originally from Easton, Pennsylvania Marissa served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, East Africa after completing her Bachelor of Science in nutritional sciences from Penn State University. Marissa is a Maternal and Child Health Nutrition Leadership Trainee. Her research focuses on the impacts of dietary acculturation on food security status and the use of community based interventions to address these issues with refugee and immigrant families. She enjoys running, hiking, paddling, the outdoors, travel, and ethnic food.

Kelsey Reach Lab PhotoKelsey Parkman

Kelsey is a dual degree graduate student seeking a Master’s of Science in Public Health Nutrition and a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management. She graduated from The University of Tennessee as a Baker Scholar with a BA in Political Science in May 2014. Her research interests include nutrition policy, food security, and food access. She enjoys cooking, dancing, traveling, and all things Beyoncé.

Molly Rigell

Molly is a graduate student pursuing a Masters of Science in Public Health Nutrition, a Masters of Public Health, and minors in Epidemiology and Statistics. She previously received her Bachelors of Arts in English – Technical Communication and her Masters of Arts in English – Rhetoric specializing in racial identity theory from the University of Tennessee. Molly is also a professional violinist and enjoys singing, reading, drinking too much coffee, and weekly trivia nights with friends.

Kristin Riggsbee, LPNriggsbee2

Kristin Riggsbee is a Nutritional Sciences doctoral student with a  focus is Community Nutrition, is planningto complete the dietetic internship, and is the campus coordinator for the Get Fruved research project.  She is a Licensed Practical Nurse with work experience in both long-term care and rural health clinics which led her to realize the importance of preventative care and access to health care. Her research interests include issues related to food access and food assistance programs, particularly in rural areas. She would like to work in the academic field, continuing and expanding research in the aforementioned areas.  Some of her favorite things to do outside of work and class are reading cookbooks and novels, trying new recipes (specifically Indian food), and attending and coaching her four year old son, Jack’s, soccer games. She can read Goodnight Moon and Llama Llama Red Pajama with her eyes closed and play a mean game of Go Fish.

Morgan Sowers, MS, RD, LDNMorgan Faulk

Morgan is a public health nutrition doctoral student originally from Lafayette, Louisiana. She completed her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences/Dietetics from Louisiana State University in 2013 and her Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Systems from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2015. She also completed her dietetic internship with the University of Southern Mississippi in 2014 and became a Registered Dietitian. Morgan is interested in working in academia as a professor to teach and conduct research. Her research interests focus on the health and well-being of college students, particularly working to change the college environment so that it is easier for college students to make healthy choices. She enjoys traveling, running, trying new foods, and reading books about history or politics.

Sa’Nealdra Wiggins 

Sa’Nealdra was born in Frankfurt, Germany and raised in Clarksville, TN. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Health Education: Public Health. She has been involved in the REACH lab for about 3 years and has become an experienced researcher. Sa’Nealdra is in her second year of the nutritional sciences doctoral program. Her research interests are women’s health (specifically preconception nutrition), along with nutrition education disparities among low income populations. She hopes to one day develop workshops for women that will allow them to reach their optimal health statuses. She loves creating new dishes with a little help from pinterest! Sa’Nealdra was uniquely named after her parents. Sandra + O’Neal= Sa’Nealdra.


Undergraduate Students

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-2-44-38-pmAshlyn Carter

Ashlyn Carter is a junior majoring in Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. She is a member of UNSA and FRUVED. After graduation Ashlyn plans to participate in a dual masters/internship program to become a clinical RD and she would love to work with children.


ainsleys-pic-for-websiteAinsley Ellington

Ainsley is currently a sophomore in the Haslam Scholars Program pursuing her bachelor’s degree in an interdisciplinary program. Her major is entitled Nutrition Intervention for High-Risk Pediatric and Adolescent Populations. She plans on getting her Dual-Master’s in Nutrition and Public Health. Ainsley’s specific research interests are broad ranging from breastfeeding education to nutrition education/assistance for low-income and vulnerable populations. On campus, she serves as a Resident Assistant, is active in the Center for Leadership and Service, and loves to participate in intramural athletics.


unnamedCaitlin McGinnis

Caitlin McGinnis is a junior studying Nutrition at The University of Tennessee. She is an ultimate foodie with a passion towards whole wellness and nourising food. Her longterm career goal is to become a Registered Dietitian who works in a practice. Caitlin believes that food has an impact on our lives in so many ways– ranging from a cellular nourishment level, and all the way to an emotional, physical, and social wellbeing level. She wants to give people ways to enjoy a healthy life through recipes, advice, and one-on-one coaching.

Ashley Northcutt

Ashley Northcutt is a Senior from Raleigh, NC majoring in Nutrition. She hopes to attend dental school after graduating in May. She has loved everything the University of Tennessee has had to offer, especially the football games and the Get Fruved project. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, spending time with friends, being an amateur photographer, and traveling.

Magen Payne

Magen Payne is a Junior undergraduate student pursuing her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition- Dietetics Concentration. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian and achieve a PhD in lactation and prenatal work. She is Recruitment co-chair in Fruved and a second year Resident Assistant in Morrill Hall. When she isn’t working or studying, Magen enjoys singing, weight lifting, and cooking.


Veronika Vafina

Veronika is currently a junior majoring in Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. Her ultimate goal is to work as a Registered Dietitian with prenatal women or women wanting to start a family. While she loves Knoxville, she enjoys traveling to Nashville, Cookeville, and Warrensville, NC in her spare time to see her family and cats. Veronika’s hobbies include planning, organizing, and exercising.

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