Dr. Dennis Cladis
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Nutrition
Primary Investigator: Dr. Kathleen Hill Gallant
What is your research focus?
Our lab group has many research foci and, as a postdoc, I have the privilege of working on multiple projects to assist my mentor as well as aiding in the progress of graduate students in the lab. Our primary focus is on chronic kidney disease (CKD) and nutritional factors that impact the progression of this disease. We are specifically interested in mineral metabolism in CKD that impacts not only kidneys, but also bone health. To this end, we primarily study calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium metabolism and regulation in CKD.
How did you become interested in food science/nutrition?
I have taken the road less traveled to get to where I’m at today. I earned my BA in math and chemistry before continuing on to earn my MS in synthetic inorganic chemistry. During my MS studies, I realized that, while I was fascinated by basic chemical principles, I sought a tangible, everyday application for those principles. When I moved to Food Science, I found that tangible application. This allowed me to not only continue doing high-level research, but to work on something that directly affects what ends up on people’s dinner plates every single day.
After moving to Food Science, I earned a second MS studying the fatty acid and mercury content of fish. For my PhD, I studied polyphenols and food toxicology in rat models, while working on side projects related to calcium metabolism and bone health. Although it took me longer than most to get through my studies, I gained an appreciation for the wide variety of research in food science and nutrition.
(Side note – my BA was completed at DePauw University (with a “w”, not an “l”). All graduate degrees were completed at Purdue University.)
Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?
I’ve known Dr. Hill Gallant since I started my PhD research. She often had helpful suggestions for my research and, when she had an opportunity for me to work with her at UMN, it was the perfect fit for me. She is an excellent mentor and is helping me not only conduct cutting-edge research, but also learn how to manage a research program. She is keenly aware of my career goals and makes it a priority to train me to be successful in my future endeavors. All of these factors made my move to UMN an easy decision.
What are your future plans?
My goal is to be a professor at an R1 institution, conducting research on food and nutritional toxicology. This will provide me with the opportunity to not only continue working in a field that I love, but to also be able to teach and mentor the next generation to think critically and ask tough questions that move our food and our health forward in positive ways.
My research will build on my training in multiple areas of food and nutrition research to assess components of the diet that are associated with health benefits but for which the safety of high doses is unknown. Many of these health promoting agents are essential to our diets, and, given the attention they receive for potential health benefits, most Americans use dietary supplements to increase their intakes to far higher amounts than we could achieve through diet alone. However, the safety of this consumption modality has rarely been tested. As dietary supplements are often comprised of purified extracts of these agents, their metabolism and bioactivity throughout our bodies may be altered. My goal is to build a research program that addresses the safety, metabolism, and nutritional efficacy of this burgeoning consumption modality.