Kathleen Hill Gallant Lab

Kathleen Hill Gallant

Associate Professor Katie Hill Gallant

What are you Driven to Discover™?

I am Driven to Discover nutritional strategies to prevent adverse bone and cardiovascular outcomes, reduce mortality, and improve quality of life in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

What is the impact of your research in your field?

We fill a rather niche area of studying mineral metabolism in CKD using controlled feeding and metabolic balance studies. These studies provide very detailed physiological information at the whole-body level that is a useful component to inform clinical practice and other research.

How can people see the impact of your research on everyday life?

Our research is helping shape the dietary approaches used with patients with chronic kidney disease. The most recent estimate is that 37 million US adults have CKD, though most (about 90%!) are unaware they have the disease – which is why CKD goes widely unrecognized as the major public health problem that it is. Nutrition is a powerful strategy for primary and secondary prevention of CKD, as well as its two most common causes: diabetes and hypertension.

What drew you to your field of study?

As an undergraduate dietetics student at the University of North Dakota, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work at the USDA-ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center where I was exposed to the field of bone and mineral research as well as controlled feeding, metabolic balance studies. I absorbed the enthusiasm for this area of research from my mentor there, Dr. Fariba Roughead. I continued working in mineral nutrition during my PhD training at Purdue, then, during my postdoc at IU School of Medicine, I merged my interest in mineral nutrition with what had been my favorite topic during my dietetics education – kidney disease.   

What is your favorite research/lab tool and why?

My favorite tool is the use of isotopic tracers and metabolic balance studies for studying whole-body mineral metabolism. Balance studies were popular in nutritional research half a century ago, but are not often used today – However, these “old school” methods (as I often refer to them) are critical for understanding whole-body physiology in regard to mineral metabolism. There are really only a handful of such studies that have been done in patients with kidney disease. This leaves so many unanswered questions such as how various diets or medications affect mineral absorption and retention in these patients.

What do you consider to be your greatest research accomplishment?

One of the most exciting accomplishments of our research to date is the inclusion of our work as rationale for a 2017 revision to the international clinical guidelines for calcium intake in patients with kidney disease.

What is your favorite food science or nutrition fact?

It actually has little to do with my research area at all! My favorite nutrition fact is that you don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) have food battles with your kids – let them decide how much they are going to eat from what you bring into your house and provide at meals. There are so many things to stress out about as a parent, it’s magical to let this one go – and it’s actually in the best interest of developing happy, healthy eaters!

Research Team Members:

Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Dennis Cladis

Graduate Student, RD Kendal Schmitz

Graduate Student, RD Allie Fons

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Meet Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Dennis Cladis

Dennis Cladis Headshot

Hometown: Geneva, IL

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.

Meet Graduate Student Kendal Schmitz

Kendal Schmitz

Hometown: Farmington, MN

Degree pursuing: Nutrition PhD

Advisor: Dr. Hill Gallant



What is your research focus?

My research focus is chronic kidney disease and mineral metabolism, specifically phosphorus metabolism.

How did you become interested in food science/nutrition?

I became interested in nutrition in high school when I began to realize just how much of an impact the food we consume has on our health. Since then, I have completed a bachelor’s degree in community and medical dietetics and have obtained my Registered Dietitian credentials.

What is your favorite food science or nutrition fact?

According to Guinness World Records, the largest cup of coffee measured 6,007.04 gallons in volume. 

Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?

I came to the University of Minnesota from Purdue with my advisor Dr. Hill Gallant. I am ecstatic to be at the University of Minnesota as there are numerous resources and opportunities that will allow me to engage in collaborative, diverse, and engaging research.

How does your research tie into the research being done in your advisor's lab?

Dr. Hill Gallant’s research involves chronic kidney disease, bone mineral disorder and mineral metabolism. Her research focuses on elucidating factors that influence and regulate intestinal absorption of dietary phosphorus using human clinical studies and translational research studies in animal models. The goal of her work is to develop strategies to control abnormal phosphorus metabolism and its consequences in CKD patients as well as the general population. My research ties into this as I am actively conducting studies investigating phosphorus metabolism.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are evolving as I continue my graduate career and grow as a scientist. My goal for the future is to make contributions to the nutrition field that in turn, create a more well informed and healthier population.