The LASTING Project is led by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in partnership with collaborators at Boston University, The University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, College of William & Mary, and the United States Department of Agriculture. We are an interdisciplinary team of food system scientists, policy experts, economists, engineers, and epidemiologists. We take a team science approach that creates a rich environment designed to foster research, learning, and professional development to train the next generation of researchers within this dynamic space.

Principal Investigators

Nicole Tichenor Blackstone, Managing PI

Dr. Nicole Tichenor Blackstone is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Agriculture, Food, and Environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Nicole’s research focuses on developing and evaluating strategies to improve food system sustainability. Her work fuses industrial ecology, nutrition, and social science methods. To date, her research has explored the environmental and social implications of livestock agriculture, human diets, food waste management, and regional food systems. She is the lead PI of the LASTING Project as well as a co-lead on Aim 3 which focuses on modeling the sustainability outcomes of shifting diets.

Sean Cash, PI

Dr. Sean Cash is the Bergstrom Foundation Professor of Global Nutrition and an Associate Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. He is an economist who teaches and conducts research on food, nutrition behavior, agriculture and the  environment.  His research focuses on how food, nutrition, and environmental interventions and policies affect consumers. He has also conducted research in sustainable food systems, including projects on climate change and coffee and tea production, cellular agriculture, and invasive species management. He is leading Aim 2 of the LASTING Project focused on consumer and expert preferences and contributing to economic analysis across the aims.

Patrick Webb, PI

Dr. Patrick Webb is a Professor with the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. He is a scholar-practitioner who has worked extensively on food security policy and practice, nutrition, agricultural development, humanitarian emergencies, and climate change interactions with food systems. He currently manages several large projects, including Feed the Future’s Food Systems for Nutrition Innovation Lab, while also serving a co-lead of the Food, Water and Air (FWA) technical hub for USAID’s STOP Zoonosis Spillover activity. He is leading Aim 1 of the LASTING Project focused on a review to identify the gaps in diet sustainability research.

Fang Fang Zhang, PI

Dr. Fang Fang Zhang is a cancer epidemiologist with experience in conducting population-based studies to investigate the role of nutrition in cancer prevention and control. She has led pioneer studies investigating patterns of weight gain during and after cancer treatment and associated risk factors such as dietary intake and levels of energy expenditure in pediatric survivors of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common cancer diagnosed in children. An interdisciplinary team lead by Dr. Zhang has recently completed the development of a web- and mobile-based nutrition intervention program to help parents transition family into healthy eating and active living as soon as the child completes early stage of cancer treatment. She is a co-lead on Aim 3 which focuses on modeling the sustainability outcomes of shifting diets.

Tufts Team Members

Jessica Sparks, Assistant Professor

Dr. Jess Sparks is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Agriculture, Food, and Environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Jess’s research focuses on using qualitative and quantitative social science methods to conceptualize and quantify the effects of climate and environmental change on working conditions in food systems, ranging from decent work to forced labor, human trafficking, and modern slavery. Most of her work has focused on marine capture fisheries and seafood supply chains, but she has also conducted research on the social dimensions of sustainability in agricultural, forestry, brick, and critical mineral supply chains, with the centering of workers’ voices a unifying approach in her work. 

Fred Cudhea, Statistical Programmer

Fred Cudhea is a Statistical Programmer at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. He works on Bayesian hierarchical model to impute means of dietary and nutritional factors for the Global Dietary Database as well as comparative risk assessment studies of US mortality attributable to dietary factors. He supports Aim 3 of LASTING leading the modelling efforts.

Brooke Bell, Postdoctoral Scholar

Dr. Brooke M. Bell is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She is broadly interested in health and food policy, food systems, climate change, and environmental justice. Her current work examines how food systems and policies can be leveraged and transformed to encourage eating behaviors that both (i) improve chronic disease outcomes and (ii) help mitigate climate change and its subsequent effects on human health. Dr. Bell received her B.A. in Mathematics and Ph.D. in Health Behavior Research (Public Health) from the University of Southern California, and she completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Yale School of Public Health.

Katherine Fuller, Postdoctoral Scholar

Dr. Katherine Fuller is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Her research analyzes consumers’ acceptance and willingness to pay for food labels and novel food products. Her research interests focus on the efficacy of food labels and their impact on farmers’ livelihoods, consumer interest in cellular agriculture, and food labeling for ethical and environmental purposes. She also analyzes sociodemographic factors that influence consumers’ decisions to purchase sustainable products. Dr. Fuller earned her PhD in Agribusiness at Arizona State University and an MS in Agricultural Economics at Louisiana State University. While pursuing her doctorate, she obtained a certificate in Environmental and Sustainability Economics from the School of Sustainability at ASU.

Shijun Gao, Postdoctoral Scholar

Dr. Shijun Gao is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. His research interests include social network analysis and consumer food choice. In particular, his research focuses on analyzing how producers and consumers make their choices by exploring how the product attributes and the decision-makers characteristics, such as their social networks and ethnocentrism levels, affect their decision-making. Prior to joining Tufts University, Dr. Gao earned his Ph.D. in Agribusiness from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. In addition, he got his master’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in management from China Agricultural University.

Amin Nikkhah, Postdoctoral Scholar

Dr. Amin Nikkhah is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. He has published more than 40 scientific papers in high impact journals and is also the guest editor of the special issues in the Journal of Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainability. His current research interests are the development of life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology and circular economy approaches in future, sustainable food systems. He was awarded his PhD by the department of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University, Belgium in 2021.

Kyra Battaglia, Doctoral Student

Kyra Battaglia is Doctoral Student in the Division of Agriculture, Food, and Environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Her educational background is in environmental studies and psychology. Prior to Friedman, Kyra worked at the USDA-ARS at the Plant Genetic Resource Unit and studied the nutrition quality of the diverse tart cherry collection. She completed her MS at Friedman, at which time she began her work on the LASTING project. Her primary research interests focus on understanding the reciprocity of the environmental, health, and social dimensions of sustainability, specifically as it pertains to dietary patterns. Through her doctoral work, she aims to integrate cultural preferences and awareness into our understanding of sustainable diets.

Graduate Research Assistants


Nicola McKeown

Dr. Nicola McKeown is a Research Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University and an adjunct associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (FSNSP).  She is a nutritional epidemiologist whose primary research utilizes population-based studies to investigate the role of carbohydrate quality in CVD and diabetes risk.  She is providing expertise on dietary patterns across multiple aims within the LASTING project.

Zach Conrad

Dr. Zach Conrad is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and a Faculty Affiliate at the Global Research Institute at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is a nutritional epidemiologist and food systems scientist, and his research leverages large datasets and modeling techniques to examine the complex interactions between food choice, diet quality, environmental sustainability, and affordability. He is the PI on several funded projects that investigate the relationships between popular diet patterns, nutritional status, and health outcomes. Most recently, he is leading a new project, in close collaboration with Indigenous tribal communities, to build computational decision-support tools to achieve sustainable food sovereignty on tribal lands.  

Bethany Jackson

Dr. Bethany Jackson is a Senior Research Fellow in Modern Slavery and Sustainable Ecosystems at the Rights Lab, University of Nottingham. Originally having a background in remote sensing, she has worked on a number of projects applying mixed-methods approaches to investigate the connections between modern slavery, environmental degradation and climate change. Her work has covered this intersection in several geographies and sectors, from the food supply to forests, and brick kilns to aquaculture. She was the lead on the Rights Lab response to COP26 (Glasgow 2021) and has an interest in the working conditions of labourers in industries exposed to a changing climate, and leads multiple international projects focused on forced labour and climate change impacts.

Edgar Rodríguez-Huerta

Dr. Edgar Rodríguez-Huerta works as part of Rights Lab’s Ecosystems and the Environment Programme to research how environmental change is interconnected with modern slavery. He conducts quantitative, international research and engagement primarily focused on understanding the human costs of sustainable food by quantifying the risk of forced labour during the transition to sustainable food systems.

Former Team Members

Julia Matteson, Project Manager

Julia Matteson is the former Project Manager for the LASTING Project, IMMANA, and Food Prices for Nutrition Projects. Julia works to strategically manage and administratively support the on-going research for these projects. Prior to joining the Friedman School, Julia served as a Princeton in Latin America Research Field Assistant at Osa Conservation, working to incorporate agroecology into the restoration efforts of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. She has also worked on several USAID Feed the Future funded projects focused on nutrition-sensitive agriculture and agri-business investment in Rwanda and Nigeria. She is currently an MS candidate in the Food and Nutrition Policy and Programs (FANPP) degree at Friedman. 

Former Graduate Research Assistants

For the latest news, use our hashtag #LASTING on Twitter and LinkedIn