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About Us

At UTNI, we teach that improving personal and public health starts with real nutrition.

Who We Are

The University of Texas Nutrition Institute includes researchers, dietitians, scientists, innovators, educators and entrepreneurs, all working to elevate and share evidence-based nutrition education with the public. 

The Institute is an interdisciplinary partnership across the UT Department of Nutritional Sciences, the College of Natural Sciences, and the McCombs School of Business.

Our Mission

We aim to harness the power of nutritional science to revolutionize personal and public health. Our goal is to use nutrition science to create real-world impact. 

Our motto here at the University of Texas at Austin is “what starts here changes the world”—we hope that the UT Nutrition Institute changes the way we eat, for the better.

Our Partners

We believe healthy communities start with incorporating nutrition into everyday life, and our partners are making it happen.

Healthcare Professionals

We collaborate with the Dell Medical School to promote nutrition and wellness programs, educate providers, and improve patient lives.

Garden Educators

The EdEN Lab, housed within the UT Nutrition Institute, supports school gardens, teachers, and communities through research, evaluation, and training.

Community Members

From camps to classes to cooking demonstrations, we share nutritional knowledge to improve your everyday life.


Our diverse and unique curriculum encourages professional growth and entrepreneurial action in our students.

Our Team

Portrait of Dr. Robyn Metcalfe

Dr. Robyn Metcalfe


Dr. Metcalfe is an author, film producer, and researcher, who explores our global food system. She was the Founder and Director of Food+City, an innovative project that explored the future of our food system and produced a Food Startup Challenge Prize in Austin, Texas for five years. Her books include The Humans in Our Food, Food Routes, Meat, Commerce and the City, and The New Wizard War. She writes for publications such as The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and Science Magazine and participates in podcasts and conferences. Her latest film is The Long Coast, which premiered in 2020 at The Camden International Film Festival.

Portrait of Dr. Molly Bray

Dr. Molly Bray

Chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences

Dr. Molly Bray is the Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, a Professor in the department, and is the Susan T. Jastrow Chair for Excellence in Nutritional Sciences. Dr. Bray earned a Ph.D. in human and molecular genetics from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She previously served as the Director of the Heflin Center for Genomic Sciences Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine Genetics Core Laboratory.

Portrait of Dr. Jaimie Davis

Dr. Jaimie Davis

Associate Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences

Jaimie Davis is a Registered Dietitian and Associate Professor at UT-Austin. She has extensive expertise in nutrition, physical activity, and body composition assessment in pediatric populations. Many of her studies among obese Hispanic youth have shown protective effects of diets low in sugar and high in dietary fiber and fruits and vegetables against obesity and related diseases. Dr. Davis’s research also involves developing school and community-based gardening and cooking programs for obesity prevention and treatment in low-income minority populations.

Portrait of Drew Hays

Drew Hays

Assistant Professor, Department on Nutritional Sciences

Drew Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department on Nutritional Sciences.  She received her Master’s Degree of Nutritional Sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and is a professionally trained chef from Le Cordon Bleu Academy of Culinary Arts.  As a chef, she has held a variety of positions including Food Stylist and R&D Chef for the Food Network in New York City. Prior to her position at the University of Texas, she worked as a Clinical Dietitian providing medical nutrition therapy in the acute care setting.

Portrait of Dr. Laura Lashinger

Dr. Laura Lashinger

Assistant Professor, Department on Nutritional Sciences

Dr. Laura Lashinger is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. She received a Ph.D in cancer biology from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Her research focuses on the effects of energy balance, particularly calorie restriction, on the progression of cancers using animal models. She currently teaches the advanced nutritional sciences course for undergraduates.

Portrait of Dr. Heather Leidy

Dr. Heather Leidy

Associate Professor, Department on Nutritional Sciences

Dr. Heather Leidy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. She completed a Ph.D. in physiology (with an emphasis in exercise endocrinology and metabolism) at Penn State University as well as a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University. She was also one of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee members. Her research examines the effect of quantity, quality, and timing of dietary protein consumption on the signals that promote healthy eating and weight management across the lifespan.

Portrait of Monica Milonovich

Monica Milonovich

Assistant Professor, Department on Nutritional Sciences

Monica Milonovich is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Monica has spent over 10 years in the field of clinical dietetics. During this time, she has worked as a clinical nutrition manager, ensuring consistent clinical nutrition services including policy revisions, food service, and medical nutrition therapy. She teaches both medical nutrition therapy courses and the clinical practice in medical nutrition therapy at the University of Texas.

Portrait of Dr. Beth Widen

Dr. Beth Widen

Assistant Professor, Department on Nutritional Sciences

Dr. Beth Widen is Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and affiliate faculty at the Population Research Center, the Departments of Women’s Health, and Pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. She received a Ph.D. in Nutrition with a minor in Epidemiology from the University of North California at Chapel Hill, completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University and is a Registered Dietitian.  

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