Current Members


Alexis Frazier-Wood (PI)

Alexis Lekki Frazier-Wood

Lekki completed undergradutate studies in Psychology and Philosophy before becoming a class teacher at a school for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Intrigued by her observations on how the environment shaped rater perceptions of children’s behavior, Lekki went to complete a PhD which used genetic information to identify the cognitive underpinnings of behaviors associated with ADHD. Lekki then completed postdoctoral training in Statistical Genetics, where she used molecular biology to identify biomarkers of CVD risk. In 2012 Lekki moved to Baylor College of Medicine where she set up the Dark Matter lab. Lekki’s interest is in combining data across molecular biology with developmental psychology to understand individual differences in human behaviors related to health.


Sheryl Hughes (Co-I)

Sheryl completed her undergraduate studies in Human Development and, subsequently, a PhD in Developmental Psychology. Sheryl moved to Baylor College of Medicine in 2001 where she examines parent-child relationships in the feeding context and their link with child dietary intake and weight status. Sheryl collaborates with the Dark Matter lab to integrate the child’s biology into the association of the parent feeding environment with child eating behaviors, and how to use this information to help prevent pediatric obesity.


Shabnam Momin (Research Associate)

Shabnam completed her PhD in Human Nutrition at Michigan State University. Shabnam has studied the parent feeding behaviors of Asian Indian mothers and she is interested in how culture influences parent feeding behaviors, and its subsequent effect on children’s dietary intake and weight status. Shabnam is coordinating the BITS and EpiTwin studies, and leading publications on early child feeding behaviors.


Maria Papaioannou (Research Coorindator II)

Maria holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Houston and is currently completing a MPH in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health. Since joining joined Baylor College of Medicine Maria has been involved with various research studies focusing on the prevention and treatment of obesity and comorbid diseases in children and adults. She also has experience in working with children and their families in the home, school, and laboratory environments. Maria is  coordinating the BIO study investigating early infant feeding behaviors and their relationship to health. Maria hopes to pursue a PhD in Behavioral Science.

Nilda Micheli (Research Coordinator II)

Nilda Micheli has a BS in Health and Human Performance from University of Houston. Since coming to Baylor she has worked on several research teams focusing on children’s dietary intake, children’s physical activity, and child eating behaviors and parent feeding practices. Recently she was part of the team that helped develop and deliver an obesity intervention program to Head Start families. Currently she is a research coordinator for several research grants including Dr. Frazier-Wood’s study on biological influences on eating self-regulation in preschool children.

Cindy Elias (Research Coordinator I)

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Houston, Cindy joined Baylor College of Medicine to participate in studies on children’s eating behaviors. While serving as a child assessor and data collector, Cindy also helped developing the coding structure for the FEED study which provides an observational assessment of parent and child behaviors during a family meal. Cindy plans to attend Medical School later this year.

David Vides (Research Coordinator I)

While working on a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Houston David joined Baylor College of Medicine to work on Dr. Theresa Nicklas’s team at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center, studying innovative approaches for increasing consumption of vegetables in minority preschool children. Recently, David joined the Dark Matter lab as child facilitator, data coordinator, and coder for observational assessments of parent and child behaviors. David’s goal is to attend Medical School later this year.

Maya Duna (Research Coordinator I)

Maya graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Spanish, from Southwestern University. Maya is currently pursuing a MPH in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health. Her research interests include child and adolescent health, nutrition, mental health, and corporate wellness. Currently, she contributes to the BITS Study, which temperament and feeding behaviors in young infants and aims to reveal environmental and genetic influences underlying the association between these behaviors.

Past Members


Jennifer Davis (Postdoctoral Associate)

Jennifer is a molecular biologist completing murine studies in cancer prevention. Keen to understand how animal work translates to prevention work in humans, Jennifer completed a postdoc in Epidemiology and collaborated with the Dark Matter lab where she applied her epidemiological training to investigate how behaviors such as aspirin use, restaurant dining frequency,  vitamin supplementation and exercise contribute to cancer and CVD risk. In 2016, Jennifer assumed her new position as an Instructor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in the Department of Epidemiology.


Chris Ford (Postdoctoral Associate)

Chris completed a PhD in Nutrition Epidemiology at the University North Carolina, before moving to MD Anderson Cancer Center to continue his studies as a postdoc. Chris collaborated with Dr. Frazier-Wood and continued to investigate the role of nutrition in health using epidemiological approaches. After leaving the lab, Chris worked as  Staff Scientist at The American Cancer Society, and is currently expanding his Nutrition Epidemiology training at Emory University.

Zhe Wang (PhD Student / Project Intern)

Zhe’s MS was in Nutrition Epidemiology, and she moved to Houston to work with Dr. Frazier-Wood and continue this work with a genetic focus. While working in the Dark Matter lab, Zhe analysed whether genetic background could explain ethnic differences in gene associations with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Zhe is continuing her PhD studies into CVD risk at The University of Texas School of Public Health.

Emilyn Banfield (Summer Student)

Emilyn successfully competed to participate in an NIH-funded summer training program at MD Anderson Cancer Center. As part of this summer program, Emilyn conducted a research rotation, and under the supervision of Dr. Frazier-Wood, completed a project examining child diet quality using a large, nationally representative dataset of US children ages 2-18. Emilyn went on to conduct a PhD in Genomic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.