Meet the Group

The Nutrition and Early Learning (NELI) research group aims to improve the health and development of children and women across the world. Our research focuses primarily on the design and evaluation of multi-input interventions to address malnutrition, low responsive stimulation, and infectious disease. 

Dr. Leila Larson

Dr. Leila Larson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Larson has an MPH from Columbia University and a PhD in Nutrition from Emory University. Her work in the fields of nutrition and global health has three foci: 1) developing and evaluating integrated interventions to improve early child development and child health in resource-limited settings, 2) understanding the intersection of prenatal and postnatal exposures (e.g., climate change, malnutrition, infection, and microbial dysbiosis) on maternal and child health and development, and 3) improving the measurement of nutritional biomarkers and diagnosis of nutritional deficiencies in population surveys.  She has worked on several nutrition trials in pregnancy and childhood in countries such as Liberia, India, Bangladesh, and Malawi.

Fahmida Akter

Fahmida Akter is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health, UofSC. She completed her Master’s in Psychology in Bangladesh with the highest honors, focusing on advanced child and adolescent development. She also received a second Masters in Business Administration. She has nearly 10 years of working experience with quantitative and qualitative research at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh with a primary focus on psycho-social stimulation interventions, nutrition, responsive parenting, childhood maltreatment, mental health, cognitive behavioral therapy, and environmental health. In addition, she has experience in imparting training at both national and international levels on different psychological and child development assessment tools. Her current research interest is focused on determining the risk factors for diagnosing developmental delays and identifying, implementing, and evaluating multi-component interventions for early childhood development.

Victoria Adebiyi

Victoria Adebiyi is a doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior. She has a Master of Public Health degree in Public Health Nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley. She has a background in Human Nutrition from Nigeria, and she trained as a Nigerian Registered Dietitian. She has also acquired clinical, academic and global health work experiences. She is passionate about the design and evaluation of interventions and policies to improve maternal and child nutrition, and food security especially in developing countries. She is also interested in nutrition transition and obesity, and the relationship between nutrition and gender in limited-resource contexts.

Gitanjali Lall

Gitanjali Lall is a PhD candidate in Health Promotion Education and Behavior at
the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina. She has a Masters in
Developmental Psychology and Clinical Practice from University College London and
Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, London. She also has a Masters
in Health Psychology from University of Hyderabad.

Her interest lies primarily in early child development and interventions that may
help promote the same in Low- and Middle-Income countries. She loves working with
children, with a passion for childhood mental health and well-being. She worked with a
not-for-profit, Sangath as a researcher on child development programs during which she collaborated with state governments and organizations such as UNICEF for
implementation. During her PhD she wishes to build on these experiences to promote
early child development in the Global South.

Ashley Thurber

Ashley Thurber is currently a master’s student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior. She started working in the NELI Lab as an undergraduate at USC in 2022 and is continuing her work with them through her graduate studies. Her research interests primarily lie in parenting practices and child development and hopes to learn more about program implementation and evaluation.