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2022 STRONG Kids Research Symposium

This year's theme: 'Catalyzing Transdisciplinary Collaborations'

April 25 | I Hotel and Conference Center, Illinois Ballroom
8:00 a.m. - 4 p.m.

The STRONG Kids Research Symposium takes a transdisciplinary research and education approach to unravel the complex origins of children’s nutritional health from birth until 7 years of age. During the past eight years, more than 400 families from central Illinois have collectively contributed thousands of biological samples, survey data, home visits and data that include assessments of body composition and cognitive functioning. Based at the Family Resiliency Center, the program includes campus researchers from Human Development and Family Studies, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Kinesiology and Community Health, the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine and UI Extension.

With the four-year-old cohort now complete, we believe this is the opportune time to share our research findings with the larger Illinois community and ignite interest for forging new collaborations. There are multiple opportunities to engage with new investigators interested in exploring how biological factors intersect with interpersonal and family factors to predict a variety of health outcomes including related to diet, weight trajectories, physical activity, and sleep.

See below to view the organizations and campus units that supported the 2022 symposium. We appreciate their assistance!


Questions? Contact Barbara Fiese at or Sharon Donovan at


8:00     Registration and Breakfast

8:45     Welcome

9:00     Research Presentations (Cell: Biological Sample Collections and 'Omics Analyses)

  • Early Life feeding, growth trajectories and gut microbiome development
    Sharon Donovan, Ph.D., RD 

  • Integrating noninvasive data collection to identify genetic and epigenetic signals of healthy weight gain
    Margarita Teran-Garcia, MD, Ph.D.

  • Using the home food inventory: Measurement, changes from infancy to 3 years, and future directions
    Jenny Barton, Ph.D.

  • Contributors to parental perception of picky eating behaviors in the STRONG Kids 2 cohort between 1 and 4 years of age
    Soo-Yeun Lee, Ph.D.

  • Temperament, microbiome, and the regulation of children's eating behavior
    Kelly Bost, Ph.D., and Sehyun Ju, Ph.D.

  • Contextual variables: Unique insights on the determinants of child weight status
    Brent McBride, Ph.D.

10:45   Data walk/collaboration discussions

11:30   Lunch

12:30   Research Presentations (Cross-Cutting Collaborations)

  • Gut-brain axis and behavior
    Kelly Bost, Ph.D., Florin Dolcos, Ph.D., Sanda Dolcos, Ph.D.

  • Health behaviors, obesity, and early childhood cognitive function
    Naiman Khan, Ph.D.

  • Child attachment security, dietary intake, and household chaos on executive function
    Samantha Iwinski

  • The relationship between maternal and infant sleep duration across the first two years
    Tianying Cai

  • Roles of diet, physical activity, sedentary time, and gut-microbiome in executive functioning development in early life
    Arden McMath

  • Translating SK2 evidence into practice and policy: Current efforts and future potential
    Brenda Davis Koester

2:15    Collaboration talks

3:45    Summary and wrap up

Thank you to the following organizations and campus units for providing support for this year's symposium:

National Dairy Council
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
Department of Animal Sciences
Family Resiliency Center
Division of Nutritional Sciences
Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences
College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences (Office of Research)
College of Applied Health Sciences
University of Illinois Extension
Beckman Institute
Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute