Texas Tech University

Doctoral Candidate Earns Prestigious NIFA Fellowship

George Watson

May 4, 2017


Kembra Albracht-Schulte is pursuing her doctorate in nutritional sciences.

Kembra Albracht-Schulte
Kembra Albracht-Schulte

In her final semester while pursuing a master's degree at Texas Tech University, Kembra Albracht-Schulte took a class in nutritional sciences where she learned of the work being done by the program's doctoral students.

Right then and there, her life was put on a path that has earned her a prestigious national fellowship while at the same time giving her direction for her academic and professional pursuits.

The Nazareth native earned her bachelor's degree from Lubbock Christian University in exercise science and her master's degree in exercise science from Texas Tech and is pursuing her doctorate at Texas Tech in nutritional sciences. She was awarded a fellowship by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), allowing her to further her research in nutritional biochemistry and the study of interactions between nutrients, genes and disease.

Albracht-Schulte's research focuses on dissecting the mechanisms by which omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil reduce and reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Specifically she is investigating cellular and molecular processes that may explain the beneficial effects of fish oil on reducing the accumulation of fat and inflammation in the liver during high fat diet-induced obesity.

"I was very interested in the work they were doing and immediately applied to the program,” Albracht-Schulte recalls about the class. "I believe my experiences here, along with my background in exercise science, will help me pursue future work that focuses on clinical and translational research.”

The fellowship is under the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative (ELI) as part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). It provides fellowships to undergraduate, predoctoral and postdoctoral students specializing in agricultural science.

The ELI hopes to develop the next generation of research, education and extension professionals in food and agricultural sciences. It trains future leaders in agriculture by tackling current and future challenges facing society. Those selected for the fellowship demonstrate the potential to become outstanding future education, extension and research professionals in the U.S.

Albracht-Schulte is a member of the Nutrigenomics, Inflammation and Obesity Research (NIOR) Laboratory directed by Naima Moustaid-Moussa, a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Human Sciences and director of the Obesity Research Cluster who also serves as Albracht-Schulte's primary research mentor and sponsor for this fellowship as well as her dissertation chair.

"We are extremely pleased to have Kembra as a doctoral student in the College of Human Sciences,” dean Linda Hoover said. "I also want to recognize Dr. Moustaid-Moussa for providing the type of research opportunity that an intelligent and ambitious student like Kembra wants to join. I look forward to seeing the great things they are sure to accomplish.”  

Albracht-Schulte credited her mentors – Moustaid-Moussa, research assistant professor Latha Ramalingam in nutritional sciences and professor Jacalyn McComb in the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Management, as well as numerous other faculty members – for their guidance during her time at Texas Tech.

"Kembra is highly deserving of this prestigious fellowship,” Moustaid-Moussa said. "This fellowship will help her successfully complete the research objectives outlined in her proposal that will culminate in her graduation and publication of this research. That will make her highly attractive and competitive in her next career as a postdoctoral researcher or faculty member.”

The ELI promotes faculty expertise and encourages implementation of educational innovation in the areas of food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences.

"The USDA-NIFA Fellowship is extremely competitive and it's exciting to see a Texas Tech graduate student receive one,” said Mark Sheridan, dean of the Graduate School. "This not only recognizes the capability and promise of Kembra, but it also enhances the stature of the university.”

Albracht-Schulte has also served as a co-mentor for an undergraduate honors student and Terry scholar in nutritional sciences, and has presented her research at national conferences for The Obesity Society and the American Society for Nutrition.

Outside of the laboratory, Albracht-Schulte is involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Shallowater, where she taught the children for a few weeks about nutrition, and participated this past summer in the Science: It's a Girl Thing program, which addresses the shortage of and need for more women scientists by introducing girls to the university experience.

"I hope to teach and execute research at the collegiate level,” Albracht-Schulte said of her plans after earning her doctoral degree. "I would like to use my position in a university to continue learning through research and contribute to the community by sharing my knowledge and inspiring healthy decisions.”

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