Dr. Katie Smith studies captive primate nutrition, health and wellbeing, the evolution of diet related chronic diseases (particularly obesity), and stress and health disparities among underrepresented populations in the United States. She received her PhD from Purdue in 2012 (“Diet, Nutrition, and Health Among Captive Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)”), where she examined the behavior, nutrition, health and wellbeing of zoo-housed gorillas across North America. My research utilizes behavioral analysis of captive primates and multiple laboratory analyses, including biological assessments of stress (cortisol, DHEA), inflammation (C-reactive protein, IL-6), and nutrition (fiber and protein digestibility, bile acid synthesis). For this research, she has been collaborating with Drs. Melissa Remis and Ellen Dierenfeld, and both the Gorilla and Chimpanzee Species Survival Plans.
She recently completed an NIH funded post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychological, Health and Learning Sciences at the University of Houston in the Hwemudua Addictions and Health Disparities Laboratory. Dr. Smith worked with Dr. Ezemenari Obasi, where we examined stress and coping mechanisms among young African Americans in the Houston area, using both behavioral (psychological assessments) and biological (salivary stress hormones, fMRI, BioPac) methods to examine the unique stressors that the African American community experiences and the coping mechanisms that are utilized to combat these stressors.
In Fall 2015, Katie joined the faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi where she continues her current research on nutrition and health of captive primates and will further her work by utilizing both evolutionary and applied approaches to understanding the broader questions of health in both human and non-human primates. Additionally, she will soon begin research on nutritional and health disparities among underrepresented populations both in rural and urban areas throughout the U.S.