June 1, 2021

Dr. Stephen Hursting

Dr. Stephen Hursting

Stephen Hursting, PhD, MPH, has been named the next director of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI). Based out of Kannapolis, N.C., the NRI research center advances the field of precision nutrition by investigating how genetics, gut microbiota and environment affect an individual’s requirements for and responses to nutrients.

Hursting is the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund Distinguished Professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Nutrition, as well as a professor with both NRI and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He also serves as director of the School of Medicine’s Nutrition Coil and co-director of the Animal Metabolism Phenotyping Core in the UNC Nutrition and Obesity Research Center.

For more than two decades, Hursting’s research program has focused on the links and underlying mechanisms between energy balance and cancer, with the goal of developing effective mechanism-based strategies for breaking those links. He is an international leader in nutrition, obesity, metabolism and cancer research.

Hursting earned his doctoral degree in nutritional biochemistry and his Master of Public Health degree in nutritional epidemiology from UNC-Chapel Hill, and he completed postdoctoral training in molecular carcinogenesis and cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute. Prior to joining the UNC faculty in 2014, Hursting was professor and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, the McKean-Love Endowed Chair of Nutritional, Molecular and Cellular Sciences in the UT College of Natural Sciences, and Professor in the Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis at the UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center.

As director of NRI, Hursting will have institutional responsibilities for promoting and managing scientific research, educational outreach, grant development and regional economic development activities for the institution. He will recruit, mentor and lead research activities for faculty members and their support teams; manage operations of NRI’s 125,000-square-foot research facility in Kannapolis; and conduct other administrative responsibilities required to sustain and grow research and educational programs.

“I really look forward to building strong bridges between the NRI and main campus as well as with colleagues from other universities on the North Carolina Research Campus,” says Hursting. “I plan to help focus the tools and talents at the NRI in precision nutrition on some of the major health issues facing our state and nation today, specifically obesity and related metabolic diseases, cancer, and brain health.

Hursting will begin serving as director of the NRI on June 1, after current Director Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD, steps down on May 31. Zeisel’s decades of nutrition research and his oversight of the institute since 2006 have made NRI the thriving institution that it is today. Hursting is excited to continue on the path he has established. “Steve Zeisel has left big shoes to fill, and I hope to build on the strong foundation that he and my NRI and Department of Nutrition colleagues have established to help make UNC a world leader in precision nutrition and health.”

Learn more about Hursting’s path to NRI.


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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