Who We Are

The Catalyzing Communities team comprises leading researchers and dedicated staff committed to helping populations around the country jump-start community-level obesity prevention.

Based at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, at world-class research institution, Tufts University—where innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration are the foundations of discovery—we bring decades of experience, research, and real-world impact in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, behavior change, community interventions, systems science, and more. Catalyzing Communities is an initiative within ChildObesity180.

Our work is made possible through the collaborations and partnerships we have across communities and institutions that enable us to do our best work and make meaningful impact.

Julie Appel

Senior Program Manager, Catalyzing Communities

Julie Appel is a Senior Program Manager on the Catlayzing Communities initiative at ChildObesity180. has worked as a project coordinator and researcher on studies looking at the application of systems science methods to community-based obesity prevention in Somerville, MA; Cuyahoga County, OH; East Boston, MA; Greenville, SC; Tucson, AZ; and Milwaukee, WI.

Peter Bakun

Data Manager, Catalyzing Communities

Peter Bakun is a data analyst working with ChildObesity180. Prior to his work here, he held a similar role in the nutritional epidemiology unit at USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

Larissa Calancie

Co-Investigator, Catalyzing Communities

Larissa Calancie leads and supports research within ChildObesity180 that focuses on obesity prevention and improving food systems through cross-sector collaboration and systems science. She is a Research Assistant Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a co-Investigator for the Catalyzing Communities initiative.

Sarrah Chouiakh

Administrative Coordinator, Catalyzing Communities

Sarrah Chouiakh is the Administrative Coordinator at ChildObesity180. She works with the Catalyzing Communities team to support the Learning Collaborative, assist with social media communications efforts, and perform other administrative activities. 

Christina D. Economos

Principal Investigator, Catalyzing Communities

Christina Economos is Dean ad interim of the Friedman School for Nutrition Science and Policy, and co-founder of ChildObesity180, a unique organization that brings together leaders from diverse disciplines to generate urgency and find solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic. She leads the Catalyzing Communities research and action portfolio.

Dan Hatfield

Co-Investigator, Catalyzing Communities

Dan Hatfield is an applied community and behavioral interventionist working with ChildObesity180, where his work focuses on developing, evaluating, and scaling innovative approaches to promote healthy eating and physical activity. He is a Research Assistant Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a co-Investigator for the Catalyzing Communities initiative.

Erin Hennessy

Co-Investigator, Catalyzing Communities

Erin Hennessy  is the Director ad interim of ChildObesity180. She was previously a senior behavioral scientist at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health. In this role she provided scientific support and management to the Behavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.

Travis R. Moore

Post-Doctoral Researcher, Catalyzing Communities

Travis Moore studies how public health concerns, social change and collective action can be understood through community-based system dynamics and complexity science. He currently focuses on how multi-sector collaborations create meaningful networks for effective policy, system, and environmental change.

Katrina Sarson

Project Administrator, Catalyzing Communities

Katrina Sarson is a Project Administrator and Communications Strategist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Her work focuses on the intersection of nutrition, education, equity, and the importance of translating complex, evidence-based information so that it can be widely disseminated.

Shanti Sharma

Associate Director of Research and Evaluation, Catalyzing Communities

Shanti Sharma, PhD, serves as Associate Director of Research & Evaluation at ChildObesity180. She is an experienced research manager and has been with ChildObesity180 for over ten years, managing research and evaluation operations across the organization, including developing risk-minimizing strategies to ensure the protection of human subjects and proper compliance. She contributes to the research oversight and administration within Catalyzing Communities.

Mary Ulseth

Project Administrator, Catalyzing Communities

Mary Ulseth is a Project Administrator at ChildObesity180 and manages the Catalyzing Communities Initiative. She brings training in Community-based System Dynamics and Group Model Building, along with a passion for public health and social justice. Prior to moving to Boston, Mary worked throughout Southeast Asia for six years in the field of outdoor education and experiential learning.

Catherine Wright

Senior Research Program Manager, Catalyzing Communities

Catherine Wright is a Senior Research Program Manager at ChildObesity180, where her work focuses on the implementation and dissemination of evidence-based, community-based interventions for nutrition and physical activity. Prior to joining Tufts University, Ms. Wright worked for more than ten years for the PBS documentary series “Frontline,” serving most recently as the series’ story editor.


Our work is strengthened, supported, and sustained by our partnerships with community stakeholders, peer researchers and evaluators, funders, and content and implementation experts across the country and the world.