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Principal Investigators

  • Joyce Gilbert, PhD, RD
  • Merav Efrat, EdD, MPH, IBCLC


  • Tami Abourezk
  • Terri Lisagor, EdD, MS, RD
  • Ritamarie Little, MS, RD
  • Kyriakos Pontikis
  • Mary Jo Sariscsany

CSUN Students


Principal Investigators


Joyce Gilbert, PhD, RD


Dr. Gilbert is the Executive Director of the Marilyn Magaram Center and Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at California State University Northridge.  She comes to CSUN with a strong senior executive leadership history. She has, for the past five years, served on the Board of Directors for both the American Dietetic Association and its Foundation. She has served in a multitude of leadership roles with the ADA for over twenty years.

Dr. Gilbert serves on CSUN Advisory Boards of the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing and the Institute of Sustainability. She also serves on the Executive Board for What's in Your Lunch Box. Her areas of specialization include strategic development, organizational management and senior executive leadership. 

Dr. Gilbert has a doctorate in Food Science and Human Nutrition and teaches Advanced Nutritional Biochemistry. Her research interest include nutrition assessment, obesity, and micronutrients. Dr. Gilbert currently is the Principal Investigator for the $285,000 USDA-NIFA grant and a $502,000 HUD-HISAC grant on childhood obesity.

Dr. Gilbert is a consultant and invited lecturer in the areas of food science and human nutrition. She is consultant for the Military Pentathlon Team and serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserves.  Dr. Gilbert earned her Ph.D at the University of Florida, a Masters at Clemson University, and her Bachelor of Science at University of South Carolina.  She is both a Registered Dietitian and a Licensed Dietitian.

Merav Efrat, EdD, MPH, IBCLC


Dr. Merav Efrat has been a part-time faculty in the Health Sciences Department since 2006.  She obtained her Doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California, Masters in Public Health from Cal State Northridge and Bachelors in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also a board certified lactation consultant and American Council on Exercise Certified Group Fitness Instructor. Dr. Efrat has over ten years of professional work experience in the field of community health education with a focus on maternal child health, including at Kaiser Permanente, and Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.  Her research interest is in the area of childhood obesity where she focuses on investigating the efficacy of interventions designed to promote children's physical activity, as well as interventions aimed at enhancing breastfeeding.

Dr. Efrat currently serves as a Co-Project Director of three recently funded federal grants. The first project, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, promotes lactation education among undergraduate nutrition science students at CSUN. The second project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, is designed to address the childhood obesity problem in Van Nuys. The third grant, which is funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is a research project focused on evaluating the efficacy of a telephone-based breastfeeding education and support intervention on Latina Medicaid recipient's breastfeeding rates.  In addition, she serves as the Co-Principal Investigator on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded research project exploring the efficacy of the use of refundable tax credits to promote enrollment in after-school physical activity among low-income children.



Faculty/Staff Collaborators

Tami Abourezk







Terri Lisagor, EdD, MS, RD


A Registered Dietitian and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Food Science at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), Terri Lisagor holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UCLA and a lifetime teaching credential; she has an MS in Nutrition and Food Science from CSUN, and a Doctorate in Education from Pepperdine University. Lisagor has a private practice focusing on Nutritional Management of Childhood Obesity, as well as on Chronic Illness and Eating Disorders.

For the past 16 years, as part of International Health Emissaries (IHE), she has coordinated and presented nutrition and oral hygiene education to the indigenous Q-eqchi Indian children and their parents in the jungle areas of Guatemala, focusing on nutrition-related disease prevention. 

At home (CSUN), she directs the Peer Nutrition Counseling practium course, coordinating extensive student service learning projects at local community colleges, an area high school, Shriners Hospital of Los Angeles, as well as at a myriad of health fairs. Also at CSUN, Lisagor is the faculty advisor for the Student Dietetic and Food Science Association (SDFSA). 

As an educational consultant to a pediatric dental practice for many years, she brings additional insights integrating nutritional concepts for disease prevention; she serves as a guest lecturer for the Sports and Fitness Certification Program at UCLA, and an Adjunct Instructor in the Pediatric-Orthodontic Residency Programs at UCLA School of Dentistry.

She recently received the ADA/CDA Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award (2010).

Ritamarie Little, MS, RD


As the Associate Director for the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics at the California State University at Northridge (CSUN), Ritamarie Little oversees a number of projects including student internships, continuing education and community outreach projects. She is also currently a part time instructor at CSUN for courses including Nutrition for Life, Food Science, Food Chemistry and Analysis, Contemporary Issues in Nutrition and Food Product Development.

Ritamarie is a Registered Dietitian and obtained an MS degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, with a focus on Food Science from CSUN in May of 2006. She has extensive experience in the field of community nutrition and client education in a variety of settings including the WIC Program, Los Angeles Unified School District Food Services Branch and the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. 


Kyriakos Pontikis








Mary Jo Sariscsany