Trainee Interest Group (TIG)

Because trainees are the future of ISRHML….


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The Trainee Interest Group (TIG) is a sub-organization of ISRHML dedicated to students, postdocs, and new research scientists and faculty members. The TIG organizes activities that foster academic and professional growth within the field of human milk and lactation research for these junior members.


  • Connect trainees with each other and to experts/senior members of ISRHML - (networking)
  • Enhance the visibility of trainees to senior members of ISRHML
  • Advance academic and professional growth related to research in human milk and lactation
  • Expand trainee knowledge through Trainee Mentorship Series


ISHRML Trainee membership is open to undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows who are participating in research related to human milk/breastfeeding or lactation. The TIG, however, includes all trainee members, as well as new research scientists and faculty members (the new research scientists and faculty members who are not trainees should be ISRHML Associate or Full members, and are not eligible for trainee membership fees, conference registration fees, nor conference trainee travel funds).


The TIG Executive Committee consists of: President (tie breaker), President-elect (voting), Secretary (voting), Trainee Mentorship Series Coordinator (voting), Member Recruitment and Social Media Chair (voting), Blog/Newsletter Editor (voting), and two advisors (non-voting). Executive committee terms shall serve two-year terms and be limited to a maximum of four years, with staggered terms to ensure continuity of leadership.

The President shall become the Past President upon completion of his/her term as President and serve for one-year. The President-elect is elected the year after the current President has completed one year to familiarize him/her to the current status of the committee before taking office as President. The two advisors are appointed by the ISRHML President on alternating years to provide guidance and support to the TIG. The ISRHML President and President-elect are recommended to participate in TIG Executive Committee meetings as non-voting attendees to streamline communications between ISRHML and TIG Executive Committees.


  1. General Duties
    • All TIG Executive Committee members shall participate in all scheduled conference calls. Failure to participate in at least 60% of conference calls may result in forfeiture of Executive Committee position;
    • All TIG Executive Committee members shall assist with all TIG sponsored events at ISRHML and ISRHML-affiliated conferences (if attending);
    • All TIG Executive Committee members shall volunteer at the TIG booth at ISRHML and ISRHML-affiliated conferences (if attending);
    • TIG policies and procedures shall be reviewed every other year as the new TIG President assumes office;
  2. Duties of the President (two-year term)
    • Work with ISRHML staff to coordinate work of TIG;
    • Provide strategic oversight and guidance to all TIG activities
    • Liaise between ISRHML Executive Committee and TIG at large
    • Work with Advisors and ISRHML President to oversee the participation of the Executive Committee members;
    • Work with ISRHML staff and ISRHML President to oversee event planning;
    • Work with ISRHML staff to oversee the TIG correspondence;
    • Coordinate and lead regular TIG exec committee conference calls;
    • Circulate the agenda before each conference call;
    • Make annual reports for the ISRHML Executive Committee.
  3. Duties of the President-elect (one-year term)
    • Work with the Member Recruitment and Social Media Chair to improve TIG membership;
    • Assist the President in TIG sponsored event planning;
    • Provide assistance to the President
    • Assume President duties when the President is not available;
  4. Duties of the Secretary (two-year term)
    • Assist the President and President-elect of TIG with administrative tasks
    • Assist the President of TIG with creating meeting agendas, as needed
    • Record meeting minutes and archive them with ISRHML, after approval from the TIG Governing Committee
  5. Duties of the Trainee Mentorship Series (two-year term)
    • In conjunction with the Executive Committee and Advisors define areas and topics of interest for the Mentorship Series webinars
    • In conjunction with Executive Committee and Advisors approve potential lecturer names and lead efforts to contact these members
    • Lead efforts to organize, coordinate and oversight the TIG Mentorship Series, a bimonthly activity where mentors are invited to talk about different topics within the field of human milk and lactation
  6. Duties of the Member Recruitment and Social Media Chair (two-year term)
    • Work in conjunction with ISRHML executive committee and staff to advertise for TIG sponsored/related activities/events
    • Working closely with ISRHML Social Media (SoMe) committee and organize social media adviertisement and outreach on topics of HML research
  7. Duties of the Blog/Newsletter Editor (two-year term)
    • Manage the TIG blog and publish contents with the approval of ISRHML President and the two TIG Advisors;
    • Compile the quarterly Newsletter (Milk minutes) with the approval of ISRHML President and the two TIG Advisors.
  8. Duties of the Advisors (two-year term)
    • Provide guidance and support as appropriate in the excecutive council activities;
    • Serve as a liaison between the TIG and the ISRHML executive council specifically working with the ISRHML president and president-elect to ensure the TIG shares the ISRHML mission and that TIG is involved in larger ISRHML activities
    • Proofread, edit, and approve TIG communications (newsletter and blog)


Open positions are announced to the TIG membership by  the TIG governing committee.

Self-nominations are encouraged and shall be submitted to the TIG President. Applications should include:

  • a statement of interest (including applicant qualifications, reasons for interest in the position applied, and goals if elected for the position) and
  • a curriculum vitae

All candidates will be posted for an open election by the TIG membership. Preference will be given to current TIG members with previous involvement with ISRHML TIG and/or other leadership experience. The positions will be officially appointed by the TIG President following membership voting and additional discussion and recommendations from the TIG Advisors and ISRHML President.


TIG Executive Committee should have minimum four conference calls per membership year. TIG Executive Committee should have one in-person meeting during the biennial ISRHML conference. In case a member is unable to attend a conference call/meeting, s/he shall notify the President prior to the call/meeting. Quorum (70% Executive Committee membership) shall be reached for each meeting, unless in urgent/time-sensitive situations as identified by the TIG President.

Items that require motion and voting include, but are not limited to: meeting agenda and minutes, activities involving financial support from the ISRHML Executive Committee, significant changes to current operating processes that will affect TIG membership, and event planning,


The term years will extend from April 1st to March 31st and will last for two years (except President-elect position).

As member of TIG, what activities would you be involved in?

TIG members contribute to ISRHML’s annual and international scientific meetings by:

  1. Assisting in organizing oral presentation and poster competitions
  2. Organizing “Meet-the-experts” sessions and professional development sessions
  3. Assisting in preparing reference workshop material (eg. handouts) and in facilitating workshops
  4. Assisting in event advertisement and archiving

Other activities include developing a periodic newsletter for trainees and organizing webinars and online discussion forums on novel research topics.

Meet the members of the TIG governing committee

The governing committee works with TIG to organize trainee-relevant activities, explores additional activities related to advancing training related to human milk and lactation and bridges communication between TIG and other ISRHML committees.

The Trainee Governing Committee is chaired by the TIG president and consists of a secretary, 3 trainees-at-large and 2 full member advisors.

Co-President, 2019 - 2021: Yimin Chen

Yimin is an assistant professor for the School of Family and Consumer Sciences Human Nutrition Program at the University of Idaho. She practiced as a nutrition support dietitian for 15 years specializing in surgery, gastrointestinal diseases, critical care, and neonatology when she realized her passion in mechanistic research. Yimin’s research interests focus on exploring specific digestion-resistant proteins and digestion-released peptides in human milk that are associated with intestinal inflammation and integrity. She uses: 1) in vitro cell culture models to study cellular responses to digested colostrum, digestion-resistant proteins and digestion-released peptides in colostrum, 2) the neonatal piglet model as a clinically relevant model to study intestinal growth, development, and disease prevention as a function of different milk feedings, and 3) she is in collaboration with level-IV NICUs to determine modifiable maternal characteristics that alter human milk immunomodulatory components, and outcomes in the recipient premature infant.

Yimin’s two main goals during her term: (1) create a resource sharing medium for trainees and other members of ISRHML to optimize and standardize various human milk handling protocols; (2) develop a virtual grantsmanship writing workshop series to improve grant writing skills and increase funding success in human milk and lactation research for trainees.

Co-President, 2019 - 2021: Melissa Theurich

Melissa is a PhD candidate at the Dr. von Hauner Children’s Clinic of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) of Munich in Germany. She obtained her BSc in Human Nutrition with a concentration in Community and International Nutrition and Spanish from Virginia Tech, and her Master of Public Health from LMU Munich. Her doctoral research is on commercial complementary food use in the EU Childhood Obesity Project, a large multi-center European birth cohort. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) certified by IBLCE®. Melissa’s research on breastfeeding has been on international policies and programs at the national, regional and global levels, including infant and young child feeding in emergencies, and she works as an independent Public Health Nutrition consultant for international development and United Nations agencies. Melissa’s goal as the TIG Co-President will be to identify strategies for inclusion of trainees from Europe and low- and middle-income countries.

President Elect, 2020-2021: Michelle Asbury

Michelle Asbury is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada. She previously obtained her Honours BSc in Life Sciences and MSc in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Toronto. Working under the guidance of Dr. Deborah O’Connor, her current doctoral research focuses on characterizing the mother’s milk microbiota and its relationship with gastrointestinal colonization of preterm infants during their initial hospitalization.

As President-elect, Michelle’s vision would be to (1) provide more opportunities for trainees to connect with each other using virtual platforms, and (2) to provide training and ISRHML-sponsored opportunities for trainees to engage in effective science communication of human milk and lactation research.


Secretary, 2020-2022: Alexandra Gogel

I chose to run for ISRHML TIG secretary as a way to support one of the most inspiring organizations I’ve ever had the pleasure of joining. I joined ISRHML as a trainee in April 2019 and since have enjoyed connecting with professionals and other trainees in milk research from around the world. The opportunity to write a blog post discussing topics in milk research on the TIG blog allowed me to challenge myself and interact with the greater scientific community in a way that would not be possible without TIG. I would love to be a part of the committee that extends such critical opportunities to other budding scientists and early professionals involved in human milk research.

My two main goals as TIG secretary would be 1) to connect TIGers to activities and resources by providing well documented  and accessible TIG committee meeting minutes, including minutes from meeting before my tenure; and 2) support the TIG committee by contributing to tasks that move the organization forward. I have experience in this sort of administrative work because I have previously worked as a receptionist for a local small business. My efficient communication and effective teamwork skills will both aid me in achieving my goals for the TIG. I am excited for this opportunity and look forward to the potential of a 2 year position with the TIG Governing Committee.

Trainee Mentorship Series Coordinator, 2020-2022- Sarah Turner

Sarah is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. She obtained her BSc in Human Ecology (2013) and her MSc in Community Health Sciences (2016) also from the University of Manitoba. Sarah’s PhD research focusses on the role of breast milk components such as fatty acids and human milk oligosaccharides, as well as maternal mental health and parent-child bonding on the development of child behaviour and cognition.

Outside of research, Sarah loves to run and cycle and is a fitness instructor at the University gym. She is passionate about career development and helping people discover more about themselves and the world to make a career choice that aligns with their talents and values. As the TIG Trainee Mentorship Series Coordinator, Sarah will strive to 1) create a quarterly mentorship and career development webinar on diverse topics based on trainee interests and 2) create a dedicated mentorship session at the ISRHML bi-annual conference with the objective of setting up potential trainee expansion travel award partnerships.

Member Recruitment and Social Media Chair: 2019 - 2021: Ezgi Özcan

Ezgi is a PhD candidate at the Sela Lab at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research is based on metabolism of human milk oligosaccharides by infant gut microbes. She is interested in developing models to mimic microbe-microbe interactions towards understanding the associations between human milk and infant health. At the same time, she is a certificate student at women, gender, sexuality studies, in which she bridges women’s studies theories with her research in human milk and lactation. As a TIGer, her goals for Social Media/Recruitment, is to use social media as a transitioning platform between the TIGers and ISHRML expertise or a discussion board on research struggles, and scientific methodological debates and concerns that help TIGers collectively grow their knowledge and encourage TIGers to stay connected.

Blog/Newsletter Editor, 2019 - 2021: Laura Galante

Laura is a PhD candidate in Biomedical Science at the Liggins Institute (University of Auckland) in New Zealand. Laura has obtained BSc in Biology and a MSc in Biology Applied to Human Nutrition from the University of Trieste, and the University of Milan, (both in Italy) respectively, conducting the research for her MSc in the University of Reading (England). Laura’s current research focuses on the impact of infant maternal characteristics and sex on milk composition and infant growth. Laura’s goal as new Blog/Newsletter Editor is to increase the use of the blog and the involvement of new trainees in it by launching collaborative and creative activities and to implement the visibility of human milk science to a broad and diverse audience.

Advisor, 2018-2020: Dr. Sarah Taylor

Dr. Sarah Taylor is an associate professor of Pediatrics and the Director of Clinical Research for the Division of Neonatology at Yale School of Medicine. Prior to joining Yale, she was an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina where she also performed her pediatric residency, neonatal fellowship, and received a Masters’ in Clinical Science. She started the Mother’s Milk Bank of South Carolina in 2015. Dr. Taylor’s research centers on infant nutrition and growth with a special focus and human milk and lactation. In the past, she has received NIH funding to study the effect of vitamin D health on preterm infant bone development and investigate interventions to support preterm infant breastfeeding through the first postnatal year. Currently, Dr. Taylor explores the behavioral and biologic influences on mother’s milk production including methods to mitigate disparities and studies preterm infant gut health and development related to nutritional exposures. She is very excited to play a role in global human milk and lactation research development as a TIG advisor!

Advisor, 2019-2021: Dr. Maria Carmen Collado

Maria Carmen holds a Research Scientist position at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC), Valencia (Spain) and  Adjunct Professor (2007-now) at the University of Turku, Finland.

Her research work is multidisciplinary and includes microbiology, food science, nutrition and human health.  Her team objective is  to characterize the transfer of maternal microbes to neonates and to determine their function in infant health programming. More concretely, her team investigates the impact of early exposures (perinatal, environmental and genetic factors) on milk components (IgA, immune markers, metabolites, oligosaccharides, microbiota) and their impact on infant microbiota and health effects at short- and long-term. She focuses on the understanding of beneficial bacteria and probiotics on host response.