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Meet Our Research Team

We have compiled a research team at GenoPalate with different backgrounds and complementing expertise covering areas that go from molecular biology and genetics all the way to clinical nutrition, including population genetics, obesity, metabolic syndrome and nutritional sciences. The research team works closely together focused on advancing the field of nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition in order to improve health outcomes and general wellbeing. 


Sherry Zhang, Ph.D

Founder and CEO

From the moment Dr. Sherry Zhang saw living creatures under the lens of a microscope, she

has been in love with biology. Today, Sherry is still excited to learn more about how life works

and what the best fuel is for each of our bodies.

Sherry is a mother, a molecular geneticist and the CEO of GenoPalate. Sherry has a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Nankai University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Marquette University. She received in 2019 a Spirit of Marquette Award from her alma mater and a Milwaukee Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award. She also in 2017 was named a HealthTech Innovator of Wisconsin.

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Director of Nutrition Sciences

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.


Hector Guillen, Ph.D.

Director of Research

Dr. Guillen is the Director of Research at GenoPalate. Dr. Guillen obtained his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Notre Dame. He trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Before joining GenoPalate, Dr. Guillen worked as a Staff Scientist at Texas Biomedical Research Institute and as an Assistant Professor for the Center for Precision Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. His research efforts have included gene expression in colorectal cancer, genetics of hearing loss and developing tools to study DNA-protein interactions. Dr. Guillen is interested in understanding how genetics affect nutrition and how this knowledge can be applied to improve health outcomes and general well-being.

Kelly Van Gorden MS, RD, CD

Clinical Dietitian

Kelly Van Gorden is a registered dietitian from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the spring of 2011 and completed her dietetic internship and Master of Science degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in the fall of 2012. Kelly has a strong foundation in both clinical nutrition and the wellness community, and believes we can all live happier, healthier lives with the power of food. In her spare time she enjoys staying active, trying out new recipes, and keeping up to date on her favorite podcasts.


Rajni Nigam, MS, MBA 

Director of Bioinformatics

Rajni has a Masters degree in Organic Chemistry, and earned an MBA from Marquette University. Rajni began her career in science as a high school chemistry and biology teacher in India. When she moved to the United States, she worked as a lab manager, and conducted research involving sequencing and cloning of the androgen receptor gene. Rajni then became a scientific curator at the Rat Genome Database at the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2001. Her interests include acquiring, evaluating, analyzing, and annotating genetic information, initially related to rat strains and QTLs, but evolved into SNPs and genetic data related to nutrition and disease. Rajni’s goal is to explore novel research to identify new genes that modulate metabolism, disease, and nutrition, and explore sequencing and genome analysis to use genetic tools to help people manage their health.


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