Who We Are

 Molly Bray, PhD is a Professor of Epidemiology and Genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an adjunct professor at UH. Dr. Bray’s research is focused on genetic factors that influence the development of obesity and response to obesity treatments. Little known fact: Molly was a chubby kid and used to take ballet lessons! (click on picture to email)

Jose Fernandez, PhD is an Associate Professor of Nutrition at UAB and Dr. Fernández main research interest is the identification of genes that contribute to racial differences in obesity and diabetes. He uses the genetic admixture approach as a tool to decompose the genetic, social and cultural components underlying racial and ethnic differences.  Little known fact: Jose is a talented cake decorator.

Gary R. Hunter, PhD is a Professor of Exercise Physiology in the UAB Department of Human Studies. His research interests include weight loss, energy expenditure, fat distribution, CVD and diabetes risk, ease of activities of daily living, aerobic and strength fitness and exercise training in young and older adults.  Favorite saying:  "The magic bullet really is exercise."

Matt Herring, PhD is a Research Associate in the Department of Epidemiology and the Project Manager of TIGER.  Dr. Herring received a PhD in Exercise Science from UGA with an emphasis in exercise psychology.  His research interests include the psychological consequences of aerobic and resistance exercise training.   Little known facts: Matt loves all things Irish, and he is constantly looking for the greatest burger within a ten-mile radius.

Danielle Hessong, MPH is a graduate from Birmingham-Southern College with a B.A. in Political Science and a concentration in Pre-medical Studies. She recently completed her MPH with an emphasis in Epidemiology.  She worked in Cardiographics at Kirklin Clinic before she began doing research on obesity in Dr. Molly Bray’s laboratory. Danielle has conducted research on adolescent health in Guatemala and some of the poorest neighborhoods in Alabama.  Any free time she has away from studying is spent on road trips, camping, hiking, and music concerts/festivals. Little Known Fact: Danielle has seen hundreds of concerts and live bands. Her dream summer would be to travel all over the world, attending as many music festivals as possible.

Leila Shaw is a senior research staff member and UAB student.  Leila was one of the very first TIGER Staff members.  She is an active mom with a two-year-old son.  She's interested in DNA and forensic medicine.  Little Known Fact: Leila loves zombies and is part Japanese.

Additional TIGER Staff

The members of our TIGER Staff provide tremendous support to the study, and all of them are students right here at UAB!  You may see them at the Rec Center, in the TIGER Office or in the lab.  Be sure to say hello!


Andrew (Tony) Jackson, PhD has been at UH since 1969. He is a Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance and is an adjunct professorship in the Department of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He has been a research consultant to the Cardio-pulmonary laboratory at NASA/Johnson Space Center since 1975. Dr. Jackson is the Emeritus UH TIGER and keeps active by rowing every possible morning on Lake Livingston. Little known fact: After bringing his grades home from his first semester of college, his father asked: “Have you ever though about going into the Army?” He became a much better student after his Army tour.

Daniel P. O’Connor, PhDis an assistant professor of health and human performance at the University of Houston. His research interests focus on efficacy and effectiveness of medical and health-related interventions, with particular interest in subject-level outcomes and response variability. Dr. O’Connor’s research has been supported by NASA, NIH, and various private and public foundations. Little known fact: Dan was voted Most Humorous in his high school class.

Mary Sailors, PhD's research interests includes the genetics and  neurophysiology of eating behaviors and exercise compliance.  Mary has worked with the TIGER study since its inception in 2003, serving as the study's database manager and project manager for 8 years.  She has previously taught spinning classes and sports conditioning.  Mary spends her free time with her husband creating elaborate dinners for her family and friends and enjoys spending time coloring and creating art projects with her son.  Little known fact:  When Mary was a child, she asked for a microscope for Christmas instead of toys, because she was going to be a scientist!