CRAG Leadership

Zeynep Madak-ErdoganZeynep Madak-Erdogan, PhD
Research Overview

Dr. Madak-Erdogan is the Director of Women’s Health, Hormones and Nutrition lab at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She received her BS degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Bilkent University in 2002. After completing her PhD and Postdoctoral studies on Mechanisms of Estrogen Receptor Action, she joined Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Illinois, in 2014.  Her lab uses “systems biology” approaches to understand how nutrients and hormones impact breast cancer outcomes and identify biomarkers and associated molecular mechanisms driving more aggressive breast cancers. In addition to mentoring several undergraduate and graduate students she has taught courses in the areas of diet, nutrition and cancer, and toxicology. She has received several awards including NIEHS, Pre- and Post-doctoral Research Training Program in Endocrine Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology Fellowship, Women in Endocrinology Young Investigator Award from Endocrine Society and Mary Swartz Rose Young Investigator Award from American Society of Nutrition.

Dr. Madak-Erdogan believes that cancer doesn’t just attack tissue, it attacks the emotional health of patients, and often leads them into the overwhelming and ever-changing world of cancer research. Responding to questions of patients requires much more than disseminating a journal article; it requires someone who can not only interpret technical results but can also connect with patients on an emotional level that comes from having experienced and survived cancer. Promoting patient-centered, translational research requires integration of an advocate into the functioning of the laboratory. It is because of her belief in the need to stay connected with those experiencing cancer first hand that she strive to interact with the patient advocates. Dr. Madak-Erdogan is looking forward to working with patient advocates to promote innovative, evidence-based, patient-centered, translational research and to foster and expand opportunities for advocates in the Illinois research community and beyond.

Erik NelsonErik R. Nelson, PhD
Research Overview

Dr. Nelson is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His main research is focused on determining how endocrine and metabolic factors impact cancer pathophysiology. He received his PhD in comparative endocrinology from the University of Calgary, Canada. He then pursued his postdoctoral studies in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University School of Medicine. Here, he studied how obesity and cholesterol impact various disease pathologies such as breast cancer. Current work is aimed at determining the mechanisms by which cholesterol and its metabolites promote breast cancer metastasis. Dr. Nelson has been the recipient of several awards, including the Government of Alberta Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship, Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, and a National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award. He has served on grant review panels for the Department of Defense and Susan G. Komen.

While working at Duke, Dr. Nelson had the opportunity to interact with several cancer research advocates. He witnessed how important advocate input could be to the development of relevant research questions. Their first-hand knowledge of current shortcomings in patient care offers important insight and inspires the research we perform in the lab. On the other hand, advocates are instrumental at communicating the importance of our research to the community and government. Dr. Nelson is very excited to work with local cancer research advocates in Illinois!


MCB portraits September 2006
Ann M. Nardulli, PhD
Research Overview