Dr. Zhu’s research has been focusing on the interface of disease etiology and prevention strategies in women’s and children’s cardiometabolic health. She has sought to develop an interdisciplinary research portfolio focusing on disease etiology and prevention strategies to inform upstream prevention and interrupt the vicious intergenerational cycle of obesity, diabetes, and related comorbidities across the lifespan. Dr. Zhu has conducted NIH-funded research to examine the intergenerational associations of maternal hyperglycemia and environmental exposures (i.e., diet, nutrition, and endocrine disrupter chemicals) during pregnancy in relation to metabolic impairments at birth, during childhood, and in later life among the offspring.
Dr. Zhu’s current work also capitalizes on rich resources of real-world clinical data available at Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) to advance research on strategies for upstream prevention and disparities reduction in cardiometabolic disorders among women and children. She applies predictive analytics to develop models to predict pregnancy complications and treatment modalities in order to inform risk-based models of care in real-world health care settings. Using the unique, universal nurse-managed supplemental care program by KPNC Regional Perinatal Service Center serving women with GDM, Dr. Zhu sought to examine racial/ethnic disparities in glycemic control. Most recently, Dr. Zhu has been examining the associations between candidate and untargeted metabolites in early to mid-pregnancy and risk of fetal growth extremes and infant growth trajectories from 0-2 years (PI: Zhu; NIDDK K01DK120807). Findings may also inform the ability of using metabolomics in improving objective dietary assessment and advancing the field of precision nutrition.