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José Fernández, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education
Department of Nutrition Sciences
435 Webb Nutrition Sciences Building
1675 University Blvd. Birmingham, AL 35294
Phone: 934-2029


Dr. José R. Fernández is an Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Nutrition Sciences. Dr. Fernández obtained his Ph.D. in Biobehavioral Health from Pennsylvania State University, training in genetics of complex traits under the advisory of Dr. Gerald McClearn and working with the three most commonly used models for genetic research: fruit flies, mice, and humans. He continued his academic training at the New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University as a post-doctoral fellow focusing on genetics of obesity, under the mentorship of Dr. David B. Allison, and receiving specialized training in statistical models to improve the identification of genetic and environmental influences on obesity-related characteristics. Dr. Fernández joined UAB in August 2001, bringing special expertise in the application of statistical models to detect and disentangle genetic and environmental influences in obesity-related traits.

Dr. Fernández serves as a member of the Editorial Board for the International Journal of Obesity and for Ethnicity and Disease. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the UAB President’s Faculty Diversity Award (2007), the UAB Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring (2010), and the UAB School of Health Professions Joseph F Volker Outstanding Faculty Award (2012).

Research Interests:

Dr. Fernández's 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 in complex traits. He is also interested on the application of methods for gene mapping, the use of linear statistical models to

(a) identify genes in the population,
(b) identify gene-gene interactions, and
(c) identify the interaction of genes and environment;

as well as the use of statistical approaches to improve the identification of genes in the population.

Recent Publications:

  1. Cardel M, Higgins PB, Willig AL, Keita AD, Casaza K, Gower BA, Fernández JR. (2011). African genetic admixture is associated with body composition and fat distribution in a cross-sectional study of children. Int J Obes. 35(1): 60-65.
  2. Chandler-Laney PC, Phadke R, Granger WM, Fernández JR, Muñoz AJ, Dalla Man C, Cobelli C, Ovalle F, Gower BA (2011). Age-related changes in insulin sensitivity and β-cell function among European American and African American women. Obesity, 19(3): 528-35. PMCID: PMC3074467.
  3. Klimentidis YC, Abrams M, Wang J, Fernández JR, Allison DB (2011). Natural selection at genomic regions associated with obesity and type-2 diabetes: East Asians and sub-Saharan Africans exhibit high levels of differentiation at type-2 diabetes regions. Human Genetics. 129 (4): 407-418. PMCID: PMC3113599.
  4. Klimentidis YC, Dulin-Keita A, Casazza K, Willig AL, Allison DB, Fernández JR (2011). Genetic admixture, social-behavioral factors, and body composition are associated with blood pressure differently by racial-ethnic group among children. Journal of Human Hypertension, 26(2): 98-107. PMCID: PMC3172395.
  5. Klimentidis YC, Divers J, Casazza K, Allison DB, Fernández JR (2011). Ancestry informative marker between THADA and BCL11A is associated with insulin-related traits in a racially diverse sample of children. Human Genomics, 5(2): 79-89. PMCID: PMC3146800.
  6. Casazza K, Hanks LJ, Beasley TM, Fernández JR (2011). Beyond thriftiness: independent and interactive effects of genetic and dietary factors on variations in fat deposition and distribution across populations. Am J Phys Anthropol, 145(2): 181-91. PMCID: PMC3099307.
  7. Keita AD, Casazza K, Thomas O, Fernández JR (2011) Neighborhood perceptions affect dietary quality. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 43(4):244-250. PMCID: PMC3013241.
  8. Cox TL, Ard JD, Beasley TM, Fernández JR, Howard VJ, Affuso O (2011). Body Image as a Mediator of the Relationship Between Body Mass Index and Weight-Related Quality of Life in Black Women. Journal of Women’s Health, 20(10): 1 – 6. PMCID: PMC3186445.
  9. Willig AL, Hunter GR, Casazza K, Heimburger DC, Beasley TM, Fernández JR. (2011). Body fat and racial genetic admixture are associated with aerobic fitness levels in a multiethnic pediatric population. Obesity. PMCID: PMC3182292.
  10. Dulin-Keita A, Hannon L, Fernández JR, Cockerham, WC. (2011). The defining moment: children’s conceptualization of race and experiences with racial discrimination. Journal of Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34(4): 662-682. PMCID: PMC3083924.
  11. Cardel M, Willig AL, Dulin-Keita A, Casazza K, Beasley TM, Fernández JR. (2011) Parental Feeding Practices and Perceptions are not Predictors of Child Adiposity in a Multi-Ethnic Sample. Appetite, 58(1): 347-353.
  12. Willig AL, Hanks LJ, Fernández JR (2011). Birth weight is associated with body composition in a multiethnic pediatric cohort. The Open Obesity Journal. 3: 4-8.
  13. Casazza K, Hanks LJ, Fernández JR (2011). Shorter sleep may be a risk factor for impaired bone mass accrual in childhood. Journal of Clinical Densitometry, 14(4): 453-457.
  14. Klimentidis YA, Chen GB, Lopez-Alarcon M, Harris JJ, Duarte CW, Fernández JR. (2011) Associations of Obesity Genes with Obesity-related Outcomes in Multiethnic Children. Arch Med Res, 42(6): 509-514.
  15. López-Alarcón M, Martínez-Coronado A, Velarde-Castro O, Rendón-Macías E, Fernández JR (2011). Supplementation of n3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid synergistically decreases insulin resistance with weight loss of obese prepubertal and pubertal children. Arch Med Res, ;42(6):502-8.
  16. Fernández JR, Klimentidis YC, Dulin-Keita A, Casazza K (2012) Genetic influences in childhood obesity: recent progress and recommendations for experimental designs. International Journal of Obesity. 36 (4): 479-484.
  17. Dulin-Keita A, Casazza K, Fernández JR, Goran MI, Gower B. (2012). Do neighbourhoods matter? Neighbourhood disorder and long-term trends in serum cortisol levels. J Epidemiol Community Health. 66(1):24-29.
  18. Lemas DJ, Wiener HW, O’Brien DM, Hopkins S, Stanhope KL, Havel PJ, Allison DB, Fernández JR, Tiwari HK, Boyer BB (2012). Genetic polymorphisms in carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A gene are associated with variation in body composition and fasting lipid traits in Yup’ik Eskimos. Journal of Lipid Research, 53(1): 175-184.
  19. Duarte CW, Klimentidis YC, Harris JJ, Cardel M, Fernández JR. A Hybrid Bayesian Network/Structural Equation (BN/SEM) Modeling Approach for Detecting Physiological Networks for Obesity-related Genetic Variants (2012). Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Bioinformatics & Biomedicine, 696-792. PMCID: PMC3272699.
  20. Allon M, Zhang L, Maya ID, Bray MS, Fernández JR, the Dialysis Access Consortium (DAC) Study. (2012). Association of Factor V Leiden gene polymorphism with arteriovenous graft failure. Am J Kidney Dis., 59(5): 682-688. PMCID: PMC3328616.
  21. Needham BL, Fernández JR, Lin J, Epel ES, Blackburn EH (2012). Socioeconomic status and cell aging in children. Soc Sci Med, 74(12): 1948-51.
  22. Hanks L, Casazza K, Ashraf A, Fernández JR . Calcium homeostasis may influence resting energy expenditure with effects most apparent in early pubertal girls (2012). Acta Paediatr., 101(8): 363-368. PMCID: PMC3396785.