When Franklin Muntis (MPH ‘20; Ph.D. ‘23) first heard about the nutrition and dietetics concentration offered by the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health as a master’s degree student at the University of Louisville, he found that it combined his interests of exercise and nutrition. The pursuit of his master’s degree at Carolina led to continued research as a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition, formerly chaired by Beth Mayer-Davis, whom the University named dean of The Graduate School in September 2022.
“My mentor raved about the dietetics program at UNC-Chapel Hill,” Muntis said. “Eventually, I reached out to Beth and explored physical activity, nutrition, and Type 1 diabetes. That really got me interested in additional research; from a science perspective, sports nutrition fascinates me, but the clinical side drew me in, because there’s great purpose there.”
As an undergraduate student, Muntis had considered a career in the military but initially decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
“As a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, I’ve been able to connect with other students and researchers. That really speaks to the collaborative nature of the work here and getting to be involved with so much.”
Muntis completes requirements of his doctoral degree in August — and days later will move with his family, including a newborn daughter, to San Antonio, Texas. He will begin the commissioning process for the U.S. Army, including a direct commissioning course and basic officer leadership, before beginning work as an officer at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
“With soldiers, I can hopefully help them perform better and keep them healthy so they can come home safe,” he said. “There’s also work to be done when it comes to performance to prevent injury and to combat health issues, like weight management, and how to successfully transition to the civilian world.”
Muntis’s third year of his doctoral program coincided with Mayer-Davis’s first year as dean. He noticed her continued commitment to doctoral students in her program in addition to her commitment to serve as dean.
“When she found out she was going to be offered the role as dean, Beth took the time to meet with me and the other students to let us know that even with this new role, she was committed to advocating for our success and wanted to make sure we had everything we needed to thrive at Carolina.”
Mayer-Davis said Muntis’s research — and research of graduate students across the University — is critical to fulfilling the University’s mission of teaching, research, and public service.
“Frank is emblematic of how we strive to empower our students to solve the great challenges of our time,” she said. “And as a new parent and graduate student, Frank’s research and interests kept me grounded and engaged in student life so he could achieve his personal and professional goals. … That’s part of why I took on the role of dean — because I remain inspired and in awe of our graduate students and the many milestones they achieve.”
During his time at Carolina, Muntis assisted in several NIH-funded studies, including a clinical trial of weight management strategies for young adults living with Type 1 diabetes and the launch of a new recruitment site for the All of Us Research Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health, which focuses on building the most diverse health databases in history. He has also supported an adjacent program, Nutrition for Precision Health.
Muntis said he is proud of his dissertation research and its contributions to the field of Type 1 diabetes. “It’s the culmination of my previous experiences in exercise and dietetics. It’s a unique intersection of it all.”
As a doctoral student, Muntis served as a teaching assistant — what he called his proudest moment.
“I loved teaching, and I got overwhelming positive feedback,” he said. “Hearing from people about how appreciative they were, and the fact that they enjoyed what I was teaching, was just incredible.”