Ya-Ke “Grace” Wu, PhD, RN

Assistant Professor

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of Nursing
Carrington Hall, CB #7460
Office 4015
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460

Dr. Wu is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Dr. Wu received her PhD from the UNC School of Nursing in 2018 and completed comprehensive training in eating disorders at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and interventions development at the UNC School of Nursing’s T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship. She was also selected and completed the Summer Genetics Institute at the National Institute of Nursing Research and Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Dr. Wu earned her BSN at Central Taiwan University of Science and Technology and her MSN at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan. Prior to pursuing her PhD degree, Dr. Wu worked as a registered nurse for twelve years and a lecturer in evidence-based practice for seven years in Taiwan.

Dr. Grace Wu is a distinguished scientist whose groundbreaking research in biobehavioral sciences and community research has significantly advanced our understanding of various health conditions. With a multidisciplinary approach and a strong focus on community, biobehavioral, and hormonal factors, Dr. Wu has made remarkable contributions to the fields of obesity, disordered eating behaviors, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health.

At the UNC School of Nursing, Dr. Wu served as the Principal Investigator for the Research, Education, and Quality Improvement Pilot Grant, where she spearheaded the Carolina Blue Project. This project aimed to investigate the relationship between disinhibited eating, work-related stressors, psychosocial distress, and cardiovascular disease risk factors among the North Carolina police force. Dr. Wu has built a strong relationship with North Carolina law enforcement communities to promote the health and well-being of law enforcement officers. Dr. Wu’s meticulous study design and innovative methodologies shed light on the complex interplay between stress, eating behaviors, and cardiovascular health.

Dr. Wu’s expertise in genetics and eating disorders is evident in her involvement as the Principal Investigator for the International Society of Nurses in Genetics and the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse projects. In these initiatives, she aimed to establish a small Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) site in Taiwan, focusing on identifying the genetic structures underlying eating disorders in Asians. By collecting and analyzing phenotypes and genotypes associated with eating disorders among Taiwanese individuals, Dr. Wu aimed to ensure global inclusion and advance personalized treatment approaches.

Recognized for her outstanding research endeavors, Dr. Wu received the UNC Junior Faculty Development Award from the UNC Provost Office. With this grant, she conducted a project investigating the gene expression of metabolic hormones in disordered eating after bariatric surgery. By examining the changes in gene expression of hormones such as leptin, insulin, and ghrelin, Dr. Wu aimed to unravel the underlying mechanisms contributing to binge eating and loss of control eating following bariatric surgery.

Dr. Wu’s collaborative efforts have also extended to her work as a collaborator in the R21 MH121726-02 project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. This project focused on exploring the impact of ovarian hormones on reward response and binge eating in bulimia nervosa. Dr. Wu’s expertise in hormonal phenotypes and her involvement in this longitudinal, experimental design demonstrated her commitment to unraveling the complexities of eating disorders.

Throughout her career, Dr. Wu has also been a recipient of prestigious fellowships and awards. As a postdoctoral fellow in the T32 NR007091 program funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, she explored interventions for preventing and managing chronic illnesses. Additionally, her postdoctoral fellowship in the K01 MH106675 project, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, focused on identifying metabolic biomarkers of weight change in anorexia nervosa. Through the examination of gene expression changes and their associations with psychological and cognitive factors, Dr. Wu aimed to improve the understanding and treatment of anorexia nervosa.

Dr. Grace Wu’s research has yielded impactful findings, which she has shared through numerous peer-reviewed publications. Her studies have addressed critical topics such as weight stigma, genetic influences on eating disorders, hormonal associations with mental health, and the impact of stress on eating behaviors. Notable publications include her work on stress and appetite hormones in females with anorexia nervosa, weight stigma and hair cortisol analysis in Asian Americans with overweight and obesity, and the impact of weight stigma on physiological and psychological health outcomes.

Dr. Grace Wu’s unwavering dedication to scientific inquiry and her outstanding contributions to the fields of biobehavioral and community research has solidified her position as a leading researcher in her areas of expertise. Her work has not only expanded our knowledge but also paved the way for the development of innovative interventions and personalized treatment approaches for individuals with obesity, disordered eating, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health conditions.