About Us

The Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction (TIHAI) was launched in 2015 as a cross-university initiative with the mission of promoting the health, strengths, and well-being of humans and animals through transdisciplinary partnerships that foster innovative research, education, and service programs in human-animal interaction. TIHAI is led by an advisory board with faculty representatives from multiple Tufts campuses and serves both undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines.

Co-Director: Megan K. Mueller, Ph.D.

Dr. Megan Kiely Mueller is the Elizabeth Arnold Stevens Junior Professor and Assistant Professor of human-animal interaction at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also a senior fellow at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and teaches in the M.S. in Animals and Public Policy program at the Center for Animals and Public Policy. Dr. Mueller’s research interests include pet ownership and positive youth development, animal-assisted interventions for adolescents with social anxiety, animal-based STEM education, and HAI and healthy aging. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and private foundations, and her work has been published in numerous scientific journals and media outlets. 

Co-Director: Deborah Linder, DVM, MS

Dr. Deborah Linder is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, a Research Assistant Professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and Co-Director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction. She has had articles appear in Eating Well, the Boston Globe, AARP, SHAPE, and XM Sirius Radio Doctor Channel. She has spoken at national and international conferences and a Capitol Hill briefing, and is an expert in pet obesity, nutrition communication, and in human-animal interaction. Her recent research includes the impact of animal-assisted interventions on childhood obesity and child literacy.

Partnership Liaison: Lisa Freeman, DVM, PhD

Dr. Freeman is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and is active in teaching, research, and clinical care of patients at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center.  She enjoys working with faculty, staff, and students from across the university through the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction, the Tufts Elephant Conservation Alliance, and the Tufts CTSI One Health Program.  In her spare time, she visits eldercare facilities and student stress relief events (including at Tufts) with her registered therapy dog, Penny.

Board of Advisors

» Gary Bedell, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

    Professor and Chair, Department of Occupational Therapy

» Richard M. Lerner, PhD

    Professor and Bergstrom Chair of Applied Developmental Science, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development; Director, Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development

» Chris Rogers, PhD

    Professor and Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Center for Engineering Education and Outreach

» Allen Rutberg, PhD

    Director, Center for Animals and Public Policy; Research Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

» Diane Ryan, PhD

    Associate Dean for Programs and Administration, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life

» Edward Saltzman, M.D.

    Academic Dean for Education, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Associate Professor, School of Medicine; Scientist, Energy Metabolism Laboratory in the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging