Lab Picture September 2018 (from left to right: Glennon Carevic, Dylan Kirsch, Valeria Tretyak, Sepeadeh Radpour, Beth Lippard, Nehel Kurjee, Illan Kunik, Anant Gonugunta, Staci Board, Ashish Chowdary, Mubarika Ali)


Principal Investigator — Elizabeth Lippard

Assistant Professor of the Department of Psychiatry at Dell Medical School


Dr. Lippard is a neurobiologist specializing in clinical developmental neuroscience, with expertise in behavior and structural and functional neuroimaging in clinical populations. She has a Ph.D in Neurobiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a bachelor of science in microbiology with a minor in genetics, and a bachelor of arts in chemistry from North Carolina State University. Her research has spanned multiple levels of neuroscience from preclinical animal models, human post-mortem brain, and neuroimaging-genetic studies. Her research has focused on critical periods in development (infancy and adolescence) to better understand brain-behavior trajectories and how development may go awry to increase risk and ultimately lead to the development of affective disorders, alcohol/substance use disorders, and interactions between these processes. Primary research interests are 1)  brain-behavior trajectories during adolescents and young adulthood and mental health, 2) identifying biomarkers of risk for affective disorders and alcohol/substance use disorders (specifically neural, clinical, behavioral, and genetic factors that may predict risk and illness onset) and how these processes interact to affect development and mental health, and 3) early disease heterogeneity in individuals with affective disorders and alcohol/substance use disorders.

Dr. Lippard currently uses a combination of methods including clinical and behavioral phenotyping, multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and genetic techniques to investigate predictors of risk for bipolar disorder and alcohol/substance use disorders and mechanisms by which these predictors of risk translate into full blown mood disorders and alcohol/substance use disorders.


Kim Fromme, Ph.D.

Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and SAHARA Lab Director

CV; Lab website:

Kim Fromme, Ph.D., is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and is also the Director of the Studies on Alcohol, Health, and Risky Activities (SAHARA). She received her Ph.D. from The University of Washington, and is a Fellow and former President of the Society of Addiction Psychologists (Division 50) of the American Psychological Association.

Her program of research focuses on the etiology and prevention of alcohol abuse and risk-taking behaviors among adolescents and young adults. With support from a $3.2 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Dr. Fromme recently completed a longitudinal study of the alcohol use and other behavioral risks (e.g., drug use, risky sex, aggression) of a cohort of first time college students, beginning with their senior year in high school and following them for the next 6 years. This research examined individual, environmental, and social factors that influence the developmental trajectories of alcohol use and other behavioral risks among students as they progress through college and beyond. Yielding over 30 publications thus far, this research has provided new insights into the development of alcohol use patterns and behavioral risks during emerging adulthood, as well as the event-level association between alcohol intoxication, subjective responses to alcohol, and participation in other forms of behavioral risks.

Stephen Strakowski, M.D.

Vice Dean of Research, Dell Medical School

Associate Vice President for Regional Mental Health, Dell Medical School

Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Stephen Strakowski, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist in UT Health Austin’s Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences. He specializes in the treatment of young people with mood disorders and general psychiatry. Additionally, Dr. Strakowski is a professor for the Dell Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a courtesy professor for The University of Texas at Austin Departments of Psychology (College of Natural Sciences) and Educational Psychology (College of Education). He also serves as the Vice Dean of Research and the Associate Vice President for Regional Mental Health for the Dell Medical School.

Dr. Strakowski earned his medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He completed both an internship and a residency in adult psychiatry at the McLean Hospital/Harvard University School of Medicine.

Dr. Strakowski is an active researcher with more than 20 years of experience and multiple prior National Institute of Mental Health and foundation awards dedicated to studying the causes, neurobiology, course, and treatment of bipolar disorder. He is nationally known for addressing health disparities in the U.S., specifically in the widely recognized problem of misdiagnosis of African Americans with schizophrenia. He has published more than 300 manuscripts, letters, books, and book chapters and has received numerous awards for his work.

Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D.

Matthew P. Nemeroff Endowed Chair, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Director, Institute for Early Life Adversity Research

                                               Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, PhD, is a board-certified psychiatrist in UT Health Austin’s Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences. He specializes in diagnosis of complex patients and in management of treatment-resistant depression and anxiety disorders. Additionally, Dr. Nemeroff is a professor and serves as the Matthew P. Nemeroff Endowed Chair for the Dell Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He also serves as the Director for the Dell Medical School Institute for Early Life Adversity Research.

Dr. Nemeroff earned both his medical degree and doctorate from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He also completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, where he later held faculty positions. He served as the Chair of the Departments of Psychiatry at Emory University and the University of Miami before joining the Dell Medical School.

Dr. Nemeroff’s research interests involve the pathophysiology of mood and anxiety disorders, specifically focusing on the role of child abuse and neglect as a major risk factor. He has also conducted research on the role of mood disorders as a risk factor for major medical disorders, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. He has published more than 1,100 research reports and reviews, and his research is currently supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. He has served as president of both The American College of Psychiatrists and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He currently sits on the board of directors and is President-Elect of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. He also serves on the Scientific Council of the Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation.

Jorge Almeida, M.D., Ph.D.

Director, Bipolar Disorder Center, Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences

Psychiatrist, Bipolar Disorder Center, Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences

Jorge Almeida, MD, PhD, is a board-certified psychiatrist and the Director of UT Health Austin’s Bipolar Disorder Center within the Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences. He specializes in enhancing the quality of life for individuals suffering from bipolar disorder illness. Additionally, Dr. Almeida is an associate professor and serves as the Director of Psychiatry Clinical Institutes for the Dell Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Almeida earned his medical degree from Faculdade de Medicina do ABC in Santo André, Brazil and his doctorate in neuroscience from the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil. He completed a residency in psychiatry at Brown University and a fellowship in clinical and translational affective neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Almeida’s neuroimaging research focuses on the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to investigate biomarkers of mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder, using standard neuroimaging data analysis along with effective connectivity and pattern recognition analysis.

Lab Manager

Vanessa Le, B.A. – Research Associate

Vanessa graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2019 with a B.A. in Psychology, a minor in Sociology, and a certificate in Forensic Science. Prior to becoming a full-time staff member, Vanessa worked as a research assistant in the Mood Disorders Lab. She currently coordinates studies examining how the brain responds to stress and alcohol. Her research interests include utilizing neuroimaging to better understand the etiology of mood and psychotic disorders and she hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Outside of the lab Vanessa enjoys a good french toast, painting, and playing volleyball.

Graduate Students

Dylan Kirsch, B.S

Dylan is a graduate student in the Institute for Neuroscience at UT Austin. She is interested in how genes and the environment interact to initiate alcohol use, and in turn, how alcohol use affects the brain in healthy and psychiatric populations. Dylan graduated from UCLA with a B.S. in psychobiology while working as a research assistant in the Lab of Neuromodulation and Neuroimaging. After graduating, she worked as a research assistant in the Department of Medical and Molecular Pharmacology at UCLA.

Valeria Tretyak, M.Sc., M.Res., M.A.

Valeria aims to build an interdisciplinary line of research examining relations between aberrant structure/function of the neural stress systems and alcohol/substance use consumption as a means to cope with acute life stressors, in psychiatric populations with a history of chronic stress and/or trauma exposure such as bullying victimization and childhood maltreatment. She is co-mentored by Dr. Kim Fromme, whose research focuses on preventing adverse outcomes of alcohol misuse in college students. Valeria graduated with a Master of Research (M.Res.) in Brain Sciences from University College London (UCL), and an M.Sc. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from City, University of London. She has previously worked as a research assistant at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, and as patient coordinator at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at UCL. Prior to joining the clinical psychology program at UT-Austin, Valeria worked as a research assistant and clinic coordinator at the Emory University Adolescent Mood Program, and the Emory Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Services.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Abby Dasgupta

Abby is a sophomore pursuing degrees in neuroscience and biochemistry along with a Core Texts and Ideas certificate and a journalism minor. She currently helps the lab team with administrative duties like conducting phone screens and assisting in alcohol and follow-up sessions. Outside of the MAIN lab, she is an associate opinion editor at The Daily Texan as well as an active member of prehealth organizations Alpha Epsilon Delta and Global Medical Training. Abby hopes to continue working closely with the MAIN lab team and use the skills she learns in her future career in the medical field.


Ansley Huffman

Ansley is 3rd year neuroscience BS major with a Bridging Disciplines Program certificate in social inequality, health, and policy. Her work with the MAIN lab includes assisting at follow up sessions, organizing data, and conducting phone screens. Academically, Ansley is interested in behavioral and developmental neuroscience and hopes to focus on addiction throughout her research career. She plans to attend graduate school and obtain a PhD in neuroscience with the intent of researching and teaching at the college level. Outside of the MAIN lab she is involved in Chi Omega sorority, and volunteer work with Make-A-Wish foundation, and YoungLife. On a sunny day you could find her hiking around Austin, reading at Barton Springs, or checking out local coffee shops!


Raquel Kosted

Raquel is a senior pursuing a BS in Neuroscience. She is in the Neuroscience Scholars program with a specialization in Chemistry. She is currently working on her Senior Honors Thesis project comparing the effect of COVID-19 on stress and drinking behavior between individuals with a history of monopolar or bipolar depression and healthy developing individuals. Raquel aspires to get into graduate school, obtain a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, and ultimately continue researching substance use and psychiatric disorders.


Mary Li

Mary is a 3rd year neuroscience BSA major with a minor in Educational Psychology. She is currently assisting with the lab’s alcohol study.  Mary hopes to go to medical school after she graduates and to continue using knowledge and skills gained from the MAIN lab. Outside the lab, Mary is a leader in Asian American Campus Ministry and enjoys volunteering with the Brain Exercise Initiative and Mount Nebo.

Lab Alumni

Lab Manager

Sepeadeh Radpour, Clinical & Behavioral Research Associate

Sepeadeh got her B.A. in biology from UT Austin, and her M.A. in health psychology from Texas State University. After graduating, she worked with the Buffalo lab at the University of Washington in Seattle for 2 years where she was involved in projects related to the neural mechanisms of memory. She worked on projects related to how the brain responds to stress. She is currently pursuing her second M.A. at UT Dallas.

Medical Students

Alex Preston

Alex is a medical student at UT Austin Dell Medical School, planning to enter into the field of Psychiatry. Prior to medical school, she received an MPH from Columbia Mailman School of Public Health within the Population and Family Health Department. Her professional experience in public health has ranged from international work in Southeast Asia to national work with AHRQ. She is pursuing a research distinction and worked with our lab on bipolar disorder neuronal connectivity research, with a particular interest in the effects of stress.

Undergraduate RAs

Staci Board

Staci completed an Honor’s Thesis with the MAIN Lab investigating childhood maltreatment and bipolar disorder. She is now a full-time Research Assistant at UC Davis in the Carter Lab.

Ashish Chowdary

Ashish worked with the MAIN Lab on a project investigating subconscious/implicit bias in risky behavior/decision making and clinical correlates in patients at risk for, or diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Anant Gonugunta

Anant worked on projects related to gray matter volume, behavior, and alcohol usage. Anant hopes to continue doing research as an undergrad and the foreseeable future after he graduates.

Illan Kunik

Illan’s research interests pertain to correlations between behavioral constructs such as risk-taking, impulsivity and sensation-seeking to alcohol consumption in psychiatric populations.

Sean Mifflin

Sean worked on projects examining functional connectivity data to learn more about neural systems associated with the development of alcohol use disorder and bipolar disorder. Sean hopes to continue researching substance use disorders and ultimately aspires to pursue a career in clinical psychology.