Team

SOBP Conference 2022 (New Orleans, LA)- Left to right: Vanessa Le, Valeria Tretyak, Beth Lippard, Dylan Kirsch, Raquel Kosted

 

Principal Investigator — Elizabeth Lippard

Assistant Professor of the Department of Psychiatry at Dell Medical School

CV

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.

Collaborators

Kim Fromme, Ph.D.

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

CV; Lab website: http://www.saharalab.com/

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 Managers

Raquel Kosted, B.S. – Clinical & Behavioral Research Associate

Raquel graduated with a B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Austin in 2021. Raquel is interested in researching the acute effects of alcohol use on behavior and brain function, and the long-term effects of alcohol use on the development and progression of mood disorders. In the lab, she leads research participants through alcohol administration sessions and collects clinical, MRI, and behavioral data. Raquel plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, and ultimately continue researching substance use and psychiatric disorders throughout her career. Outside of the lab, Raquel loves to spend her free time watching comedy movies and cuddling with her two adorable cats.

Kait Meek, B.S. – Clinical & Behavioral Research Associate

Kait graduated from Northeastern University in 2022 with a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience. While at Northeastern, she worked as a research assistant in the Cognitive and Brain Health Lab, where she was involved with research investigating the short-term and long-term effects of exercise on cognition. In the MAIN lab, Kait assists with on-going and new research projects including topics focusing on adolescent/young-adult brain-behavior development and the behavioral mechanisms associated risks and early disease progression in bipolar disorder and associated risks for alcohol use and suicidal ideation. She is interested in investigating the links between mental disorders and investigating innovative treatments, and plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or neuroscience. In her free time Kait enjoys painting, hiking, and taking care of her plants.

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.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Alexander Nguyen

Alexander graduated with a B.S.A. in Biology with a certificate in the Business of Healthcare and a minor in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2022. He is currently assisting with the lab’s alcohol studies as an RA, bartender, and conducting phone screens. Alexander hopes to use the skills that he has learned in MAIN Lab to apply to a future career in healthcare and life in general. Outside the lab, Alexander is a leader in Asian American Campus Ministry and  Texas Vietnamese Student Association and enjoys playing sports such as basketball and football.

Nour Kassem

Nour is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience and a minor in Arabic. Her work as a research assistant in the MAIN lab primarily consists of assisting in the alcohol sessions, conducting phone screens, and organizing experimental data. Nour is a Ronald McNair scholar & hopes to attain her Ph.D. in clinical psychology or cognitive neuroscience after graduating from UT. Her research interests include addiction, mood disorders, and Schizophrenia, and is currently working on starting her own project in the lab. Outside of the MAIN lab, Nour is involved in the Refugee Services of Austin where she uses her Arabic language skills to help newly arrived Middle Eastern refugees acclimate.

Charis Lin

Charis is a 3rd year pursuing a B.S. Psychology major with a Pre-Optometry track. Her work as a research assistant in the MAIN lab mainly consists of assisting alcohol and follow up sessions, conducting phone screens, and compiling/organizing experimental data. When she is not in lab, Charis is a leader in Asian American Campus Ministry and the Society for Advancing Gender Equity in STEM (SAGES), and an active member in UT’s Pre-Optometry Professional Society. Charis hopes to use the experience and knowledge gained from her time at the MAIN lab to aid in her future career as a health professional and beyond!

Stephen Chen

Stephen is a 3rd year pursuing a BS in Public Health. He currently helps with the lab’s alcohol studies, assisting in follow up sessions, organizing data, and carrying out phone screens. Stephen is interested in using neuroimaging to study the effects of mindfulness on the brain and hopes to attend medical school after graduation. Outside of the MAIN lab, Stephen is an EMT as a part of Longhorn EMS and enjoys drinking boba, hanging out with friends, and biking around Austin.

Avery Johnson

Avery is a senior Neuroscience B.S.A major with a health communications minor. She currently helps with the lab’s alcohol studies as an RA, though subject recruitment and data analysis. Avery is interested in studying the relationship between early life stressors and substance use, correlating with memory deterioration, and hopes to attend medical school after graduation to work in pediatric mental health. Outside of the MAIN lab, Avery is a guitar player in a blues/ alt/ funk/ rock band and enjoys rock climbing, traveling, and enjoying the outdoors.

 

Krista Hale

Krista is a 3rd year pursuing a BSA Biochemistry major with an English minor. Her work in the lab consists of organizing data, assisting in the alcohol administration sessions, and conducting phone screens. Krista is excited to use the knowledge and experience she gains in the MAIN lab to apply to a future career and help her facilitate her plans to attend medical school. Outside of the lab, Krista enjoys hanging with friends, volunteering through Lions Club, and being a part of Longhorn Wrestling!

Ananya Venkateswaran

Ananya is a 3rd year Biology BSA honors major pursuing a sociology minor and certificate in applied statistical modeling. She is currently helping with the lab’s alcohol studies as an RA. Ananya hopes to learn more about comorbid disorders and gain more experience in clinical research through this lab. Ananya hopes to attend medical school with a focus in clinical research on the brain after graduation. Outside of the MAIN lab, Ananya is a part of the public speaking club UT Toastmasters, UT Seal, and the Health Science Scholars Honors Program.

Naimisha Vunnam

Naimisha is a sophomore pursuing a BS in Public Health. She currently helps with the lab’s alcohol studies as an RA, conducting phone screens, assisting with follow-up sessions, and organizing experimental data. Naimisha is interested in the correlation between adverse childhood experiences and substance use and hopes to use the experience she gains from the MAIN lab as she pursues a career as a health professional. Outside of the lab, Naimisha is involved in the UT Senate of College Councils, and TEDxUTAustin.

 

Lab Alumni

Staff

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. After being a lab manager in the MAIN lab for 3 years, Vanessa began her Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at UT Southwestern in August 2022.

Sepeadeh Radpour, B.A., M.A. – 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.

Graduate Students

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

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. After receiving her Clinical Psychology Ph.D. from UT Austin in April 2022, Valeria began her internship at McLean Hospital at Harvard University.

Medical Students

Alex Preston, B.A., M.D., MPH

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. Alex is currently a Psychiatry resident at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences pursuing a specialty in reproductive psychiatry.