Team

Winter Lab Celebration 2023- Left to right: Lydia Lovelace, Kierra Morris, Kait Meek, Nadia Bibb, Raquel Kosted, Elice Shin, Beth Lippard, Skyler Lee, Sophie Buchmaier
Psychiatry Winter Party 2023 Left to Right: Raquel Kosted, Lydia Lovelace, Kait Meek, Beth Lippard, Elice Shin, Kierra Morris

Principal Investigator — Elizabeth Lippard, Ph.D.

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

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 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.

Nadia Bibb, B.S. – Clinical & Behavioral Research Associate

Nadia graduated from Texas A&M University in 2023 with a B.S. in Psychology, a minor in Neuroscience, and a certificate in Applied Behavioral Health. During her undergraduate career, she worked as a research assistant in the labs of Dr. Brian Anderson and Dr. Brian Albanese, studying attentional biases in learning and decision-making, as well as the neurobehavioral mechanisms of PTSD and other stress-related conditions, respectively. She also collaborated on a project that investigated the impact of animal companions on the social and mental health of neurodivergent college students. In the MAIN lab, Nadia assists with several projects, including a longitudinal study investigating the biological risk factors for the prospective development of alcohol use disorders in young adults with bipolar disorder. Nadia’s primary research interests now include exploring the reinforcing mechanisms of alcohol use and the effects of long-term alcohol use on neural development, disease course, and cognitive functioning (specifically memory, attention, and decision-making). In her free time, she enjoys outdoor activities, skiing, and spending time with her dog.

Skyler Lee, B.A. – Clinical & Behavioral Research Associate

Skyler graduated from Gettysburg College in May 2022 with a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science before moving from her home in Virginia to Austin later that year.  As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant at her college’s Personality and Psychopathology lab for several semesters and additionally conducted an independent honors research project for the political science department that examined how political psychology can be used to improve the effectiveness of climate change messaging.  Her long-term goal is to eventually pursue a PhD, but first she wants time to explore different research methodologies and areas of interest. In the MAIN lab, Skyler assists with all ongoing research projects, but her primary role is helping to administer the longitudinal R01 clinical trial that the lab launched in the summer of 2023. Outside of the lab, Skyler enjoys spending time with her cat, gardening, going to concerts, and listening to podcasts.

Elice Shin, B.S. – Clinical & Behavioral Research Associate

Elice graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2023 with a B.S. in Psychology and Neuroscience. While at UT, she worked as a research assistant in the Benner Lab, where she was involved with research investigating adolescent and young adult physical and mental health with a focus on discrimination. She also contributed to various projects related to epilepsy for the Pediatric Neuropsychology team at Dell Children’s Medical Center and did her senior thesis on attentional control and reading achievement in pediatric epilepsy. In the MAIN lab, Elice assists with a study investigating the effects of acute alcohol on decision making in adults with or without PTSD. She hopes to become a Pediatric Neuropsychologist for children and young adults with chronic illnesses, and investigate the impact on their academics, socio-emotional wellbeing, and resiliency. In her free time, Elice enjoys traveling and being outdoors, running, and exploring various coffee shops and bakeries.

Honorable Mentions from the NeuroTap Lab

Kierra Morris, MSc. – Clinical Research Associate

Kierra recently completed a Master of Science in Health Psychology at University College London (UCL) in 2022. She worked as a research assistant in the UCL Tobacco & Alcohol Research group and completed her dissertation on a soon to be published randomized cross-over study evaluating the acute effects of tobacco and nicotine devices on psychopharmacological outcomes in an adult cigarette smokers. She is very interested in the fields of trauma research, psycho-oncology, and health policy. She works primarily in the NeuroTaP Lab at The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and assisting on the joint R01 PTSD Challenge Alcohol Study along side Elice and Lydia.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Krista Hale

Krista is a senior pursuing a B.S.A. in Biochemistry 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 senior Biology B.S.A. 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 junior pursuing a B.S. 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

Raquel Kosted-Brown, B.S. – 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 relative contributions of shared and distinct environmental and neurobiological factors in the development and perpetuation of psychiatric comorbidities (i.e., comorbidities between mood, eating, and substance use disorders). In 2023, Raquel joined the UT Institute for Neuroscience graduate program and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience.

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. 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 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 an Applied Clinical Research Ph.D. Candidate at UT Southwestern.

Graduate Students

Dylan Kirsch, Ph.D.

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. After receiving her Neuroscience Ph.D. from UT Austin in December 2022, Dylan returned to UCLA for post-doctoral training.

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., M.P.H.

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.