2020 Fellows

Astrid Cardona Acosta, BS

Doctoral Student, Behavioral and Cellular Neuroscience
Texas A&M University

IRTI Mentor:

Astrid Cardona-Acosta is a first-year PhD student in the Behavioral and Cellular Neuroscience program at Texas A&M University. Her research interests focus on the study of causal relationship between early life experiences such as stress and psychotropic drugs, brain biochemistry, and behavior. As a graduate student she has taken part in several projects such as the long-term physiological and behavioral consequences of adolescent exposure to methamphetamine and investigating the underlying comorbidity between major depressive disorder and western-style diet. However, she is specifically interested in assessing the long-term neurobiological consequences of benzodiazepine (Alprazolam) drug exposure during adolescence, as it is a highly sensitive period during development. Due to their abuse potential, benzodiazepines can act as a primer for drug addiction liability in adulthood that ultimately leads to polydrug abuse. By using a conditioned place preference paradigm, she is investigating how pre-exposure to alprazolam during adolescence dysregulates reward sensitivity to low doses of opioid drugs. Moreover, she aims to assess molecular targets within brain regions that regulate reward and mood such as the ventral-tegmental area and nucleus accumbens, to further investigate how early alprazolam exposure may induce reward sensitivity to other drugs of abuse. Her long-term career goal is to become a well-rounded independent neuroscientist to contribute to the knowledge about mechanism(s) underlying drug abuse to the scientific community.

Selected Publications:

Jessica Frankeberger, MPH

Doctoral Student, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
University of Pittsburgh 

IRTI Mentor:

Jessica Frankeberger is a PhD candidate in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where she is affiliated with the Center for Social Dynamics and Community Health. She earned both a BS in Health Promotion in 2015 and an MPH in 2016 from the University of Southern California. Her current research focuses on the social and ecological contexts in which substance use and associated problems occur and how these contexts uniquely impact women, racial/ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable populations. Jessica’s dissertation will aim to understand how these environments contribute to maternal substance use, specifically examining how individual, community, and geospatial factors impact opioid-related hospital admissions and overdose among postpartum women.

Selected Publications:

Audrey Hai, PhD, MSW

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Social Work
Boston University

IRTI Mentor:

Audrey Hang Hai is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Boston University Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health. She received her PhD in social work from the University of Texas at Austin and her MSW from University of Southern California. Dr. Hai has dedicated her scholarship to helping reduce Latinx health disparities with a focus on substance use interventions specifically designed or adapted for that population. She is especially interested in technology-based interventions for their potential to break the barriers to treatment commonly experienced by Latinxs (e.g., immigration related issues, stigma, cost/insurance) and their potential to make a large public health impact at a lower cost. Her short-term goal is to secure a K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development award to support further training and career development activities needed to become an independent NIH-funded intervention researcher. Some of Dr. Hai’s recent publications can be found in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, and Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Selected Publications:

Alyssa Lozano, MS

Doctoral Student, Public Health
University of Miami

IRTI Mentor:

Ms. Alyssa Lozano, M.S. received her Masters of Science in Prevention Science and Community Health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She works in the area of the promotion of behavioral health and family functioning among various groups of Hispanic youth, including sexual and gender minorities. Her research interests include a focus on qualitative research to inform intervention development. Specifically, she is interested in the development of family-based preventive interventions which address family functioning and reduce and prevent inequities in substance use and mental health outcomes among groups of Hispanic youth.

Selected Publications:

Daisy Ramirez, PhD, MPH

Post-Doctoral Associate, Epidemiology
Florida International University

IRTI Mentor:

Daisy Ramírez-Ortiz is a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University. Daisy completed a PhD in Epidemiology at Florida International University in May 2020 and much of her research work during the PhD program focused on HIV/AIDS and alcohol use disparities affecting diverse groups of Latinos. She was a project coordinator and co-investigator for the Project on Health among Emerging Adult Latinos (Project HEAL). She currently works in the NIH -funded research projects: Just-in-Time Adaptive Interventions For Improving Young Latino Sexual Minority’s Success in HIV Therapy and Women-centered HIV Care Practices that Facilitate HIV Care Retention and Viral Suppression in the Presence of Adverse Sociocultural Factors. Her particular research interest is in improving linkage, retention and reengagement in HIV care and treatment in Latino populations by developing targeted public health interventions that address the unique and complex challenges to HIV care faced by Latinos in the United States. Her aspiration is to become an independent researcher and leader in HIV/AIDS and health disparities research.

Selected Publications:

Cho-Hee Shrader, MPH

Doctoral Student, Public Health
University of Miami

IRTI Mentor:

Cho-Hee Shrader is a doctoral candidate in the Prevention Science and Community Health program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She is affiliated with Dr. Mariano Kanamori’s Latinx Health Disparities and Social Network Lab, in which she coordinates four NIH-funded research projects. In 2015, she obtained an MPH in Global Health with a concentration in Sexual and Reproductive Health at Emory University. She has substance use research experience at the community level through the AIDS Project East Bay in Oakland, CA, and training at the federal level through the CDC. Cho-Hee’s dissertation focuses on the synthetization of social network and geospatial analysis to focus on access to PrEP-related information within social networks and communities. Specifically, she aims to understand how homophily among Latino men who have sex with men on substance misuse, Latino cultural values, and acculturation stress, affects the configuration of friendship networks, and how in turn, these configurations affect access to PrEP information within networks. Her future goals are to pursue a tenure-track faculty position at a major research institution to continue her passion on the development, adaptation, and evaluation of community-based HIV and substance misuse prevention interventions for sexual and ethnic minorities using randomized controlled trials incorporating social network and geospatial methodologies.

Selected Publications: