Dr. Zvolensky is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Houston and Director of the Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory and Substance Use Treatment Clinic. He has published over 400 scholarly works on the co-occurrence of anxiety and stress-related psychopathology with substance use disorders. In this line of work, he also has examined the physical health and health behavior correlates of anxiety-substance use disorder comorbidity, including such conditions as HIV/AIDS, asthma, cardiac disease, and chronic pain. Dr. Zvolensky's work is globally aimed at eliminating inequalities in psychopathology, addictive, and other health behaviors through translational research. He has utilized a variety of methodological tactics in his research program, including community-based participatory research (CBPR), laboratory studies, epidemiologic-field (cross-national and prospective), and randomized clinical trials. He has been involved in over 45 NIH grants as PI, Co-PI, or co-investigator, and therefore, has extensive experience leading large and multi-team projects. His research program has received awards from the numerous organizations, including the American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and Association for Advancement of Cognitive and Behavior Therapy.
A major contribution of Dr. Zvolensky’s laboratory has been to elucidate why people who experience anxiety/depressive-related vulnerabilities are more prone to substance use disorders; and why people with substance use disorders are more prone to anxiety/depressive-related disturbances. His team has led efforts to develop integrative theoretical models of anxiety-substance use disorder comorbidity that identify (malleable) cognitive-affective mechanisms underlying their association. This work is important for designing targeted assessment batteries that can be used to identify high-risk individuals most in need of (specialized) intervention; elucidating mechanisms underlying anxiety/depressive-substance use disorder comorbidity; and developing 'next generation' treatments for these conditions that target the most etiologically potent facets. Within this context, Dr. Zvolensky’s work collectively falls in three, interrelated streams that deal with (a) transdiagnostic processes underlying emotional disorder-substance use disorder comorbidity; (b) mediating and moderating factors involved in the expression, onset, and maintenance of anxiety/depression psychopathology for groups subject to health inequalities; and (c) theoretically-driven and process-based treatment development work that is community-friendly.
Natalia Peraza, B.S.
Natalia Peraza graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. Her main research interests include understanding the comorbidity of substance use and psychological disorders, specifically in vulnerable and underserved populations. Additionally, she is interested in creating effective interventions that target factors that maintain and contribute to maladaptive substance use. Natalia plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Dr. Daniel Bogiaizian
Dr. Daniel Bogiaizian is a visiting scholar from Argentina. He is a clinical psychologist and administers individual and group therapy for adults in Buenos Aires. Dr. Bogiaizian received his Ph.D. from Universidad del Salvador in Argentina. He is an associate professor and researcher at the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa. Dr. Bogiaizian is the current president of the Argentinean Association of Anxiety Disorders (AATA, Asociación Argentina de Trastornos por Ansiedad). He is also the Director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic "Asociación Ayuda". Dr. Bogiaizian serves as the AHRL-SUTC’s South American liaison and point person for co-morbid smoking and anxiety/stress work. Broadly, his research interests include the nature of and treatment advances for PD, GAD, and SAD, as well as the study of smoking cessation interventions for people with co-occurring anxiety disorders/symptoms.
Rubén Rodríguez, M.A.
Mr. Rubén Rodríguez is a second-year predoctoral student, who works as Psychologist at Unit of Smoking Cessation and Addictive Disorders at University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). He has been enrolled in the Pre-doctoral Research Training Grant program of The Ministry of Spain of Economy and Competitiveness, since 2014. He received his B.A. in Clinical Psychology in 2011, and his M.A. in Clinical and Health Psychology and Neuropsychology, in 2013. He has the Accreditation of European Federation of Psychologys' Association (EFPA) and the Accreditation as General Health Psychologist (Psicólogo General Sanitario) in Spain. Currently, his research is focused on the incidence of depression, craving and nicotine dependence in smoking relapse. He is especially interested in the effect of emotion disregulation and others variables (i.e., alcohol’s effect or personality traits) in order to improve substance use disorders treatments
Pre-Doctoral Graduate Students
Jafar Bakhshaie, M.D.
Dr. Jafar Bakhshaie is a sixth-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. He received his MD from Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Currently, Dr. Bakhshaie is examining the impact of emotional reactivity upon smoking behavior in smokers with and without anxiety/mood disorders. His research is focused on exploring emotional regulatory mechanisms and cognitive processes underlying substance use disorders and panic/PTSD comorbidities. He is especially interested in emotional regulatory and reactivity processes as underlying processes of substance use-anxiety/stress comorbidity with important clinical implications.
Lorra Garey, M.A.
Ms. Lorra Garey is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston and is currently completing her pre-doctoral clinical internship at Brown University. She completed her B.A. in psychology at The University of Texas in 2009. Her primary research interests focus on elucidating and attenuating health disparities among underserved and vulnerable populations by examining the interplay between substance use and psychological vulnerabilities and addressing malleable risk factors, including smoking, in the context of transdiagnostic interventions. Within this model, Lorra is particularly interested in the efficacy of brief, personalized feedback interventions to reduce tobacco use, alcohol use, and symptoms related to anxiety and depression among smokers with co-occurring psychopathology and tobacco dependence. Lorra is the recipient of a pre-doctoral National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Brooke Kauffman, M.A.
Brooke Kauffman is a fourth-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. She completed her B.S. in psychology at Florida State University in 2012. Her research interests focus on innovative and integrative treatment methodologies aimed at improving health behaviors (e.g., emotional eating, physical inactivity). Specifically, she is interested in transdiagnostic vulnerabilities (e.g., anxiety sensitivity, distress intolerance) that may underlie these problematic health behaviors.
Kara Manning, B.S.
Kara Manning is a second-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. She graduated from Southwestern University in May 2015 with a degree in Psychology. Her research interests include substance use disorders and anxiety disorders within the adult population. More specifically she is interested in the underlying mechanisms of psychological disorders such as self-efficacy, distress intolerance, and affective vulnerabilities. She is also interested in treatment techniques targeted at treating comorbid psychopathology.
Angelina Mayorga, B.S.
Ms. Angelina Mayorga is currently in her first-year as a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. She received her B.S. in psychology from the University of Houston in 2017. Her research interests focus on tailoring innovative treatment methodologies for substance users within the Latinx community. Specifically, she is interested in investigating the way certain transdiagnostic vulnerabilities may underlie problematic health behaviors, including substance use, among Latinx individuals. Ms. Mayorga is also interested in improving the integration of culturally tailored treatments among minority populations and examining predictors of treatment outcome.
Michael F. Orr, B.A., B.S.
Mr. Michael Orr is a first-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. He completed his B.A. in psychology and his B.S. in human physiology at Gonzaga University in 2015. His research interests focus on innovative and integrative treatments methodologies aimed at comorbidity of anxiety, depression and legal(ish) substance such as alcohol, tobacco, opioids, and cannabis.
Daniel J. Paulus, M.A.
Mr. Daniel J. Paulus is a sixth-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. He received his B.S. in psychology from Northeastern University in 2011 and M.A. in psychology from the University of Houston in 2014. His research focuses on the comorbidity and treatment of emotional disorders (anxiety and depression) and hazardous drinking. He is particularly focused on the processes and mechanisms underlying these problems. Currently, his research is aimed towards developing brief low-cost interventions targeting transdiagnostic vulnerabilities common to comorbid affective symptoms and drinking (e.g., anxiety sensitivity and emotion dysregulation). In line with this, Mr. Paulus is the recipient of a pre-doctoral National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to study a brief personalized feedback intervention for affectively vulnerable drinkers.
Andrew Rogers, B.A.
Mr. Andrew Rogers is a second-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. He completed his B.A. in psychology at Tufts University in 2014, and completed his M.A. at the University of Houston in 2018. His research interests generally focus physical and mental health, with an emphasis on transdiagnostic predictors. More specifically, he focuses on the intersection of chronic pain and opioid use, and identifying underlying psychological mechanisms (e.g. anxiety sensitivity, emotion regulation, pain-related anxiety) of these relationships. Mr. Rogers is interested in developing brief interventions targeting these mechanisms to reduce the disease burden of chronic pain and opioid use. Mr. Rogers is also interested in physical and mental health outcomes of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Justin M. Shepherd, M.S.
Justin is a first-year graduate student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 2013 with a B.A. in Psychology and from Rivier University in 2015 with a M.S. in Clinical Psychology. Justin then worked as a clinical research assistant in the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Lab at McLean Hospital with Dr. Scott Lukas. He is particularly interested in transdiagnostic factors (e.g. anxiety sensitivity) and their role in the maintenance of alcohol and nicotine use. Justin is also interested in brief interventions that target transdiagnostic mechanisms for co-occurring affective symptoms and alcohol and nicotine use.
Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistants
Kari Alanis, LMSW
Kari Alanis graduated with a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Houston in 2016, specializing in social work practice with Latinos. Prior to working as a licensed social worker, she taught elementary and high school for ten years, concentrating on dual language instruction. Kari also has a B.A. degree in Spanish from UCLA and has studied at the University of Madrid.Kari’s research interests include anxiety and depression manifested in single mothers and children. She is committed to investigating and designing evidence-based behavioral interventions for families who experience poverty and socio-economic injustice. Practicing from a strengths perspective, Kari plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical social work.
Reem AL Brahim, B.Sc, MD
Reem is a foreign trained physician. She got her B.Sc and MD degree from the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain. Currently she is working at the Anxiety and Health research lab as a research assistant. At the same time she is enrolled at the University of Houston Clear lake for Psychology classes. Her research interests include child development, child neuropsychology, children with learning difficulties and Autism. She plans to pursue a PhD in clinical Psychology.
Mahera Badat, B.A.
Mahera Badat is a post-baccalaureate research assistant who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A in Psychology and a B.A. in Islamic Studies (2018). She completed a senior undergraduate thesis which focused on Help- Seeking Behaviors of American Muslim College Students and completed another research project with the McNair Scholar’s Program. Her research interests include understanding emotional trauma of children and women who have been victimized, and of children in the foster care system. In the future, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Nina Glover, B.A.
Nina Glover is a post-baccalaureate research assistant who graduated from the University of Houston with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in African-American Studies. She completed her first two years at the University of Iowa. She currently volunteers at her church, the Red Cross, and Northwest Assistance Ministries (NAM). Recently, Nina has become interested in the Autism Spectrum Disorder, particularly in Asperger’s Syndrome. Additional interests include studies of the cultural and social dynamics of mother and child relationships and how personal interactions are formed, maintained, and negatively affected by one’s behavior. She plans to ultimately pursue a Ph.D. in Social Psychology.
Pamella Nizio, B.S.
Pamella Nizio is a post-baccalaureate research assistant who graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S in psychology and a minor in human resources management. Her research interests include anxiety and stress, substance abuse, and factors which might predetermine addiction. She plans to pursue a Ph.D in clinical psychology.
Nhan Tran, B.A.
Nhan Tran is currently a graduate student at Houston Baptist University pursuing a M.A. in Counseling. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin (2015). His research interests include child development, ADHD, Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, Autism, & sexuality. His research goal is to better understand the root cause of the psychological illnesses listed above and how to increase treatment’s efficacy through research. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Prior research experience includes 1 year of undergraduate research in the Twin Development lab of Dr. Elliot Tucker-Drob (UT Austin).
Emily Tullos, B.A.
Emily Tullos is currently a graduate student at Sam Houston State University pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. She graduated in the summer of 2017 with a B.A. in Music and a minor in psychology, also from SHSU. Her research interests include the bidirectional relationship between physical health issues and psychological processes. In the future, Emily hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Ivy Watson, B.A.
Ivy Watson graduated from Baylor University, with a major in Psychology and a minor in Child and Family Studies. Some of her research interests include children with chronic illnesses, family counseling and diversity and discrimination. She plans to pursue a Psy.D in Clinical Psychology.
Undergraduate Research Assistants
Umayma is currently a sophomore at the University of Houston, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology on the Pre-Medical track. Her current research interests include health and children development. In the future, she plans to specialize in a pediatric medical career to help children with cancer.
Crisy is a sophomore at the University of Houston pursuing a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Medicine and Society. Her research interests include anxiety, substance abuse and both substance and behavioral addictions. She plans on attending medical school in the future with a possibility of pursuing an MD-PhD.
I am currently completing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology along with a double minor in Biology and Business Administration at the University of Houston. After obtaining my Psychology degree in the upcoming Spring, I hope to further my education and work towards earning my Ph.D in Clinical Psychology. Specifically, I am interested in health psychology, anxiety disorders, and depression. Ultimately, I hope that earning my doctorate will allow me to share what I’ve learned and contribute to a healthier community through the opening of my own practice.
JeanFelix Chavez is a junior at the University of Houston currently pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Medicine and Society. He volunteers in the neurology wing of the Texas Children’s hospital and interns for the Delta Omega Chi medical service organization on campus. His research interests include anxiety, factors attributing to addictive behaviors, memory, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. He ultimately plans to be admitted into medical school to continue his education.
Brenda is currently a senior pursuing a psychology BS degree with a double minor in human development and family studies and business management. Her interests include learning more about anxiety and depressive disorders in children and how they develop well into adulthood having gone through them. She would also like to work with cancer surviving children and their families on how the events of one of their children having cancer has the affected the families’ mental health. She is planning on pursuing a degree in clinical psychology with a specialization in pediatric psychology. Later, in the future she would like to also obtain her PHD in clinical psychology and conduct her own research on children with mental disorders and the importance of family support
Natasha is currently a Junior at the University of Houston. She is pursing a B.A. in Psychology, with a minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In addition to being a research assistant for AHRL, Natasha is a research assistant for the Culture, Risk, and Resilience Lab at the University of Houston, lead by Dr. Rheeda Walker. In the CRR lab, Natasha is part of the authorship for a manuscript in preparation. Natasha plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in eating disorder maintenance and treatment, body dysmorphia, and/or intuitive eating as treatment for eating disorders and chronic dieting.
Joshua Garcia is currently in his 2nd year as an undergraduate student at the University of Houston. He is pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. His current research interests include anxiety and depression, human development, and substance-abuse disorders. He hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Micheal Garza is currently in his 3rd year as an undergraduate student at the University of Houston. He is pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. His current research interest include drug/substance addictions, anxiety and depression. He is especially interested in how these issues affect LGBTQ and the urban minority population. Micheal currently volunteers time at the Harris County Psychiatric Center where he enjoys building positive rapport with patients. He is also a Research Assistant for the UH Yoga and Mindfulness Lab and is observing how yoga affects attention for school aged students during classroom instruction. Micheal joined the Anxiety and Health Research lab as a Research Assistant in the fall of 2017 and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Alex Guidry is currently a senior at the University of Houston pursing a B.S in psychology with a minor in biology. His research interests include anxiety and depression in adolescents. He volunteers at MD Anderson in his spare time and plans on attending medical school after receiving his undergraduate degree.
Abigail Hernandez am currently a senior at the University of Houston. I am working on obtaining a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Biology. My research interests include mental illness, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse in victims of crime and/or trauma. After graduation, I plan on pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Samantha is a senior at the University of Houston currently pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with minors in both GLBT Studies and Classical Studies. Her current research interests include anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma. She is especially interested in how these issues impact the LGBT community. After completing her undergraduate, Samantha plans to pursue her Ph.D. in Social Psychology.
Jenna is currently a sophomore at the University of Houston, pursuing her B.S. in psychology with a minor in medicine in society. Her research interests include anxiety and mood disorders in adolescents, child development and eating disorders. After graduation, Jenna plans to pursue her Ph.D in clinical psychology.
Katherine is a sophomore currently pursuing a B.S in Psychology with a minor in Creative Works. She began as a research assistant at AHRL in the Spring of 2018. Her research interests include the comorbidity of addiction and mental health disorders as well experimental treatments for PTSD. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a Ph.D in clinical psychology.
Karina is currently a senior at the University of Houston. She is majoring in Psychology with a minor in History. Her current research interests involve personality disorders, substance abuse, anxiety and depression and their effects on communities of color. After graduation, she plans to continue her education and pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Nirvi Mehta is sophomore at the University of Houston, pursuing a dual degree of a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a Biology minor on the Pre-Medical track and a Master’s degree in Public Policy. My research interests are mental illnesses and addiction. She plans on earning a M.D. in Psychology.
Priel Meir is currently a senior at the University of Houston, pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. She conducts research both with the Anxiety and Health Research Lab and the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston. Within her career as a researcher, she currently has a first-authored manuscript in preparation. Alongside her research and educational endeavors, Priel assists with a pilot study at Rice University and is a Social Support Mentor for Project Heal. Her research interests include eating disorders, pathological dieting, weight loss stigma, body esteem, and the differences in cultural expression of disordered eating and exercise behaviors. She will be applying for a Ph.D. in either Clinical or Health Psychology this December, with the hopes of being accepted as an incoming freshman in the Fall of 2019.
Jessica Montalvan is a sophomore at the University of Houston, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Religious Studies. She is working with Study Team 17 in the Anxiety Health Research Lab. Her research interests include health, mental illness and child development. Her plans after college are to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Ashley O’Leary is currently a senior at the University of Houston pursing a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Human Resource Management. Her research interests include work and family conflict, stress management, and anxiety. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology.
Hannah Olofsson is currently a senior at the University of Houston. She is pursuing a B.A in Psychology with a minor in German and her research interests include anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorders. She plans on going to graduate school and eventually earning her Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Anna is currently pursuing a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Biology. Her research interests include anxiety and suicidality. She is especially passionate about working with the underrepresented Latino population. After graduation, she plans to pursue medicine.
Tahira is a junior at the University of Houston pursuing a B.S in Psychology with a minor in Medicine and Society as an affiliate of the Honors College. Her research interests include child development and anxiety and mental illness within minorities. Following graduation, Tahira plans to pursue a Master’s in school psychology.
Catherine Renderos is a senior at the University of Houston pursuing a B.A in Psychology and a minor in Anthropology. She joined the Anxiety and Health Research Lab during summer 2018. Catherine is also enjoying expanding her research experience at the Biobehavioral Mechanisms Explaining Disparities Lab at Rice University, Social Processes Lab at the University of Houston and is a member at her local church. Her research interests include the effects of substance abuse on romantic relationship satisfaction, and the relationship between domestic abuse and lowered self-esteem. After graduation she will be pursuing her Ph.D in Clinical Psychology.
Jan A. Rivas is a sophomore at the University of Houston. He is pursuing a BA in Psychology and Spanish. His research interest include mental illness within the Hispanic community, and substance abuse. He plans to pursue a PhD. in clinical psychology.
Jacob Roopchand is a junior pursuing his B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Medicine and Society at the University of Houston. He joined the AHRL Team in the Fall of 2017. His research interests include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse/addiction, and the influence of these issues on the LGBT community. Jacob is also a volunteer in the Medical Intensive Care Unit and Ben Taub General Hospital
Rajah Rosario is currently a senior working on a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Her minor is law, value and policy. Her research interests include psychopathology, comorbid mental disorders, psychopathy (adult and juvenile), severe mental illness, psychotic disorders and schizophrenia, violent crime, sexual offending, sexual paraphilias, aggression, and addiction. She plans on earning a Ph.D in clinical psychology with a forensic focus.
Tanya Smit is a senior at the University of Houston expected to graduate in December 2018 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Medicine & Society as an affiliate of the Honors College. She completed her Honors Thesis under the direction of Dr. Michael J. Zvolensky examining the explanatory role of dysphoria in the relation between pain-related anxiety and smoking processes. After graduating, Tanya will pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Her research interests include identifying subgroups at greatest risk for developing and maintaining maladaptive substance use, as well as developing treatments addressing underlying factors that contribute to addictive behaviors.
Stephanie Tu is currently a senior at the University of Houston, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. Her main research interests child development, anxiety, and mental illnesses. Following graduation, she plans to peruse a PH.D in Clinical Psychology.
Priscilla Vasquez is a senior at the University of Houston pursing a BA in Psychology with a minor of Human Development and Family Studies. Her main research interest includes child development, anxiety, stress, trauma, intervention and treatment. She is especially interested in the psychological impact of immigration in children and adolescents and how these stress-related issues create long-lasting trauma and its effect on cognitive development. She plans to pursue a Master’s in Psychology.
Ayan Williams is a senior at the University of Houston pursuing a B.A. in psychology with a minor in African American studies. Her interests include child psychology, music cognition and therapy, and psychosomatic disorders. In addition to volunteering with AHRL, Ayan also works with iEducate to help mentor disadvantaged children at low-performing elementary schools throughout Houston. She hopes to further her work mentoring children and ultimately aims to get a PhD in child psychology.