Dr. Michael J. Zvolensky is the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory and Substance Use Treatment Clinic (AHRL-SUTC) at the University of Houston (UH). He is also a research professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center at The University of Texas. His research program cuts across basic and applied work in the areas of anxiety, substance use disorders, and physical health problems (medical disease). He has published over 350 scholarly works. He has received numerous career awards for his scholarship, including the David Shakow Early Contribution to the Field Award (American Psychological Association), the President’s New Researcher Award (Association for Advancement of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies), and the Early Career Award (Anxiety Disorder Association of America). He is the Associate Editor of two journals in his area of expertise, currently sits on 10 editorial boards for other journals, and regularly reviews grants for national funding agencies. His research has been continuously funded by NIH since receiving his doctoral degree in 2001. Examples of some of his current grant-funded projects include (a) exercise-based smoking cessation for smokers with mental illness; (b) cognitive-behavioral treatments for anxiety/stress among tobacco using populations with and without HIV/AIDS; (c) enhanced smoking cessation program for first responders to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11; and (d) integrated psychosocial treatment for cannabis dependence and anxiety/stress disorders. A growing aspect of his research program involves health disparities in the form of studying substance use-anxiety/stress relations among minority populations in the United States (e.g., Latino, African American).
Lorra Garey, B.A.
Ms. Lorra Garey is the laboratory coordinator for the AHRL-SUTC and chief study director for the emotion dysregulation-smoking project. She completed her B.A. at The University of Texas, during which time she worked in the Studies on Alcohol, Health, and Risky Activities Laboratory investigating college student drinking and associated behavioral risks, and the influence of alcohol on dating aggression. After graduating, Ms. Garey worked for the Center for Health and Behavior at Syracuse University and the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University researching the efficacy of brief interventions to reduce risky drinking among college students. She also contributed to multiple meta-analyses investigating interventions aimed at reducing alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors. Her research interests include brief interventions for risky drinking and sexual behaviors, substance use, intimate partner violence, and health promotion and disease prevention, with an emphasis on HIV. Ms. Garey intends to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Pre-Doctoral Graduate Students and Visiting Scholars
Jafar Bakhshaie, M.D.
Dr. Jafar Bakhshaie is a first-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.
Charles P. Brandt, M.A. - NIH Predoctoral Fellow
Mr. Charles P. Brandt is a fourth-year UH clinical psychology graduate student under the mentorship of Dr. Zvolensky. Currently, Mr. Brandt is a Psychology Intern at the Legacy Community Health Clinic in Houston, Texas, a collaborative partner of the AHRL-SUTC. Mr. Brandt's work has examined psychological factors affecting the interpretation and tolerance of distress and their individual and combined effects on mental and physical health. Examples of Mr. Brandt's current work include (a) the examination of psychological risk factors on mental and physical well-being in HIV+ individuals in a longitudinal study; (b) a computerized intervention to lessen reactivity to aversive bodily sensations among HIV+ individuals (a collaboration with Dr. Brad Schmidt and Daniel Capron at Florida State University and the AHRL-SUTC); and (c) development and implementation of group-based transdiagnostic anxiety reduction treatment among persons with HIV (a collaboration with Dr. Peter Norton at UH and the AHRL-SUTC). His scholarly and clinical interests center on the role of emotional sensitivity, tolerance, and reactivity processes as they relate to psychological well-being among persons with chronic medical illnesses, especially HIV/AIDs.
Julianna Hogan, M.Ed.
Ms. Julianna Hogan is currently a fifth-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Vermont and is completing her doctoral work in Houston, Texas, in collaboration with UH (due to Dr. Zvolensky moving to UH). She earned her Master of Education in Psychological Studies from Cambridge College. Ms. Hogan is in the process of completing her dissertation; her project seeks to examine the role of distress intolerance in terms of perceptions about quitting, past quit success, and related factors. Clinically, Ms. Hogan has worked in a variety of outpatient settings, conducting assessment, individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and evaluations for those seeking services for anxiety and related disorders in the communities of Vermont and Texas. In addition, while working as a pre-doctoral clinician for New England Survivors of Torture and Trauma, Ms. Hogan gained experience providing assessment, individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and asylum-seeker evaluations for refugee, immigrant, and asylum-seeker communities. Ms. Hogan's research interests center on underlying cognitive and behavioral mechanisms in the maintenance and relapse of problematic substance use.
Samantha Farris, M.A. - NIH Predoctoral Fellow
Ms. Samantha Farris is a third-year doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. She received her B.A. in psychology and sociology at Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey in 2009 and M.A. in psychology from the University of Houston in 2012. Her research broadly focuses on the interplay between tobacco use, emotional processes, and health vulnerabilities. Specifically, her work using experimental laboratory methodologies is aimed at examining underlying, explanatory mechanisms related to the maintenance of cigarette smoking and bodily arousal. Ms. Farris is the recipient of a pre-doctoral cancer prevention fellowship from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (R25T CA057730) and a pre-doctoral National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (F31-DA035564).
Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistants
Ammara Abedi, B.S.
Ammara Abedi is a post-baccalaureate student who graduated from the University of Houston in May 2013 with a B.S in psychology (Summa cum Laude). She is currently working at Asian American Family Services- a non-profit mental health agency. She works closely with their department of Administration and Operations. Her research interests include criterion development, decision-making (individual and organizational), interviewing, leadership, recruitment, and work motivation & productivity. She will be pursuing her Ph.D. in industrial/ organizational psychology
Lucinda Andrade, B.S.
Lucinda Andrade is a post-baccalaureate research assistant who graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in psychology and a minor in human development and family studies in fall 2012. Her research interests include child and adolescent development, depression in teenage girls and the effects of parenting skills within the Hispanic community. She plans on continuing her education in school psychology.
Daniel Green, B.S.
Daniel Green is a post-baccalaureate from the University of Houston. He graduated with a B.S. in psychology and minored in anthropology. His research interests include substance use, addiction, and the integration of meditation into therapy.
Luke Heggeness, B.A.
Luke Heggeness is a post-baccalaureate research assistant who graduated in 2012 from the University of Miami in Florida. He majored in psychology with a double-minor in philosophy and English. Luke's research interests are broad but include cognitive dissonance theory and ego-dystonic behavior as they relate to both anxiety and depression. Luke plans to pursue a Ph.D in clinical psychology.
Patricia Cristina Morales, B.S.
Patricia Cristina Morales is a post-baccalaureate research coordinator who graduated from the University of Houston in 2013 with a B.S in psychology and a minor in human development and family studies (Magna Cum Laude). She is currently the primary research coordinator for the Panic-Relevant Sensations and Smoking Motivation Study. She is also a research assistant at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Vice President of Psi Chi Honor Society in Psychology at the University of Houston. Patricia is currently volunteering at the Harris County Psychiatric Center in the adolescent unit. Her research interests include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and addiction. Specifically, her concentration lies within the Latino population. She plans to pursue her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Kavita Pallod, B.S.
Kavita Pallod is a post-baccalaureate student. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a dual degree in psychology and education in spring 2011. She spent two years teaching primary school. Her research interests include anxiety and family dynamics. She plans to pursue her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Zuzuky Robles, B.A.
Zuzuky Robles is currently a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Houston, where she received her B.A. in psychology in spring 2013. She is currently writing a thesis where the effects of maternal job-stress on children's behavior is examined. Her research interests focus on employee's well-being, such as job stress, motivation, job satisfaction, and health issues in the workplace. Specifically, she is interested in findings within both the female population and Hispanic population. She plans to pursue a doctorate degree in industrial/organizational psychology.
Muqaddas Sarwar, B.A.
Muqaddas Sarwar is a post-baccalaureate research coordinator at the AHRL. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2013 from the University of Houston's Honors College with a B.A in psychology and a minor in health. She is currently working as a research coordinator for the Panic Sensation and Smoking study at the AHRL-SUTC, where she began working in January of 2013. Additionally, she works at the Crisis Intervention of Houston as telephone counselor. Her research interests include anxiety disorders like panic disorder and social phobia, with an emphasis on co-morbid mood disorders and substance use. Ms. Sarwar plans on continuing her education and obtaining her Ph.D in clinical psychology.
Mitali Shah, B.S.
Mitali Shah is a post-baccalaureate research assistant who graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in psychology. Her research interests include anxiety disorders, specifically PTSD. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Paloma Tafur, B.A.
Paloma is a post-baccalaureate who graduated from the University of Houston in December 2013 with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in sociology. Her research interests include mental health among minorities, the integration of mind, body, and soul, integrating eastern and western philosophy more into psychology, as well as emotional, and creative aspects of life. Paloma plans to pursue her doctoral degree in the integrative field of psychology by advancing her studies towards a Psy.D. in clinical psychology.
Shahrzad Yekta, B.S.
Shahrzad Yekta is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling. She works for Crisis Intervention of Houston and as a bilingual interpreter for the Texas Medical Center. Her research interests are the relationship between mental and physical health, stress and coping, and family along with the role of other relationships’ on personality development. Her passion is in understanding individuals as a whole and she hopes to be able to make great contributions to the field of psychology in the future.
Audrey Zatopek, B.A.
Audrey Zatopek is a post-baccalaureate student that graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2013 with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in Spanish. She is currently studying at the Houston Graduate School of Theology for her master’s in counseling. Audrey is interested in research regarding anxiety, addictions, stress, and PTSD and how they intermingle. Her future plans are to apply for a doctoral program in either clinical psychology or counseling psychology, or possibly both. Her career goals are to counsel clients and treat patients who struggle with these elements of life.
Undergraduate Research Assistants
Kevin Banks is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology and is currently working towards a BS in psychology. His research interests include deception detection, addiction, jury decision-making, and risk assessment. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Kevin’s career goals are to conduct research in areas affiliated with forensic psychology, while also working as a consultant in the criminal justice system.
Rita Diaz is a senior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology, with a minor in sociology. Her research interests include anxiety disorders, emotional regulation, social cognition, and mood disorders within Latino populations. Rita plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Stephanie Daumas is a junior at the University of Houston, majoring in psychology with a minor in sociology. Her research interests include anxiety disorders, depression, substance use, and mental health among those with serious illnesses, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in counseling psychology, focusing on anxiety disorders, drug abuse, and the promotion of physical and psychological health among adolescents and young adults.
Hantin Lam is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology. He is currently assisting with research involving the Hispanic community and works at a clinic serving as a translator for Spanish speaking patients. His research interests include anxiety, depression and substance abuse. He plans to attend medical school in the future.
John McKirahan is a junior at University of Houston, majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish. His fields of interest include anxiety and stress, as well as social cognition. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Hyaneyoung Olvera is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology. She is completing a senior honors thesis with Dr. Julia Babcock. She has submitted a poster to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and hopes to present at the conference in Chicago. Currently, she is working with the staff at AHRL-SUTC to publish a paper about worry and smoking behaviors. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology.
Mayra Ortiz is a senior at the University of Houston, majoring in psychology with a minor in Spanish. Among her research interests are anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders. Additionally, she has an interest in industrial/organizational psychology, specifically related to employee selection and performance. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Tanveer Otal is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Houston. She is a junior working towards completing her B.S. in psychology with a minor in health. Tanveer’s areas of research interests include emotional self-regulation, substance abuse, and addiction. Upon graduation, her goal is to continue on to graduate school to obtain a PhD in clinical psychology.
Natalie Plummer is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology with a minor in human resource management. Her research interests include organizational development, job motivation and satisfaction, work/life balance, personnel recruitment and selection, and performance appraisal. Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in industrial/ organizational psychology. Natalie’s career goals are to work in the field as a consultant, while also working as a professor at the university level.
Ana Ruiz is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology with a minor in biochemistry. Her research interests include anxiety, the development of gender identity, addictions and the relationship between physiological and mental pathologies. She is currently working on preparing herself to get into medical school. Her career goals are to become a neuroscientist and a psychiatrist.
Adriana Salazar is a senior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology with a minor in biology. Adriana’s research interests include: anxiety disorders, behavior-related illnesses, and the interaction between neuro-immune factors and psychological processes. Upon graduation, she plans to attend a physician’s assistant program, and specialize in surgery or psychiatry.
Olaguibel Sampogna is a sophomore at the University of Houston. He is majoring in psychology and biology. His areas of interest include mental disorders, substance abuse, and the biochemical aspects in relation to psychology. Olaguibel is following the pre-med track and plans to specialize in psychiatry.
Bailee Schuhmann is a senior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology with a minor in sociology. She has a wide range of research interests including personality disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, and witness testimony. After graduation, she plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.