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 325 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, sits on 12 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 studying substance use-anxiety/stress relations among Spanish-speaking individuals, including South America (e.g., Argentinean) and in the United States (e.g., Latino).
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. 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. Currently, Dr. Bakhshaie is examining the impact of emotional reactivity upon smoking behavior in smokers with and without anxiety/mood disorders.
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. 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. Specifically, 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). Currently, Mr. Brandt is a Psychology Intern at the Legacy Community Health Clinic in Houston, Texas, a collaborative partner of the AHRL-SUTC.
Julianna Hogan, M.Ed.
Ms. Julianna Hogan earned her Master of Education in Psychological Studies from Cambridge College. She 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). Ms. Hogan's research interests center on underlying cognitive and behavioral mechanisms in the maintenance and relapse of problematic substance use. 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.
Samantha Farris, M.A. - NIH Predoctoral Fellow
Ms. Samantha Farris is a third-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. While completing her B.A. at Rutgers University, Ms. Farris worked at the Rutger Center for Alcohol Studies. Thereafter, she worked at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, conducting research on post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Generally, her research focuses on the interplay between tobacco and other substance use, anxiety disorders, and health processes and is aimed at identifying underlying, explanatory mechanisms using both basic and applied methodologies. Ms. Farris is the recent 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).
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. She will be pursuing her Ph.D. in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology. Her research interests include criterion development, decision-making (individual and organizational), interviewing, leadership, recruitment, and work motivation & productivity.
Sehrish Ali is a senior majoring in psychology and political science with a minor in women studies at the University of Houston, and plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Sehrish's research interests include intimate partner violence, communication among couples, as well as anxiety disorders.
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. She plans on continuing her education in School Psychology, and her research interests include child and adolescent development, depression in teenage girls and the effects of parenting skills within the Hispanic community.
Kevin Banks is a sophomore at the University of Houston majoring in Psychology and is currently working towards a BS in Psychology. 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. His research interests include deception detection, addiction, jury decision-making, and risk assessment.
Rita Diaz is a senior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology, with a minor in sociology. Rita plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and her research interests include anxiety disorders, emotional regulation, social cognition, and mood disorders within Latino populations.
Stephanie Daumas is a junior at the University of Houston, majoring in psychology with a minor in sociology. 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. Her research interests include anxiety disorders, depression, substance use, and mental health among those with serious illnesses, with an emphasis on HIV/AIDS.
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.
John McKirahan is a Junior at University of Houston, majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. His fields of interest include anxiety and stress, as well as social cognition.
Patricia Cristina Morales
Patricia Cristina Morales is a senior at the University of Houston studying psychology. She is currently working on multiple projects within the AHRL, including the transdiagnostic smoking cessation program for anxiety disordered smokers. Patricia's career goals include obtaining a Ph.D in clinical psychology and studying anxiety, sexual development, and depression within the Latino population.
Hyaneyoung Olvera is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology and a minor in human development and family studies. She looks forward to graduating and earning a Ph.D in clinical psychology. Her research interests include panic disorder and depression in children and adolescents.
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, and is currently preparing to apply to doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology. Her research interests include anxiety and family dynamics.
Natalie Plummer is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology with a minor in human resource management. 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. Her research interests include organizational development, job motivation and satisfaction, work/life balance, personnel recruitment and selection, and performance appraisal.
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 working on preparing herself to get into a doctoral program in clinical psychology. Her research interests include exploration on how everyday stressors, including those in the workplace, affect health. She is specifically interested in findings within the Latino population regarding how these stressors correlate with depression and anxiety.
Ana Ruiz is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology with a minor in biochemistry. She is currently working on preparing herself to get into medical school. Her research interest include anxiety, the development of gender identity, addictions and the relationship between physiological and mental pathologies. Her career goals are to become a neuroscientist and a psychiatrist.
Muqaddas Sarwar is a senior at the University of Houston's Honor's College. She is majoring in psychology, with a minor in health. Her career goals include obtaining her Ph.D in clinical psychology and working with adolescents in the Muslim community.
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. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Her research interests include anxiety disorders, specifically PTSD.
Paloma Tafur is a senior at the University of Houston majoring in psychology with a minor in sociology. Paloma plans on pursing her Ph.D. in counseling psychology, and her research interests include anxiety and stress issues among Latinos and women, and mental health issues among divorced families. She is also interested in promoting more relaxation, meditation and the idea of living in the here and now for all.
Shahrzad Yekta, B.S.
Shahrzad Yekta is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Mental Health Counseling. She works for the Crisis Intervention of Houston and as a bilingual interpreter for the Texas Medical Center. 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. Her research interests are on relationship between mental and physical health, stress and coping, and family along with other relationships’ role on personality development.
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 and her future plans are to apply for a doctoral program in either clinical psychology or counseling psychology, or possibly both. Audrey is interested in research regarding anxiety, addictions, stress, and PTSD and how they intermingle. Her career goals are to counsel clients and treat patients who struggle with these elements of life.