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 700 peer-reviewed articles and books/book chapters on the co-occurrence of anxiety and stress-related psychopathology with substance use disorders, health behavior problems, and physical illness (e.g., chronic pain). His work is globally aimed at eliminating inequalities in psychopathology, addictive, and other health risk 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), Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), and randomized clinical trials. He has been involved in over 50 NIH grants as PI, Co-PI, or co-investigator. His research program has received awards from numerous organizations, including the American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, College on Problems of Drug Dependence, Association for Advancement of Cognitive and Behavior Therapy, and Association of Academic Health Centers.
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.
Research Assistant Professor
Lorra Garey, Ph.D.
Dr. Lorra Garey is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Houston. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston. 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 tobacco use, 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.
Pamella Nizio, B.S.
Pamella Nizio graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Human Resources Management. She is interested in researching anxiety disorders and the way in which transdiagnostic vulnerabilities such as anxiety sensitivity, distress intolerance, and emotion dysregulation may underlie substance use and problematic health behaviors. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in the near future.
Rubén Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Dr. Rubén Rodríguez-Cano is a current CPRTP Postdoctoral Fellow at MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX) and AHRL/SUTC at the University of Houston. He earned his PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). He has clinical and research experience in substance abuse disorders since 2011. He is an Accredited Clinical and Health Psychologist by the European Federation of Psychologys' Association (EFPA) and General Health Psychologist by Ministry of Education and Health in Spain. Currently, his research is focused on the incidence of emotional variables on addictive behaviors and medical problems such as cancer. Particularly, he is interested in the study of the mechanisms that underlie addictive behaviors and emotional and medical problems. He is also interested in the translation and validation of new therapeutic approaches for underserved populations in order to reduce and eliminate the disparities on health.
Pre-Doctoral Graduate Students
Brienna Fogle, B.S, B.A.
Brienna (Meffert) Fogle is a first-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. She graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky in May 2016 with a B.S. in Psychology, a B.A. in English, and a minor in Biology. Her research interests primarily focus on the comorbidity of trauma and substance use. She is also interested in understanding the impact of transdiagnostic risk and maintenance factors on the development and maintenance of co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder, substance use, and related disorders.
Brooke Kauffman, M.A.
Brooke Kauffman is a fifth-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. Brooke is the recipient of a pre-doctoral National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Kara Manning, M.A.
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 Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology. Her research focuses on understanding the complexities of severe fatigue, and fatigue disorders among adults. She primarily focuses on understanding the mechanistic effect of severe fatigue on substance using behaviors, and transdiagnostic vulnerability factors (i.e. distress tolerance, anxiety sensitivity) that may exacerbate such relations.
Angelina Mayorga, M.A.
Nubia Angelina Mayorga, M.A., is currently in her second year as doctoral student within the UH Clinical Psychology program. Ms. Mayorga recieved her B.S. in psychology from the University of Houston with a minor in Spanish in 2017. Her research interests include exploring underlying transdiagnostic factors within the context of mental health, substance use, and physical health among ethnic minority populations, in particular 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, M.A.
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.
Andrew Rogers, M.A.
Mr. Andrew Rogers is a third-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 focuses on the intersection of chronic pain and associated conditions, including substance use, as well as psychological mechanisms that may underlie these relations (e.g. anxiety sensitivity, emotion regulation, pain-related anxiety). Andrew is involved in experimental and intervention research to develop and improve brief interventions to reduce the disease burden of chronic pain and substance use disorders, with a focus on opioids.
Justin M. Shepherd, M.S.
Mr. Justin Shepherd is a second-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 with a M.S. in Clinical Psychology in 2015. Justin has charted a line of work aimed at elucidating malleable mechanistic factors (e.g., anxiety sensitivity, pain-related anxiety) that underlie the relationships between tobacco and opioid use in relation to negative mental and physical health outcomes, particularly among underserved and vulnerable populations. Mr. Shepherd is also interested in developing brief interventions that target transdiagnostic mechanisms for co-occurring affective symptoms and nicotine use.
Tanya Smit, B.S.
Ms. Tanya Smit is a first-year doctoral in the clinical psychology program at the University of Houston. She completed her B.S. in Psychology at the University of Houston in 2018. Her research interests include substance use and anxiety-related disorders, particularly within chronic pain populations. Ms. Smit is also interested in exploring transdiagnostic vulnerabilities that may underlie substance use behaviors and problematic health behaviors.
Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistants
JeanFelix Chavez, B.S.
JeanFelix Chavez obtained a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Medicine and Society from the University of Houston. 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.
Undergraduate Research Assistants
Olga is a senior at the University of Houston, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Medicine and Society. Her research interests include anxiety, depression, stress, and the effects psychological dysfunctions have on an individual’s physical health. After graduation, she plans to further her education and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Health Psychology
Bryce Clausen is currently a Junior at the University of Houston pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Medicine & Society. His current research interests include anxiety and trauma with an aspect of cultural and how culture impacts mental illness. He hopes to pursue a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology
Taylor Dao is currently a senior at the University of Houston seeking a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Biology. She is interested in topics such as mental health and illnesses among minorities, as well as bi-cultural identity. Along with being a research assistant at AHRL, she is also a research assistant at the PESC lab directed by Dr.Fetterman. Upon graduation, Taylor seeks to study Clinical Psychology and continue her career into research.
Natasha is currently a senior at the University of Houston. She is earning a B.A. in Psychology, with a minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In addition to being a research assistant for the AHRL, Natasha is a research assistant in Dr. Rheeda Walker's Culture, Risk, and Resilience Lab at the University of Houston. In the CRR lab, Natasha is part of the authorship for a manuscript (in preparation) on non-suicidal self-injury and ethnic identity among Latinas. Natasha plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in eating disorder maintenance and treatment, body dysmorphia, and intuitive eating as treatment for eating disorders and chronic dieting.
Antonella Gargurevich is a junior at the University of Houston pursuing a B.S. in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. Her current research interests include anxiety and depression, substance-abuse disorders, and psychosomatic disorders. She is interested in how these issues affect the LGBTQ community and other minority groups, with special interest in disadvantaged Latinx populations. She is also a research assistant for the UH Social Processes Lab. Antonella hopes to pursue a doctorate in Medicine and specialize in Plastic Surgery.
Joshua Garcia is currently a Junior pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. Outside of AHRL, Josh volunteers with the Collaboration on Aging Research and Multicultural Assessment, and the Masculinity and Gender Issues in Culture Lab. His research interests include culture, mood dysregulation, neurodegenerative, and substance-related disorders. Upon graduation, Josh hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Carter is a sophomore at the University of Houston currently pursuing a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Business Administration. Her research interests include clinical trials working towards better preventing and treating mental disorders and the development of new treatments and medications. She hopes to obtain a PhD degree.
Katherine Kabel is a Junior pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with minors in Creative Work and Sociology at the University of Houston. She is also a research assistant at the Trauma and Stress Studies Center. Her research interests include the comorbidity of trauma and substance use disorders, particularly in underserved populations. In the future, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Nirvi Mehta is Junior at the University of Houston, pursuing a dual degree of a B.S. in Psychology with a Biology and Medicine and Society 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 Sports Medicine.
Joellen is a senior at the University of Houston pursuing a B.S in Psychology with a minor in Biology. Her research interests include understanding the etiology and course of anxiety disorders. After completing her bachelor's degree, she plans to further her education by obtaining a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology.