David Anderson edits NIDA’s research newsletter, NIDA Notes, and is one of NIDA’s top science writers. He thinks it’s a good gig to follow the progress of science and spread the news about new findings that help people. Right now he’s enjoying all the new ways to communicate that putting the newsletter online make possible. He likes to play tennis, read, travel, walk around, and get together with friends. Some favorite places: Arezzo (Italy); National Bison Refuge (Montana); Dinosaur National Monument (Utah); Mile-Around Woods (Vermont); the corner of Hoyt Street and Montrose Parkway (Maryland).
Josie Anderson oversees NIDA multimedia, including video and still imagery. She has been with NIDA for four years, creating content for the website, managing NIDA’s digital media, and working alongside each member of the Office of Science Policy and Communications team. Prior to NIDA, Josie was a Broadcast Journalist with the United States Air Force for ten years. Josie holds a Masters in Interactive Journalism from American University.
Charlotte Armstrong has written about lots of different areas of science and medical research at NIH. She enjoys being able to learn about research findings and help people unfamiliar with science understand them. It’s been especially fun to learn about research on the brain both at the National Institute of Mental Health, where she is now, and before that at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In her spare time, Charlotte is a pianist in a family with lots of pets: a dog, cats, snake, and horse.
Dr. Albert Avila
We are now introducing Dr. Albert Avila, who became interested in drug abuse research after seeing how people he knew were affected by abused substances. In graduate school he studied how cocaine, withdrawal, and stress affects the immune system. At NIDA, he has been especially interested in the intersection of HIV and drug abuse. Currently, he is assisting students like you and junior scientists across the country with their careers in drug of abuse and addiction research. He spends his spare time playing with his three daughters, training for triathlons and marathons, and watching their dog Roxy chase after their chickens.
Shuly Babitz is now joining the chat as an expert in alcohol---so get your questions about alcohol ready! She works for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and can sum up her life with 2 words: sunshine and writing. She attended Miami Beach Senior High School in Miami Beach, FL where she divided her time between the beach (clearly, sunshine) and the school paper (writing). She then attended Swarthmore College where she met her husband (yes, that counts as sunshine), and wrote many, many essays and papers (more writing). Today, she divides her time between raising her 4 adorable kids (they are all sunshine!), and writing for the NIAAA (lots more writing).
Dr. Ruben Baler
Dr. Ruben Baler is a native of Argentina, fan of soccer and more specifically of Boca Juniors; he received a Master’s degree in cell biology from the Hebrew University in Israel and a doctorate degree in molecular biology from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. He derives great pleasure from studying the neurobiology of pleasure. He has two kids, 22 and 30, so when he lectures about the neuroscience of risky behaviors in adolescence, he talks from personal experience.
Mike Baumann is a Staff Scientist at NIDA’s Intramural Research Program in Baltimore. Mike and his colleagues examine the biological effects of newly-emerging drugs of abuse which are often known as “designer drugs” or “new psychoactive substances” (NPS). “Bath salts” (synthetic stimulants) and “Spice” (synthetic cannabinoids) are common examples of NPS. These substances are man-made alternatives to more common drugs of abuse, and little is known about their effects on the brain or other organs in the body. As a parent of three children, Mike is dedicated to educating the public about the risks associated with drugs of abuse, especially NPS. When not working in the laboratory, he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, camping and kayaking. He’s happy to be participating in his first Chat Day event!
Dr. Carlos Blanco
Dr. Carlos Blanco is the Director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research at NIDA. He is a nationally known expert in the epidemiology and treatment of addictive disorders. His accomplishments include, among others, a detailed examination of the course and stages of substance use disorders, the development of methods to quantify the generalizability of clinical trials, the development and testing of behavioral interventions to improve the outcome of individuals with addictive disorders, and the creation of a virtual map of psychiatric disorders, based on empirical data, to guide research into the causes of mental disorders. He is a graduate of Universidad AutÓnoma de Madrid (Spain) and completed his psychiatry residency and a research fellowship at Columbia University. In his free time, Dr. Blanco enjoys reading and traveling all over the world.
Dr. Antonello Bonci
Now on the Chat is Dr. Antonello "Anto" Bonci, a neuroscientist who heads up NIDA’s labs. Dr. Bonci got his medical degree in Rome, Italy, and later moved to America to work at the University of California at San Francisco. He moved all the way across the country to become the Director of NIDA's Research Program in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Bonci's research explores how drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, affect the connections between neurons in the brain.
Dr. Ericka Boone
Now online is Dr. Ericka Boone. Dr. Boone is an expert at understanding how drugs affect the brain and behavior. While Dr. Boone currently serves as the Director for the NIH Division of Loan Repayment, prior to this position, she was a scientist working at NIDA. A large part of her work at NIDA involved translating complex scientific research into everyday language that non-scientists can easily understand. Before coming to NIDA, Dr. Boone was a research scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she conducted research on how chemicals in the brain help to shape the way humans bond with their mates and babies. Dr. Boone loves participating in Chat Day and is excited to answer your questions today!
Dr. Susan Borja
Dr. Susan Borja has spent her career studying how trauma affects people. As a clinical psychologist, she focuses on understanding how processes like fear, memory, arousal, and emotion regulation change when people are faced with extremely stressful events. She likes the puzzle of untangling biology, environment, and circumstance to identify those who could benefit from earlier intervention to prevent long term problems and to develop new treatments for those with mental illness. Susan likes to travel to faraway places, bake, and eat ice cream.
Dr. Maureen Boyle
Your CHAT DAY co-moderator is Dr. Maureen Boyle. Dr. Boyle is the chief of the Science Policy Branch at NIDA. She is a neuroscientist who has also worked on how technology can be used to improve addiction treatment. Dr. Boyle is interested in how we can use scientific research to impact decision making by both individuals and society to improve health and wellbeing. In her free time she loves running, yoga, and spending time with her twin nieces. She is very excited for her second CHAT DAY!
Welcome to Chat Day – for everything you ever wanted to know about alcohol but didn’t want appearing in your search history. Erin Bryant is here from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to give you better answers than the first page of Google results. Ms. Bryant is a science writer whose interests include brain coloring books, the neurobiology of addiction, and shows about unlikely animal friendships. She holds a Master’s in journalism and has written for NIH about everything from the science of alcoholism to autoimmune diseases to advances in the treatment of autism. Science writing is a passion, and one day she hopes to move on to topics that begin with the letter "B."
Dr. Redonna Chandler
Dr. Redonna Chandler is online and ready to answer your questions. She is a psychologist who specializes in drug abuse treatment and services. She works at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences that seeks to improve the way research is conducted to improve the development of treatments – including drug treatment. She has 3 children and no pets but a den of red tail foxes have taken up residence in her back yard. Her most interesting travel experience was spending a semester living in a remote rural village in El Salvador where there was no running water or electricity -- and she slept on the ground and bathed in the river.
Dr. Wilson Compton
Dr. Wilson Compton is a psychiatrist, and is NIDA’s Deputy Director. He loves to study the interactions between people and their environments that contribute to drug use. He has done a lot of research focusing on the epidemiology of drug abuse, HIV prevention and co-occurring mental and drug use disorders. Dr. Compton loves the beach, and likes to spend nearly every weekend at his house in Bethany Beach, Delaware. He enjoys playing games such as —bridge, scrabble, crosswords, and sudoku.
Dr. Kevin Conway
Please welcome Dr. Kevin Conway. Dr. Conway is the deputy director of NIDA’s Division of Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research. His scientific interests include the epidemiology of drug addiction, mental illness, violence, and drugs in popular music. He recently published a paper analyzing 156 songs written by Black Sabbath. Contrary to the notion that heavy metal glorifies substance use, the band’s lyrics weave a cautionary tale of how persistent substance use can hijack free will and cause numerous forms of misery.
Jessica Cotto is a Health Science Policy Analyst at NIDA. She earned an MPH degree in Epidemiology & Biostatistics from the George Washington University and is interested in the prevalence and distribution of drug use among teens and adults. Jessica is originally from Los Angeles and enjoys snowboarding, photography and having fun with her family, 6-year old Isabella, 3-year old Santiago, her husband, Dennis, and her dog, Ayla.
Dr. Aria Crump
Dr. Aria Crump is a scientist in the Prevention Research Branch at NIDA. She received a doctoral degree in Behavioral Sciences from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and has worked since then on research to improve the health and well-being of children, adolescents, and young adults. She worked as a professor in Public and Community Health before joining the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She loves animals and enjoys spending time with her family.
Dr. Bethany Deeds
Now in our chat is Dr. Bethany Deeds. She is the Chief of Prevention Research Branch and is an interdisciplinary scientist. She is interested in understanding how the social environment (where we work, play, learn, and live) effects substance use and abuse and by what means it can be translated into prevention interventions. Dr. Deeds went to high school in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. When she is not enjoying her work life, you can find her enjoying her personal life —watching science fiction with her husband, crafting with her daughter, and running.
Kim DiFonzo works in the press office at NIDA. A big part of her job is setting up interviews between scientists and reporters about topics related to drug use and addiction. She translates complex science issues into language reporters use in their stories that, hopefully, is easily understood by the public. When she is not at NIDA, Kim is busy playing volleyball or on the sideline of a basketball or soccer game cheering loudly for one of her three kids. Kim grew up on Long Island, NY (where she claims still has the best pizza and bagels) and got her psychology degree from Lynchburg College in VA.
Dr. Gaya Dowling
Please welcome your CHAT DAY moderator---Dr. Gaya Dowling. Dr. Dowling oversees the new ABCD Study, which will look at what affects kids’ brain development as they grow up and how that impacts important aspects of theirs life like how they do in school. She’s excited to moderate the CHAT again this year, a job she has done for 7 years, because it’s the most fun part of her job at NIDA! Although Dr. Dowling’s favorite subjects in school were math and science, she never expected that studying science would give her a chance to go to the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, as she did when NIDA’s work on the HBO film Addiction won an award. In her free time, she loves to play with Legos with her two kids—an eight-year old girl and a ten-year old boy. Her biggest build…the Shield Helicarrier, almost 3000 pieces.
Dr. Emily Einstein
Dr. Emily Einstein is a neuroscientist who joined the Science Policy branch at NIDA this year. Dr. Einstein is interested in how the rapidly growing understanding of how the brain works can be applied to improve diagnostics and treatments for diseases like addiction. Her hobbies include running marathons, baking pies, and singing in a choir. She is very excited for her first Chat Day!
Mark Fleming started the NIDA website in 1995, and has been with us 30 years! He established the Visual Media Unit at NIDA to provide photographic and graphic arts support for NIDA’s labs in 1986. As webmaster and head of NIDA’s Digital Communications Branch he has worked to keep the NIDA web sites up to date in both content and technology, and NIDA was one of the first to introduce a mobile site for phones and tablets! Today, he is monitoring your questions and making sure things go smoothly with our chat. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in zoology from Miami University in Ohio and a Master of Arts in visual communications from Ohio University. In his off time, he enjoys shooting pool, and helping with his daughter's weekend equestrian competitions.
Alissa Gallagher serves as the Science Communications Director of the National Institute of Mental Health where she leads a wonderful and talented team of professionals responsible for developing engaging content and disseminating the latest NIMH research finding and resources to the public. For CHAT DAY she is serving as a science writer and editor. Working at NIMH has afforded Alissa the opportunity to combine two of her passions - the neuroscience of mental illness and health communications – and to work with an amazing team of people in support of a very important mission. In her spare time, Alissa enjoys running, yoga, reading, and chasing after a very active two year old boy!
Dr. Mimi Ghim
Dr. Mimi Ghim is joining the Chat. Dr. Ghim works on NIDA’s Research Training and Career Development Programs for young scientists who are developing their research careers. She also serves on NIH committees that deal with biomedical workforce and other training policies. Her favorite activities when not at work are wiping out on ski slopes and playing Pokémon GO with her 8-year old son. She is always on the search for the next adventure, which explains her avatar ---from a sacred place called Meteora in Kalampaka, Greece, which she visited in 2004.
Dr. Joshua Gordon
Dr. Joshua Gordon is the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Gordon is a psychiatrist who has treated patients with disorders like anxiety and depression. He also does research aimed at understanding what is happening in the brain in people with these disorders. Much of his research has focused on how brain circuits work—pathways of nerve cells connected across the brain that scientists believe are central to how the brain functions. Dr. Gordon’s early interest in science was sparked by the PBS show NOVA. What he loves about science is asking questions and trying to figure out how to answer them. Along with science, he is an avid cycler, and he recently spent a summer pedaling across the United States from California to Delaware.
Dr. Steven Grant
Do you have questions about drugs or the brain? Ask Dr. Steven Grant, a neuroscientist with a background in biology, chemistry, and physics. His favorite subjects in high school were English and History, but he developed a liking for science in college and went on to do post-doctoral work in brain systems and drug withdrawal. The study he is most proud of is a brain imaging study of cocaine craving that showed that substance abuse involves more than brain areas traditionally thought to be part of drug use, and opened the door to investigating the contribution of other cognitive (“thinking”) processes in addiction. He likes to read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction and is interested in the performing arts. He has two daughters—both live in Brooklyn, New York and even though they don’t appear in the show “Girls,” they write for The New York Observer and CollegeHumor.com.
Dr. Steven W. Gust
Dr. Steven W. Gust coordinates NIDA’s International Program, which includes the Institute’s global research, research training, and education efforts. In his position he interacts with researchers and governments around the world as they develop programs to address addiction. He also has a lot of research experience in psychopharmacology which is the study of how drugs affect the brain and cognitive abilities. In his spare time he restores the 1842 farm house he lives in with his wife and various pets.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman
Dr. Elizabeth Hoffman is a neuropsychologist and is fascinated by the relationship between behavior and how our brains are organized. She is the Scientific Program Manager for the ABCD Study, which looks at how activities like playing sports, sleeping, and many other life experiences affect kids’ brain development as they grow up. Speaking of growing up, Dr. Hoffman spent her childhood in Newton, Massachusetts where she got her first taste of psychology in high school. She was so intrigued that she decided to major in psychology in college and later pursued a graduate degree in neuropsychology. When not working, you can find Dr. Hoffman hanging out with her two teenagers, her husband, and adorable dog, Stella. Dr. Hoffman also loves theatre and traveling. In this photo she is dressed up as a magpie (after getting pied---see photo!) in a farcical retelling of the Wizard of Oz that she had the great pleasure of acting in while living in Beijing with her family.
Dr. Mary Kautz
Dr. Mary Kautz has a broad background in behavioral pharmacology (studying the action and effect of psycho-active, mood-altering drugs on behavior, as well as analyzing how behavioral factors contribute to the use of drugs). She works in NIDA’s division of neuroscience & behavior and is interested in the neurobehavioral factors that underlie increased risk for and/or resilience to drug abuse and addiction. She also serves as NIDA’s liaison for a trans-NIH interagency Program with the FDA to conduct research that supports regulatory activities over tobacco products. Originally from south central Pennsylvania, she enjoys preparing German foods, hiking, singing in choirs, and spending time with her son and cat.
Dr. Jag Khalsa
Dr. Jag Khalsa, with about 50 years of experience in drug research, serves as the Chief of the Medical Consequences Branch; is responsible for developing a national and international program of clinical research on medical/health consequences of drug abuse and infections. If you have a question about the health effects of drugs, he’s your guy. Prior to joining NIDA in 1987, Dr. Khalsa served for about 10 years studying the safety potential of chemicals and food additives. With so many distinguished years of research, Dr. Khalsa has received many awards, including a commendation from the U.S. Congress. He loves to sing – watch on YouTube.
Heather Kimmel has a PhD in Neuroscience and spent the first part of her career trying to understand how drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, affect the brain and behavior. At NIDA, she helps researchers all over the country conduct epidemiological studies to understand patterns of drug use and their impacts on physical and mental health. When she is not at work, Heather enjoys spending time with her family (husband, two kids, and two cats!), exploring this country’s national parks, SCUBA diving, and running.
Dr. George F. Koob
Dr. George F. Koob is the Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He is an internationally recognized expert on alcohol and stress, and the neurobiology of addiction. Dr. Koob’s research explores how the brain and body respond to alcohol, and why some people who drink become addicted while others do not. He is frequently featured in the national news as an authority on alcohol use disorders and college drinking. Dr. Koob describes himself as an “army brat,” who was born in Okinawa, Japan, and lived up and down the east coast of the U.S. and in France while his father served in the U.S. Army. He earned his Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins University, and before coming to NIAAA was an award-winning researcher at The Scripps Research Institute and teacher at the University of California San Diego. Dr. Koob enjoys traveling, speaking French, and gardening.
Carol Krause, M.A. is CHAT DAY’s coordinator and fills in while others on the chat take a pizza break. She is NIDA’s Communications Director and has a Master’s Degree she earned while covering the Watergate hearings many years ago. When she was a little younger, Ms. Krause worked at both the U.S. Capitol and at the White House. With a lot of help from NIDA’s scientists, she created CHAT DAY and NIDA’s National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. She raised 2 teenagers herself, a boy and a girl, who are now happy and healthy young adults. Ms. Krause has read the complete transcripts of just about every CHAT DAY and knows all about the kinds of questions kids have about drugs and drug abuse.
Geoff Laredo is what you’ve heard described by some people as a policy wonk. He has worked on substance use and addictions issues for nearly thirty years, and for NIDA he’s the person who talks with Congress and many of the special interest groups in our field. Because he has been doing this for so long, NIDA staff and others can use him as a resource on a whole range of issues we all focus on. He lives in Washington DC with his wife and their big cat Moses, and in their spare time they like to take trips to fun places all over the world.
Dr. Michelle Kim Leff
Dr. Michelle Kim Leff is now online. Dr. Leff grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Pattonville High School. Since high school, she has attended school and worked in Boston, New York City, San Antonio, Washington DC, Seoul, South Korea, and now Baltimore. She is a child/adolescent psychiatrist by training, and works as a research facilitator/administrator at the NIDA Intramural Research Program. She lives in Baltimore Maryland with her husband and children. She enjoys running, swimming, and volunteers for a community mental health organization and for a high school mentoring program in Baltimore.
Janet Linton, is one of our moderators today reviewing the questions you send in. She is an IT Specialist with NIDA’s web team and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Animation. In her job, she provides web, graphic, animation, and social media support, and maintains the National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week site. In her spare time, she is an avid sci-fi, fantasy reader, traditional artist, as well as a Disney and Pixar Enthusiast (that’s what started her love of animation)!
Dr. Roger Little
Dr. Roger Little is a neuroscientist who grew up in Vermont; he is interested in how genetics and the environment interact to predispose people to addiction, psychiatric, and neurological disorders. He has played bass guitar professionally since age 10. He and his wife Krista, who does research to develop new drugs to treat cancer, love to travel; especially to places that make wine. They have a Rottweiler named Gretel.
Dr. Jacqueline Lloyd
Dr. Jacqueline Lloyd is a scientist who studies how to help people avoid drug use and drug related problems, and abuse, and how to prevent addiction including drug-related HIV transmission. Before working at NIDA, Jacqueline worked and taught at a university, did drug prevention trainings, and worked as a social worker with children, youth and families. Even though her favorite subjects in school were Spanish and math, Jacqueline always had an interest in “prevention” and discovering what really works to help people and prevent drug and behavioral health problems. One thing she enjoys about her work is helping scientists develop their research ideas, and getting young people interested in science. Outside of work, Jacqueline enjoys traveling, experiencing new cultures, as well as bike riding, dancing (especially salsa!) and just being outdoors, especially during the summertime.
Dr. Marsha Lopez
Dr. Marsha Lopez’s experience runs the gamut from preclinical behavioral pharmacology (giving cocaine to rats) to military medical surveillance, but her current focus is drug epidemiology (the incidence, distribution, or control of a disease within a population) with an interest in marijuana (behavior, attitudes, policy), polysubstance use (abusing more than one kind of substance) and co-occurring psychiatric conditions (like using drugs and being depressed at the same time.) While most of Marsha’s extended family lives in Argentina, she lives here with Marco (age 11), Gigi (age 8), and Halo, the crested gecko. She chose a photo of Halo as her avatar today.
Dr. Eric Murphy
Dr. Eric Murphy has spent his career looking at the relationship between emotion and attention in the brain. In particular, he has studied disorders that involve either too little attention to emotional things (like autism) or too much attention to emotional things (like depression), and what might be going on in the brain that leads to those behaviors. In addition, he has examined how brain systems involved in emotion and attention develop from childhood to adolescence, and how hormones might influence that development. When he isn’t working, Eric spends most of his time talking about bulldozers and dump trucks with his 2 year old son.
Stephanie Older started a brand new job 2 weeks ago as the communications director for the Nat’l Institute of General Medical Sciences (also part of NIH). She is so excited to return to NIDA for her 9th Chat Day! Since 2008, Stephanie worked in NIDA’s Public Information and Liaison Branch (aka “communications office”) doing everything from press, social media, content review and contract management. When she’s not working, Stephanie is a chauffeur for her 9-year-old son Owen and 6-year-old daughter Tessa. On the rare occasion when she is not working or shuttling, Stephanie enjoys reading all kinds of books, working out, hiking, traveling and trying out new recipes.
Dr. Denise Pintello
Dr. Denise Pintello is online now. Known as “Denny,” she worked at NIDA for 11 years and now works at the National Institute on Mental Health---and is still helping out during CHAT DAY! While in college and grad school, she studied the impact of childhood trauma so she can talk to teens about both drug abuse and other mental health issues. One of her many fascinating jobs at NIMH involves overseeing studies that help make treatment more accessible for students struggling with mental health issues and drug addiction. For fun, Dr. Pintello spends time jogging with her German shepherd dog, tearing down walls in her home (renovating!), and traveling to beautiful locations to enjoy warm beaches, and climb mountains like Macchu Picchu!
Dr. Michele Rankin
Dr. Michele Rankin has always been interested in how cells detect what is going on around them and focused her research on special proteins that do just that—G protein coupled receptors. Now Michele works in the Science Policy office where she communicates how NIDA research is tackling the problems associated with drug abuse and finding better ways to prevent them. She is originally from Louisiana and loves cooking healthy Cajun cuisine (gumbo, crawfish etouffee), snow skiing, and traveling.
Ann Rea is a Web Analyst with the Digital Communications Branch where she works on many areas of the NIDA website including: publications, International, and NIDA Notes. She also provides backup support for NDAFW, and handles the ongoing task of making sure NIDA and its smaller sites meet the Section 508 guidelines. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Baltimore, and a Master’s Degree in English from Morgan State University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two teenage kids, and hyper-active dog. She moonlights as a swim taxi driver, driving her kids to and from daily swim practices and countless meets.
Juli Rose is here to help answer your questions so that you can shatter the myths about drugs and alcohol. At NIDA, Juli is a writer/editor, making publications that cover basic facts about drugs. When she isn't writing fact sheets, she's writing children and young adult stories, baking delicious goodies, and spending time with her husband and three feline furbabies.
Dr. Cathrine Sasek
Dr. Cathrine Sasek is now participating in the Chat. Dr. Sasek does many things at NIDA but her favorite is working on NIDA’s Science Education Program. She has always had a fascination with science, in particular the brain and how it causes changes in how people think and behave, and she enjoys having the opportunity to share this with teachers, parents, and kids. When she is not at work, Dr. Sasek enjoys hiking, taking photographs and entering them in competitions, and playing with her two cats.
Dr. Jeff Schulden
Dr. Jeff Schulden is a psychiatrist whose work at NIDA supports research to understand trends in drug abuse in the U.S. and to understand what factors put people at risk for drug abuse and what factors protect them. Research areas of particular interest include the relationships between drug abuse and other psychological conditions, such as depression, and between drug abuse and other medical conditions, such as HIV infection. Outside of work, Jeff enjoys hiking, biking, and traveling, especially to our National Parks!
Dr. Belinda Sims
Dr. Belinda Sims is a developmental psychologist and works in NIDA's prevention research branch. At NIDA, she works with researchers from around the country who develop and test drug abuse prevention interventions for early childhood through the preteen years, including prenatal and infancy periods. Also, her research portfolio includes studies that look at how to get successful drug abuse prevention programs picked up and implemented in real word settings and systems like schools, communities, child welfare, health care, and others. She has one child, and, when she isn't working, most of her time is spent driving her daughter to multiple extracurricular activities. She is excited that her daughter has her learner’s permit. This time next year, her daughter will be driving herself to activities, and Belinda will have time to do absolutely nothing, if she chooses – or maybe take up macramé.
Shirley Simson works in NIDA’s press office, answering questions every day from reporters about drug abuse and addiction, scheduling interviews with scientists, and writing press releases to deliver messages about substance abuse through television and radio stations, newspapers, magazines and news websites. Born and raised in Maryland, Shirley has a degree in communication from the University of Michigan and struggles with who to root for during the Maryland/Michigan Big Ten games. She lives with her husband and three children in Rockville. In her spare time, Shirley reads, goes on walks in her neighborhood, and chauffeurs her three kids to their cross country meets, lacrosse tournaments, and baseball games.
Jennifer Sizemore the project task lead (contractor) for NIDA’s communications contract. She manages the production of NIDA’s consumer publications, including writing, editing, and process tracking. She has performed similar functions for other HHS agencies, including CDC, NIDDK, and NCI, among others. Jennifer holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry from Syracuse University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland, respectively, and is a certified Editor in the Life Sciences. When not at work, Jennifer enjoys cooking, crocheting, and reading. She is a life-long Washington Redskins fan and has become a fan of baseball from watching her son, Michael, play.
Dr. Jack Stein
Dr. Jack Stein is answering questions today (and he supplies the pizza.) He is the head of our office of Science Policy and Communications, and is an expert in how communities come together to solve health problems like addiction. Before NIDA, he worked on drug abuse issues in the Executive Office of the President where he met former President Obama as well as the former first dog, Bo! He lives in Washington, DC and has performed in many local theatre productions.
Dr. Geetha Subramaniam
Dr. Geetha Subramaniam is the deputy director of the Center for Clinical Trials Network, a division within NIDA. She and her colleagues collaborate with scientists across the US to conduct clinical trials to assess the value of a number of treatments for substance use disorders. She is trained as a child/adolescent psychiatrist and an addiction psychiatrist and has conducted research studying treatments for teens and young adults who have abused marijuana and prescription opioids, among other substances. She also works with youth with substance abuse and mental health issues and their families in private practice. Fun things she likes to do when she is not working are playing with her labradoodle, going on walks/hikes, watching movies and visiting Washington DC’s museums!
Dr. Dave Thomas
Dr. Dave Thomas has joined the chat. He is an expert on pain and analgesia, where he promotes the development of new pain treatments that have little potential to produce addiction. This is especially important for teens, since sometimes they take prescription pain killers without a doctor’s prescription. He also loves “cool science.” For example, he has promoted the use of virtual reality as a treatment and research tool. Outside of work, Dave is a pastel painter, and has shown his work at galleries in the Washington-Baltimore area. Dave loves to play Frisbee Golf at his cabin in the woods of Pennsylvania. His dogs, Rex and Zoe, love to tag along with Dave in the woods.
Dr. Nora D. Volkow
Dr. Nora D. Volkow is now online. Dr. Volkow is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Her work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects of drugs and their addictive properties. Dr. Volkow was born in Mexico, and earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, where she received an award for best medical student of her generation. She was recently featured in a 60 Minutes profile called “Hooked,” which you can watch on the 60 Minutes site. She has been named one of Time Magazine’s “Top 100 People Who Shape our World.” Dr. Volkow is also an artist and avid runner—logging dozens of miles a week.
Dr. Kevin Walton
Whether it is experimenting with human cells in a petri dish, investigating animal behavior, or studying the effectiveness of potential medicines in people, Dr. Kevin Walton has worked in all these areas over his career as a scientist. We are lucky he is now online! His current focus is on treatments to help those who want to quit smoking. He is also working on efforts to understand more about the risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes. When not at NIDA, Kevin spends his time with his family, losing at ping pong but still able to win a pinball game here and there.
Dr. Eric Wargo
Dr. Eric Wargo is a writer who specializes in making complicated scientific research understandable and enjoyable for non-scientists. He grew up in Colorado, and after graduating from the University of Colorado he moved to Atlanta (where he got a PhD in Cultural Anthropology) and then lived in various places in Europe—including Prague, Warsaw, and Glasgow—before settling in Washington, DC. He lives with two highly intelligent black cats, Cindy and Pete, and in his spare time he enjoys camping, martial arts, and watching old science fiction movies.
Dr. Susan R.B. Weiss
Dr. Susan R.B. Weiss is the Director, Division of Extramural Research, at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). She provides scientific guidance and oversight to a diverse staff who are responsible for program planning and development, scientific review, grants management, research training and career development. She led the NIH effort to launch a major research project known as Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study—the largest long term study of brain maturation and other health outcomes in youth. In her spare time, she does Yoga and reads novels about exotic persons and places--including science fiction.
Dr. Cora Lee Wetherington
Now in our chat is Dr. Cora Lee Wetherington. She is NIDA’s Women & Sex/Gender Differences Research Coordinator and represents NIDA on the Trans-NIH Sex as a Biological Variable Working Group. She is interested in sex/gender differences in all areas of drug addiction research. Dr. Wetherington oversees a research program focusing on a variety of human and animal laboratory topics including animal behavioral models of drug addiction, vulnerability to drug addiction, the behavioral effects of exposure to drugs during lifespan development, topics specific to females, and, of course, sex/ gender differences in drug addiction. Before coming to NIDA she was a psychology professor for twelve years. She and her husband have a young adult son and daughter and an adorable little beagle.
Dr. Aaron White
Dr. Aaron White is now here to answer your questions about alcohol. Aaron is a psychologist with our sister Institute, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. His expertise is in how alcohol affects the brain. He knows a lot about how the brain changes during the teenage years and how alcohol and other drugs affect the teen brain. He is very interested in something called ‘alcohol blackouts,’ where people, including teenagers, who drink too much can’t remember what they did while they were drinking. His favorite things about his job are that he gets to be on the cutting edge of science, help teenagers make healthy choices about alcohol and, hopefully, keep their brains safe.
Natalie Zeigler serves as Senior Content Strategist at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In her role, she figures out the best ways to share NIMH science with the public, patients and their families, health professionals, and researchers. She leads teams to develop print and digital consumer health content and promote the latest research findings in order to increase the use of mental health research as a tool for making informed health care decisions. In her spare time, Natalie loves kickboxing, writing YA fiction, and dance battles with her three-year-old son.