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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Meet some of the people behind our mission.


At the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), we are a diverse and highly skilled group of individuals passionate about advancing the understanding and treatment of mental disorders. With expertise spanning various disciplines, each of us plays a crucial role in furthering our mission. As we celebrate our 75th Anniversary, get to know some of the people striving to make a profound impact on the lives of those affected by mental illnesses.

Photo of Shelli Avenevoli

Shelli Avenevoli, Ph.D.

Acting NIMH Director

As the NIMH Deputy Director and now as the Acting NIMH Director, Shelli oversees various aspects of the institute, including research priorities, policies, and collaborations. Her passion lies in advancing the understanding of the causes of mental disorders, particularly in youth, and she takes pride in both her contributions to youth mental health projects and improvements to NIMH processes and policies. Shelli emphasizes the importance of collaboration and mentorship in pursuing a career in research.

Photo of Brian Barnett, Ph.D.

Brian Barnett, Ph.D.

Health Science Policy Analyst
Science, Policy, and Evaluation Branch

Brian plays a vital role in shaping NIMH's policies and communications. With a little over 18 months at the institute, Brian finds fulfillment in the variety of tasks, the healthy work environment, and the opportunity to contribute to impactful mental health research. 

Photo of Nick Gaiano

Nick Gaiano, Ph.D.

Branch Chief
Extramural Review Branch

Nick and his team oversee the peer review of research applications submitted to NIMH for potential funding. Working at NIMH for the past 5 years, Nick finds fulfillment in contributing to the common good, surrounded by a supportive community dedicated to the mission of making a positive impact on public health.  

Photo of Mauricio Rachel Gomez

Mauricio Rangel-Gomez, Ph.D. 

Program Officer
Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science

Mauricio plays a diverse role that involves collaborating with researchers, supporting funding applications, and contributing to mental health disparities and global mental health initiatives. His dedication to the institute's mission, the enriching work environment, and the opportunity to connect with researchers are key reasons why he chooses to stay at NIMH.

Photo of Jennifer Humensky

Jennifer Humensky, Ph.D.

Financing and Managed Care Research Program

Jennifer oversees the health economics research program, focusing on supporting extramural investigators and showcasing the importance of health economics research for improving mental health care treatment and outcomes. Jennifer finds fulfillment in writing funding announcements and organizing conferences to showcase successful investigators and inspire new research directions.

Photo of Felicia Johnson

Felicia Johnson

Management Analyst
Office of Management

Felicia provides advice, consultation, and services to recruit, develop, and retain a high-performing workforce dedicated to supporting the institute's mission. With a sense of purpose and alignment of values, she finds fulfillment in contributing to the prevention and cure of mental illnesses through her role in recruiting highly skilled individuals.

Photo of Mario A. Penzo

Mario A. Penzo, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator and Chief
Unit on Neurobiology of Affective Memory

Leading a dedicated team of young investigators, Dr. Penzo's lab focuses on unraveling the neural circuit mechanisms underlying anxiety and depression using animal models. Using cutting-edge technologies and a multidisciplinary approach, their research contributes to transforming the treatment and prevention of mental health disorders. One of Mario's favorite parts of his job is the opportunity to mentor the next generation of scientists and clinicians.

Photo of Aneka Reid

Aneka Reid, M.H.A.

Program Analyst
Office of Fellowship Training

Aneka leads projects focused on training and career development for the intramural trainee community, helping them navigate their research experiences and prepare for their next steps. For Aneka, the collaborative nature, accessible leadership, and opportunity to contribute to mental health research make NIMH a fulfilling workplace.

Photo of Susanna Sung

Susanna Sung, LCSW-C

Director of Marketing & Community Relations
Intramural Research Program

With over 23 years of experience, Susanna oversees participant recruitment for clinical studies, leveraging her expertise in mental health, research, and communication to address barriers and promote access to research opportunities. She finds inspiration in the dedicated and brilliant colleagues she works with.