Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit: Meet the Team
The Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) is a group of dedicated, compassionate, and talented scientists, clinicians, trainees, and volunteers. Our expert, interdisciplinary team works together to study and develop new treatments for children with psychiatric illnesses through innovative research, clinical care, and community outreach.
Lana Grasser received scientific honors on her poster at the Association for Cognitive Bias Modification (ACBM) entitled “Aberrant Threat Processing in Affective Psychopathology: Lessons Learned from Two fMRI Tasks”
Our team of Trainees, Postdocs, and Clinicians developed a three-part series of virtual interactive activities of “Brain Talks” for elementary students that touched on what it’s like being a scientist at NIH, how the brain works, and the importance of mental health. We were excited to return to the classroom and engage with all the students in person this year. Our third group, shown here at Kemp Elementary School, focused on teaching kids emotion regulation strategies to help them calm themselves in stressful situations and manage difficult emotions. The students got to leave with a Feelings Wheel to help them communicate their emotions and create a self-care book of activities they enjoy and can practice to maintain a positive well-being. Our Branch plans to continue these fun educational lessons each year, hopefully in a classroom near you.
At the 24th Annual NIMH IRP Fellows Scientific Training Day, held September 29, 2022, Olufunmilayo (Ayo) Telli, BS (shown with her poster), an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow and Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) scholar in Dr. Melissa Brotman's Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit, was awarded First Place in the 2022 NIMH IRP Outstanding Poster Award Competition for her poster on "Associations between Inconsistent Parenting and Child Irritability in a Clinical Sample." After her NIMH fellowship, Ayo plans to obtain MD and PhD degrees to become a physician scientist.
Melissa A. Brotman, PhD, was elected to be a Fellow in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)
Lauren Henry, PhD has received a Travel Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP). At the 2022 ACNP Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Henry will present NNT’s work examining the reliability and validity of CALM-IT, a gamified and disseminatable mobile application-based inhibitory control task.
Lana Grasser, Phd has received the ACNP-AMP BRAD fellowship. The fellowship is a partnership between the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the health research advocacy group Americans for Medical Progress (AMP). It was created to help raise public awareness about the essential role of animals in health research, specifically for the study of brain-behavior-drug interactions and advancements in psychopharmacology.
CALM-IT, a mobile app game designed by Melissa A. Brotman, PhD has won a 2020 Federal Health Innovation & Technology (FedHealthIT) Innovation Award.
Current lab members
Ramaris E. German, PhD Dr. Ramaris E. German is a clinical psychologist in the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit. She has a broad range of clinical, research, and training experience working with children, families, and adults through her work at the University of Pennsylvania, American University, NYU-Bellevue Hospital Center, Washington DC VA Medical Center, Greenbelt Cares, and Neuropsychological Associates of Fairfax. Her research has focused on mechanisms in mood disorders, psychotherapy process and outcome research, as well as in the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Dr. German has a special interest in addressing diversity, inclusion, and inequity issues, health disparities, and stigma. Before joining NIMH, Dr. German worked training community mental health therapists in evidence-based practices, including cognitive behavioral therapy (in English and Spanish), to increase access to quality mental health services for underserved communities through a partnership between the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and the University of Pennsylvania (the Beck Community Initiative). In her current work in the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit and given her background in mood disorders, psychotherapy, and implementation research, Dr. German is currently involved in the research and development of novel psychotherapeutic treatments and interventions to target the underlying brain mechanisms implicated in severe irritability in youth with the aim to establish empirically-supported treatments for the underserved pediatric clinical population of youth with DMDD.
Lisa M. Cullins, MD Lisa M. Cullins, MD is an Attending Physician in the Emotion and Development Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Dr. Cullins is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. Dr. Cullins completed her Adult Psychiatry Residency at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute in Los Angeles, CA and her Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, NY. Dr. Cullins has devoted most of her career to training and education, community psychiatry and systems of care, in particular, working with children and adolescents in the child welfare system and other underserved populations. Dr. Cullins has had the privilege of being a physician leader and clinician educator in multiple treatment settings ranging from research, academic, tertiary care hospital facilities to one of the largest child community mental health providers in the State of California (Corporate Medical Director, EMQ Families First Children & Family Services). Throughout her career, Dr. Cullins has been a staunch advocate for quality and access to care for children and families and has been an active participant in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) as current Co-Chair of the Diversity and Culture Committee, past Councilor At Large, past Chair of Task Force on Crisis in Recruitment into Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, past Co-Chair of the Workforce Committee, past Adoption and Foster Care Committee Member, past Secretary of Regional Organization, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Society of Greater Washington (CAPSGW) and past Delegate of Regional Organization, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Society of Greater Washington (CAPSGW) to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Assembly. Most recently, prior to Dr. Cullins’ current position at the National Institute of Health, she was the Training Director for the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship Program and the Director of Outpatient Psychiatry at Children’s National Medical Center. During her role as Training Director, Dr. Cullins served as the Chair of the Child Caucus of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatry Residency Training (AADPRT).
Jamell White, PhD, LCSW-C, LICSW Dr. Jamell White is a staff clinician for the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) in the Emotion and Development Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Dr. White received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Human Development and Quantitative Methodology. She also has master’s degrees in social work (Catholic University of America) and special education (Johns Hopkins University). Dr. White is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry (Child and Adolescent) at Georgetown University School of Medicine as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Prior to coming to the NIMH, much of Dr. White’s clinical work specialized in working with children, adolescents, and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related disorders.
Lisa Felber, MSW, LICSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Staff Clinician for the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) in the Emotion and Development Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Ms. Felber received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work and did post-graduate training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Ms. Felber joined the Emotion and Development Branch in 2021. Prior to joining NIMH, Ms. Felber worked at the NIH Clinical Center where she provided clinical support to patients and families participating in COVID-19, sickle cell disease, and rare disease research studies. Ms. Felber also mentored and trained social workers and interns on issues related to pediatric and adult suicide risk screening and assessment. Ms. Felber has a strong interest in addressing access to care and health disparities among vulnerable populations. She has received several awards including the 2020 NIH Clinical Center CEO Award for COVID-19 Patient Care and the 2022 Hubert H. Humphrey Award For Service To America for her contributions to the health, safety, and well-being of our nation's most vulnerable children and families during Operation Artemis (OA) and Operation Allies Welcome (OAW).
Simone Haller, PhD Dr. Simone Haller is the Director of Research and Analytics in the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT). She completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford in Experimental Psychology with a focus on adolescent development and individual differences. At NNT, Dr. Haller studies the cognitive, computational, and neural processes that children and adolescents engage to regulate negative affect and select actions, such as approaching or avoiding a peer provocation. Her research focuses on understanding how these processes (e.g., social threat processing) are shaped by development and individual differences in anxiety and irritability, and how they can be targeted in interventions for youth with clinically significant levels of anxiety and irritability. In September 2020, she received a two-year NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation for her project "Predicting longitudinal psychiatric effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in a transdiagnostic sample of youth using rest and task-based fMRI."
Kyunghun Lee, PhD Dr. Lee is a scientist in the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Lee researched machine learning, software/hardware optimization, and automatic detection and classification system development while completing a PhD at the University of Maryland. After that, Dr. Lee worked as a postdoctoral fellow (Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and focused on leveraging machine learning and computational modeling to understand the relationship between brain and behavior, leading to novel therapeutic concepts for brain disorders and brain-inspired A.I. As part of the NNT, Dr. Lee is working on computational analysis and software design in the lab and helping NIMH researchers in every phase of the automated software workflow to use neuroscience to identify treatment targets. Also, Dr. Lee is working on software/algorithm development based on real-time information from wearable devices.
Lauren Henry, PhD Dr. Lauren Henry (pronouns: she/her) is a post-doctoral IRTA fellow with the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) in the Emotion and Development Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. She received her MS in psychology and PhD in clinical psychology with a minor in quantitative sciences from Vanderbilt University. She completed her pre-doctoral clinical psychology internship with the Charleston Consortium. Dr. Henry is interested in contributing to the prevention of psychopathology in children and adolescents. Her research focuses on leveraging technology to (1) investigate mechanisms of risk for psychopathology and (2) develop, evaluate, and implement preventive interventions for psychopathology for large-scale dissemination to improve public health. At the NNT, Dr. Henry is applying to her interests to a population of clinically impaired youth with irritability.
Lana Ruvolo Grasser, PhD Dr. Grasser is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit (NNT) within the Emotion and Development Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. Here, she is using neuroimaging and psychophysiological measures to study irritability, anxiety, and their treatment in youth. She received her BS from Michigan State University and her Ph.D. from Wayne State University, where her NIMH-funded dissertation project, “Biomarkers of Risk and Resilience to Trauma in Syrian Refugee Youth”, identified skin conductance response to trauma interview and fear potentiated startle as candidate biomarkers of trauma-related psychopathology in youth exposed to civilian war trauma and forced migration. Dr. Grasser received the 2022 International Society for Developmental Psychobiology Dissertation Award for this work. Dr. Grasser has extended this work to query efficacy and underlying mechanisms of creative arts and movement therapies to address trauma-related psychopathology in families resettled as refugees of Syria, Iraq, the Congo, and Afghanistan. She has led efforts to extend these programs to the virtual space for schoolchildren and to neighborhoods across Detroit for youth and caregivers. She is also passionate about science policy and advocacy, and is a member of the National Science Policy Network as well as the 2022-2023 ACNP/AMP BRAD fellow.
Ayo Telli, BS Ayo is a postbaccalaureate IRTA fellow and UGSP scholar with the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit. She graduated in 2021 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) with a B.A in Biology and a B.S in Psychology. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Lynnda Dahlquist involved investigating the use of VR (virtual reality) distraction for acute pain management in children and adults, as well as, investigating the influence of COVID-19 on undergraduate students. She is currently interested in studying health disparities and social behavior. After her NIMH fellowship she plans to obtain an MD/PhD and become a physician scientist.
Kenneth Fling, BS Kenny is a postbaccalaureate IRTA fellow with the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit. He graduated in 2022 from Howard University in Washington, D.C. with a BS in Psychology and minor in Sociology. His research experience prior to joining NNT involved qualitative research analyzing parent perceptions & decisions surrounding child & adolescent mental health in Ibadan, Nigeria. He is interested in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders, especially in pediatric populations. Kenny plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology in the future.
Eleanor Hansen, BA Ellie is currently a postbaccalaureate fellow within the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit at the NIMH with Dr. Melissa Brotman. She graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University in 2022 with a major in Psychology. There, she conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. Nim Tottenham on early caregiving adversity, neuroaffective development, and affective psychopathology in children, including an honors thesis on early caregiving instability and pediatric anxiety. She is currently interested in studying developmental trajectories and conceptualizations of affective disorders in childhood, and using this research to develop novel treatments. After her NIMH fellowship, she plans to attend a PhD program in clinical psychology.
Lizzie Tandilashvili, BS Lizzie is a postbaccalaureate IRTA fellow with the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit at the NIMH. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) in 2023 with a BS in Psychology and a minor in Disability Studies. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Andrea Chronis-Tuscano involved investigating early behavioral interventions for children and adolescents with ADHD and associated behavior problems. Her current research interests include understanding risk factors and outcomes for children with anxiety and irritability in order to develop novel treatments. After her NIMH fellowship, she plans to pursue a PhD program in Clinical Psychology.
Kolin Lewis, BA Kolin is a postbaccalaureate IRTA fellow within the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit. He graduated in 2023 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in education. His undergraduate research experience, conducted under the guide of Dr. Margaret Sheridan, primarily involved investigating the impact of early childhood life experiences on behavioral and psychopathological development in adolescents. He is currently interested in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders, particularly in children and adolescents. After his NIMH fellowship, he plans to pursue a doctorate degree and become a clinical psychologist.
Grace Stohr is a first-year postbaccalaureate IRTA fellow with the Neuroscience and Novel Therapeutics Unit at the NIMH. She graduated in 2023 with a degree in Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. Her previous research experience was under Dr. Essi Viding at University College London and involved investigating how teenagers process positive affect in others. She is interested in studying treatments for mood disorders in childhood. After her fellowship, Grace plans to attend a PhD program.
Students in the Intramural Research Training Award fellowship program (IRTAs) serve a vital role in the lab, coordinating between all arms of the work so that clinical activities, data collection, and data analysis run smoothly. With extensive clinical exposure and mentorship, IRTAs enhance their knowledge and cultivate unique research and clinical skills facilitating their next educational endeavors. Check out where our Alumni are now:
Postdoctoral fellows 2023
Reut Naim, Ph.D
After completing her post-doctoral training, Reut Naim is now an tenure track assistant professor at Tel Aviv University, Department of Psychology.
Postbaccalaureate Fellows 2023
Urmi Pandya, BS
After completing her postbac training, Urmi Pandya became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington.
Postbaccalaureate Fellows 2022
Kelly Dombek, MA
After completing her postbac training, Kelly Dombek became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at University of California, Berkeley.
Shannon Shaughnessy, BA
After completing her postbac training, Shannon Shaughnessy became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Miami.
Postbaccalaureate Fellows 2019 – 2021
Allison Jaffe, BS
After completing her postbac training, Allison Jaffe started medical school at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Postbaccalaureate Fellows 2018-2020
After completing her postbac training, Courtney Agorsor became a PhD student in Counseling Psychology at University of Denver.
After completing her postbac training, Hong Bui became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at University of Maryland.
After completing her postbac training, Hannah Grassie became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at University of Miami.
After completing her postbac training, Olga Revzina became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at The Catholic University of America.
After completing her postbac training, Caitlin Stavish became a PhD student in Child-Clinical Psychology at University of Washington.
Postbaccalaureate Fellows 2017-2019
After completing her postbac training, Julia Brooks became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
After completing his postbac training, Michal Clayton became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University.
After completing his postbac training, Andy Ross became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at University of Rochester.
After completing her postbac training, Samantha Perlstein became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at University of Pennsylvania.
Postbaccalaureate Fellows 2016-2018
After completing her postbac training, Sofi Cárdenas became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at University of Southern California.
After completing her postbac training, Gretchen Perhamus became a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at University of Buffalo.
After completing her postbac training, Ali Roule became a PhD student in Child-Clinical Psychology at Pennsylvania State University.