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Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch

Branch Chief and Staff

Contact Info

Branch

Kathleen R. Merikangas, PhD, Chief, Senior Investigator

Kevin Conway, PhD, Staff Scientist Kevin Conway, PhD, Staff Scientist
kevin.conway@nih.gov

Kevin P. Conway, PhD, is a Staff Scientist in GEB-SDGE, where he provides scientific direction and oversight for the research program. Dr. Conway is a nationally recognized expert in the epidemiology and measurement of substance use and mental health disorders. The unifying theme across Dr. Conway's research is the application of epidemiologic and quantitative methods to elucidate the etiology of these disorders through the identification of potent but malleable risk factors.

Before joining GEB-SDGE in 2020, Dr. Conway was Senior Behavioral Health Scientist at RTI International. At RTI, he served as Principal Investigator for the Data Coordinating Center of the HEALing Communities Study, a multi-site trial evaluating the impact of the Communities That HEAL intervention on reducing opioid overdose deaths within 67 communities in four states. Dr. Conway formerly served as Deputy Director of NIDA's Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research. At NIDA, Dr. Conway informed the design and implementation of several national research efforts, including the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, the NIH Toolbox, and the PhenX Toolkit.

Dr. Conway authored over 90 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He is a Fellow of the American Psychopathological Association and the recipient of more than 25 awards for leadership in research. Dr. Conway earned the PhD in Experimental Psychology from Temple University in 1998 and received post-doctoral training in psychiatric and genetic epidemiology at Yale University.

Peter Leeds, BS, Laboratory Manager
leedsusa@nih.gov

Clinical Team

Francesca Belouad, MA, Research PsychologistFrancesca Belouad, MA, Research Psychologist
belouadf@nih.gov

Francesca Belouad, MA, is a Research Psychologist in GEB-SDGE. She is responsible for administrating interviews and overseeing clinical aspects of the NIMH Family Study. Francesca has been employed as a Research Psychologist at the NIMH since 2000, when she was recruited by Dennis Charney, MD, during the formation of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program. Prior to this, she held research positions at the Section on Development Psychology at the NIMH, Outpatient Psychiatry at the Washington Veterans Medical Center, and the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Francesca's work has focused on the writing and submission of the original NIMH Family Study protocol and the development and selection of research measures. She currently administers headache, psychiatric, sleep, and family history interviews to adults and children at initial and follow-up time points. She conducts reviews of clinical assessments and provides direction to outside collaborators on established interview guidelines. Her research interests include sleep patterns in mood disorders and the validity of subthreshold thresholds in depression and anxiety.

Francesca has contributed to peer-reviewed manuscripts including Structured diagnostic interview for sleep disorders: rationale and validity and Validation of the Diagnostic Interview for Affective Spectrum Disorders. She holds a master's degree in Psychology from George Mason University and completed her thesis, Social Cognition, and preschoolers at risk for conduct disorders, at the Laboratory of Developmental Psychology, at the NIMH.

Jessica Carpenter, MD, Pediatric NeurologistJessica Carpenter, MD, Pediatric Neurologist
jessica.carpenter@nih.gov

Jessica L Carpenter, MD, is a Staff Clinician and joined GEB-SDGE in the fall of 2018. Dr. Carpenter supervises clinical aspects of the NIMH Family Study in the NIH Clinical Center. Dr. Carpenter received her MD from Tufts University School of Medicine in 2002. She trained as a pediatric resident at Georgetown University Hospital and went on to complete a child neurology fellowship at Children's National Hospital (CNH) in Washington DC in 2007. She was on the faculty at CNH for 13 years, where she created and developed the Pediatric Stroke Program as well as co-directed the Neurocritical Care Program. As a Staff Clinician, Dr. Carpenter focuses on mental health research pertaining to neuroimaging and neurophysiology.

Claudia Choque, BS, Clinical InterviewerClaudia Choque, BS, Clinical Interviewer
claudia.choque@nih.gov

Claudia Choque is a Clinical Interviewer and joined GEB-SDGE in 2016. She conducts and evaluates assessments of physical and mental health in adults and children. Claudia has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is currently working on a Master of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Her research interests are to investigate and conduct intervention methods for the associations between internalizing problems, externalizing problems and risky behavior among youth.

Tarannum Lateef, MD, MPH, Pediatric NeurologistTarannum Lateef, MD, MPH, Pediatric Neurologist
tarannum.lateef@nih.gov

Tara Lateef, MD, MPH, joined GEB-SDGE in 2007 as a Staff Clinician and Research Collaborator. Dr. Lateef is a Pediatric Neurologist at Children's National Health System and Pediatric Specialists of Virginia and faculty member of George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Lateef is an Epidemiologist by training, and her research interests include migraine epidemiology as well as the intersection of headache with mood disorders and sleep problems.

Alyssa McGraw, BS, Scientific Program AnalystAlyssa McGraw, BS, Scientific Program Analyst
alyssa.mcgraw@nih.gov

Alyssa McGraw is a Scientific Program Analyst and joined GEB-SDGE in 2017. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in Kinesiology in 2016 and is currently working on her Master of Public Health at the University of Maryland, College Park, where her focus is on physical activity. Alyssa is currently helping to computerize the NIMH Family Study instruments and assists study staff with clinical interviews and study recruitment. Her main research interest is the connection between mental health and physical activity.

Erin Nakamura, MPH, Clinical Epidemiology Research CoordinatorErin Nakamura, MPH, Clinical Epidemiology Research Coordinator
nakamurae@nih.gov

Erin Nakamura, MPH, is the Clinical Research Coordinator and joined GEB-SDGE in 2004. She received her Master of Public Health from George Washington University in 2010. Erin is responsible for coordinating and overseeing multiple epidemiologic studies, including the NIMH Family Study of mood and anxiety disorders and a study about the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kathleen O’Leary, MSW, Senior Clinical AdvisorKathleen O’Leary, MSW, Senior Clinical Advisor
kathleen.o'leary@nih.gov

Kathleen O'Leary, MSW, is a Senior Clinical Advisor in GEB-SDGE. Before joining the group in 2015, Kathleen worked for NIMH since 1980 as a Research Social Worker in both the Intramural and Extramural divisions. She trained as a Child Psychotherapist at Smith College School for Social Work and worked on Stanley Greenspan's Clinical Infant Development Program when she started at NIMH, before moving on to studies of borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia in the IRP. Also for the IRP, she supervised the NIMH human subjects protection unit and served on the NIH Clinical Center Ethics Committee.  From 2007 to 2014 she worked as Deputy Chief and then Chief of the NIMH Women's Program, with a focus on perinatal mental health, sex and gender differences in mental health, and violence against women research. She served as the NIMH delegate to the first NIH Sex and Gender Minority Research Coordinating Committee and was a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention's Research Task Force. Her publications include results from the first medication-free neuropsychological study of individuals with borderline personality disorder, and book chapters on that topic, as well as papers on mood variability, group therapy, and how to establish a therapeutic alliance with pregnant adolescents.

Biostatistics/Data Team

Lihong Cui, MS, StatisticianLihong Cui, MS, Statistician
cuil@nih.gov

Lihong Cui, MS, joined GEB-SDGE as a Statistician in 2004. Lihong is the chief data analyst and manager for the NIMH Family Study, and she routinely conducts analyses using data from other studies. She graduated from the University of New York at Albany with a master's degree in Biostatistics in 2003. She is experienced with multi-level modeling, survival modeling, survey data analysis, and has experience working with databases in different systems and platforms.

Jaclyn Dozier Franco, BA, IT Data SpecialistJaclyn Franco, BA, IT Data Specialist
jaclyn.dozier@nih.gov

Jaclyn Franco is an IT Data Specialist in GEB-SDGE. She joined the group in 2011 after working as a Data and Program Manager in cancer epidemiology research at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Within GEB-SDGE, Jackie helps manage data collection processes for the NIMH Family Study, oversees systems for computerizing study instruments, and coordinates scientific administrative activities. Jackie holds a bachelor's degree in Anthropology (health/biological) and is experienced with data management, program administration, and has worked with many different data platforms in various research projects throughout her career.

Wei Guo, PhD, Research FellowWei Guo, PhD, Research Fellow
wei.guo3@nih.gov

Wei Guo, PhD, is a Research Fellow GEB-SDGE and joined the group in 2018. Dr. Guo is responsible for data analysis for several projects including research on mobile technologies in mental and physical health. Dr. Guo graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a Bachelor of Applied Science in 1992 and earned a PhD in Neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis in 2006. Dr. Guo has established a pipeline to process, error check, and prepare high level repeated measure "big data" from several thousand participants that will facilitate cross-study comparability and increase statistical power. She has provided documentation to allow investigators from multiple international sites to process their data independently and guide them on use of programs to visualize and analyze the data. She has led our transition to using novel statistical programs in R for multi-level repeated-measure data, as well as analyses of data from two different sites and two different devices to promote data harmonization and cross-site validation.

Jian-Ping He, MS, BiostatisticianJian-Ping He, MS, Biostatistician
jianping.he@nih.gov

Jian-Ping He, MS, is a Statistician and joined GEB-SDGE in 2005. She received a bachelor's degree in Medicine from Shanghai Medical University in China. She also received a master's degree in Biostatistics from Shanghai Medical University and a master's degree in Science, majoring in Epidemiology from Michigan State University. She is the chief analyst for large scale epidemiologic studies and has played a leading role in facilitating the dissemination of the first US national studies on child mental health including the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) –Replication (NCS-R), its adolescent extension (NCS-A), and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). She routinely collaborates with Principal Investigators within the NIH and from extramural academic institutions.

Sun Jung Kang, PhD, StatisticianSun Jung Kang, PhD, Statistician
sunjung.kang@nih.gov

Sun Jung Kang, PhD, is a Staff Scientist in GEB-SDGE and joined in 2019. Dr. Kang focuses on the development of translational studies to identify the regulatory systems underlying motor activity and sleep across species by joint analysis of multiple domains. She worked at Albany Stratton VA Medical Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center before she joined NIMH in 2016. She received her BA in Mathematics from the University of Virginia, an MS in Applied Mathematics from New York University, a PhD in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from State University of New York Stony Brook, and post-doctoral training from Duke University and Case Western Reserve University.

Fellows/Training

Debangan Dey, MStat, Hopkins Doctoral CandidateDebangan Dey, MStat, Pre-doctoral IRTA/Hopkins Doctoral Candidate
debangan.dey@nih.gov

Debangan Dey, MStat, is a Pre-doctoral IRTA Fellow in GEB-SDGE and joined in 2019. He is working towards his PhD in Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University and is associated with NIMH under the Graduate Partnership Program. He received his bachelor's (2015) and master's degrees in Statistics (2017) from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata. Debangan develops novel statistical methodology to analyze mobile health data coming from ecological momentary assessment, actigraphy monitoring, and repeated measurement of biomarkers. His research goal is to answer important scientific questions concerning dynamic relationship between multiple health systems.

Gideon Dunster, PhD, Post-doctoral IRTAGideon Dunster, PhD, Post-doctoral IRTA
gideon.dunster@nih.gov

Gideon Dunster, PhD, is a Post-doctoral IRTA Fellow and investigates the role of biological rhythms in mental health. Dr. Dunster received his bachelor's degree in Biology from the College of Wooster in 2013 and his PhD in Biology from the University of Washington in 2019 with a background in human sleep and circadian rhythms. Dr. Dunster joined the group in the fall of 2019 in order to integrate circadian domains into the ongoing research on mental health disorders. His ultimate goal is to be a tenure-track professor at a university where he can balance teaching with research.

McKenzie Hernandez, NIH Pathways Student (Undergraduate)
mckenzie.hernandez@nih.gov

Chaitanya Mishra, BSc, NIH Pathways Student (Graduate)Chaitanya Mishra, BSc, NIH Pathways Student (Graduate)
chaitanya.mishra@nih.gov

Chaitanya Mishra is a Pathways Student and joined GEB-SDGE in 2019. Chaitanya is currently researching heart rate variability and its association with mental health disorders. Chaitanya received a BSc in Public Health from the American University 3-year Public Health/Pre-Med program in 2020. Currently, he is pursuing an MS in Systems Medicine at Georgetown University. Chaitanya hopes that by further developing his research skills and scientific knowledge, he can achieve his dream of going into an MD/PhD program.

Diana Paksarian, PhD, Research FellowDiana Paksarian, PhD, Research Fellow
diana.paksarian@nih.gov

Diana Paksarian, PhD, is a Research Fellow in GEB-SDGE. Dr. Paksarian studies the influence of psychosocial risk factors during development, such as urbanicity, racial/ethnic minority status, and residential mobility, on risk for mental disorder during adolescence and young adulthood. Recently, she has become interested in the interplay between these risk factors and daily patterns of sleep and activity during development and their joint impact on mental disorder risk. Dr. Paksarian holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Oberlin College and an MPH in Epidemiology from Columbia University. She was a Pre-doctoral Fellow in the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she studied with Dr. William Eaton. She received her PhD in 2013, when she came to NIMH as a Post-doctoral IRTA Fellow.

Courtney Quick, BS, Post-baccalaureate IRTACourtney Quick, BS, Post-baccalaureate IRTA
courtney.quick@nih.gov

Courtney Quick is a Post-baccalaureate IRTA Fellow in GEB-SDGE and joined the group in 2020. She earned a BS in Biology from the University of North Carolina Asheville in 2018. Courtney is particularly interested in substance use disorders and their interaction with mood and anxiety disorders. She hopes to further her interest in the treatment of substance use disorders through pursuing a MD/MPH program in the fall of 2022.

Emma Stapp, PhD, Post-doctoral IRTAEmma Stapp, PhD, Post-doctoral IRTA
emma.stapp@nih.gov

Emma K. Stapp, PhD, is a Psychiatric Epidemiologist who received her PhD and MHS in Public Mental Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and BA in Psychology from Penn State University. Her main research interests are the interplay of biological and environmental risk and protective factors in the causes, correlates, and consequences of mood spectrum disorders; and, the intersection of mental and physical health, especially as it relates to stress, health risk behaviors, and chronic disease. Dr. Stapp has a long-range interest in translating research findings to maximize healthy behaviors and environments particularly in the psychiatric high-risk context. Dr. Stapp works across all of Dr. Merikangas' research programs, including the NIMH Family Study, population science, and biorhythms and reactivity. Dr. Stapp joined GEB-SDGE in 2017.

Michelle Theodory, BA (with Honors), Post-baccalaureate IRTAMichelle Theodory, BA (with Honors), Post-baccalaureate IRTA
michelle.theodory@nih.gov

Michelle Theodory studied Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Edinburgh and received a Scottish MA in June of 2020. Under the supervision of Dr. Sergio Della Sala, Michelle completed her master's thesis on rates of forgetting across age before joining GEB-SDGE in September 2020. Her previous experience has focused on the use of both R and Python for data visualization, statistical analyses, and machine learning. She has also had the opportunity to research cortical thickness abnormalities among children with autism under Dr. Shola Faniran, while simultaneously working at a suicide prevention hotline. Her current research interests revolve around susceptibility to mental disorders, with a focus on the risk factors of depression and bipolar disorders among underrepresented and minority populations. She plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology but may also consider a career in biostatistics.

Abbreviations

GEB-SDGE – Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch – Section on Developmental Genetic Epidemiology
IRTA – Intramural Research Training Award
IRP – Intramural Research Program
MPH – Masters in Public Health
MSW – Master of Social Work
NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health
NIDA – National Institute on Drug Abuse
NIMH Family Study- NIMH Family Study of Affective and Anxiety Spectrum Disorders