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Training the next generation of tobacco scientists to develop and conduct innovative and meaningful research and help end the burden of tobacco-related death and disease.

Previous Postdoctoral Fellows

Jessica “Jess” Becerra, PhD

Jessica “Jess” Becerra, PhD, started as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the TSET Health Promotion Research Center in May 2023. Jess earned her BA in Psychology from San Francisco State University. Most recently Jess earned her PhD in Cognitive Psychology and minored in Quantitative Psychology from the University of Oklahoma Norman Campus in May 2023. Her graduate research focused on the effects of collaboration on memory, specifically, reminisced memories and recognition memory. Jess joined TSET HPRC in May 2022 as a graduate research assistant and is thrilled to be extending her stay as a postdoctoral research fellow. Her research interests include the use of mobile health technology for health promotion in vulnerable populations and chronic smokers. Dr. Becerra's primary research will focus on understanding how the use of smartphone-based ecological momentary assessments (EMA) can be used to better understand affective variability. She will be working with her mentor Dr. Michael Businelle to examine the impact of EMA schedule on assessed affective variability.

Tina Le, PharmD

Tina Le is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the HPRC. She began her postdoctoral fellowship at the HPRC in June 2022 after earning her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Her research interest is to combine pharmaceutical and behavioral therapies to treat substance use or addiction. Dr. Le has been working with Dr. Bui on a research project that uses nicotine replacement therapy and an mHealth-based behavioral intervention to help US Vietnamese smokers with limited English proficiency to quit smoking. Her long-term goal is to explore novel ways to utilize medications to prevent or treat substance use or co-use in order to promote health and wellbeing, particularly among hard-to-treat populations such as people with immunocompromised condition.

Lizbeth “Libby” Benson, PhD

Lizbeth “Libby” Benson, PhD, earned her BA in Psychology with honors from the University of Wisconsin Madison, spent three years working as a research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, and most recently earned her PhD from the Pennsylvania State University in the department of Human Development and Family Studies. Libby’s research program is focused on developing analytic methods for intensive longitudinal data captured in situ and in real time by wearable sensors in order to advance the knowledge base on positive health and human development. Data visualization is also an important component of her work as a way to better understand complex behavioral processes, to generate new ideas, and to use as a tool for scientific communication. As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Libby is excited to integrate an applied component into her research program by working with her mentor, Dr. Michael Businelle, and others at the HPRC on methods for analyzing mHealth intervention data, and computational modeling methods for building context and time sensitive mHealth programs.

Munjireen Sifat, PhD

Munjireen completed her Ph.D. within the Behavioral and Community Health department in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland, College Park. She earned her M.P.H with a focus in health promotion from the Prevention and Community Health Department at the Milken Institute of Public Health at the George Washington University. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a BS in Neuropsychology from the Pennsylvania State University.

Munjireen is interested in interventional and translational research, on the topic of depression and anxiety prevention, by means of the promotion of mental wellness. She is passionate about global mental health, humanitarian health, social justice, and working with historically disadvantaged and displaced populations. Munjireen is interested in how digital health and mHealth can help foster mental well-being in these populations. Her dissertation topic focused on the mental health of Bangladeshi university students, and the acceptability of using a mindfulness App to promote mental health in that population.

Sarah J. Ehlke, PhD

Dr. Sarah J. Ehlke earned her doctoral degree in Health Psychology from Old Dominion University. Her research focuses on substance use, primarily alcohol and tobacco use, among sexual minority individuals. Her dissertation integrated sexual minority stress theory and behavioral economic theory to examine if alcohol demand moderated the association between microaggressions and alcohol use among emerging adult bisexual women using a daily diary design. Her current research focuses on how stress and discrimination may influence substance use, including alcohol and tobacco use, and cessation outcomes. Additionally, her current work aims to elucidate reasons for health disparities related to tobacco use among sexual minority young adults in order to enhance interventions and improve health outcomes for sexual minority individuals.

Brittany Zaring-Hinkle, PhD

Brittany earned her PhD in Psychology from the Department of Health, Community and Policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio in May 2022. Dr. Zaring-Hinkle’s research at the HPRC will focus on tobacco and cannabis use in vulnerable populations, including young adults and pregnant women. As a Research Fellow she is looking forward to using multilevel modeling methods to evaluate ecological momentary data in order to study the trajectories of e-cigarette and cannabis use, as well as the effectiveness of smoking cessation treatment among pregnant women.

Chaelin Karen Ra, PhD

Dr. Chaelin Karen Ra earned her PhD in Health Behavior Research at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Her dissertation was on “Affect, Digital Media Use, Physical Activity, and ADHD in Youth” using intensive longitudinal data. Karen is interested in mental health and cancer prevention using mobile health technology.

Adam Alexander, PhD

Adam Alexander was postdoctoral research fellow from September 2018 to July 2020 and his advisor was Darla Kendzor. During the two years at the HPRC, he had the protected time to write research papers and grants, the resources to enroll in workshops and courses, and the freedom to collaborate with other post-docs and faculty at the research center. Alexander is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center focusing on research in health disparities, while currently developing mobile health interventions for health behavior change among African Americans. A recent grant of his includes a K01 (K01MD015295) from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities. His career development award focuses on developing an innovative culturally tailored smartphone intervention that uses contingency management and sedentary behavior reduction to improve smoking cessation outcomes among African American smokers.

Raees Shaikh, PhD

Raees Shaikh s a registered medical practitioner in India and has worked as a physician before coming to the US for his graduate education. He earned his MPH degree from Missouri State University and PhD in health promotion and disease prevention research from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. His PhD dissertation focused on the issue of hardcore smokers in the United States and his primary areas of research interest include tobacco control, tobacco harm reduction and epidemiology of nicotine addiction and treatment. His current research focuses on modified risk tobacco products, especially electronic cigarettes.

 Emily Hébert, DrPH

Emily Hébert earned her DrPH in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences from the University of Texas School of Public Health. Her dissertation focused on the use of ecological momentary assessment to measure real-time tobacco marketing exposure among young adults. Her current research interests include the use of technology for health promotion, tobacco prevention and cessation, ecological momentary assessment, and the role of social media in tobacco marketing and health communication.

Elise Stevens, PhD

Elise Stevens was at the HPRC from August 2016 – July 2019. She earned her PhD in mass communication with a focus on the psychological effects of health messages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Stevens’ primary focus is on the cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to health messages. Her research examines two areas of health communication: 1) identifying communication techniques and features that promote the use of unhealthy products (e.g., advertising of tobacco products) and 2) developing health messages aimed at decreasing risky health behaviors (e.g., anti-tobacco messages) to better understand how to inform tobacco product regulations and policies and encourage behavior change. She has since  received a K99/R00 Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse.  Dr. Stevens is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences.

David Frank, PhD

David Frank earned his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Georgia focusing on the stability, timing, and connectivity of affective neural networks in the human brain. David is interested in the brain mechanisms that underlie emotional stimulus processing and how this affects attention and reward. Through the use of noninvasive measures including rapid sampling functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), dense-array electroencephalography (EEG), and peripheral psychophysiological recording, he investigates the functions of cortical and subcortical networks that have evolved to facilitate appetitive and defensive behavior.

Bárbara Piñeiro, PhD

Barbara Piñeiro was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer I. Vidrine from May 2017 to June 2019.In this position, she expanded her knowledge and expertise in the area of tobacco-related health disparities. Piñeiro gained experience in conducting research with low SES, racially/ethnically diverse smokers. Since arriving at the HPRC (formerly OTRC),  she has been involved with an ongoing NCI-funded R01 project (R01CA172786; PI: Vidrine “Smoking cessation for cervical cancer survivors in a Safety Net Healthcare System.”) She also had the opportunity to actively analyze data and lead multiple manuscripts emanating from several funded projects that Dr. Vidrine led while she was a faculty at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Barbara has also enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in the formal training program, which includes course workshop, grant writing workshop, and seminars.

She is currently a Researcher at the Center for Demographic Studies (Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics, CED), at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra-Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

Alayna P. Tackett, PhD

Dr. Alayna P. Tackett earned her PhD from Oklahoma State University in 2017 and completed her clinical residency at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She completed her a postdoctoral research fellowship through a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); Award # F32HL138734) at Brown University and the TSET Health Promotion Research Center. Dr. Tackett’s postdoctoral research examined the respiratory and inflammation effects of electronic cigarette use in youth with asthma under the mentorship of Theodore Wagener, PhD, Elizabeth McQuaid, PhD, Deborah Pearlman, PhD, and Kate Guthrie, PhD. During this time, Dr. Tackett was awarded a Loan Repayment Grant Award from the NIH/NHLBI and a tobacco regulatory science K01 career development award (K01 HL148907) which will examine the longitudinal respiratory effects of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults using human laboratory methodology and ecological momentary assessment. Dr. Tackett is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC)

Dr. Anh Ngo, PhD

Dr. Ngo earned her PhD in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago in August 2018. Her research interests focus on tobacco control policies and alcohol taxes. Applying innovative research designs, Dr. Ngo and her colleagues examined the impacts of tobacco control policies (i.e. point of sale advertising bans, graphic warning labels, MPOWER) on smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption in a global context. Her research has been published in leading public health journals such as Addiction, Preventive Medicine, and International Journal of Research and Public Health.

Currently, Dr. Ngo is extending her research to e-cigarettes and alcohol taxes. Specifically, using online discrete choice experiments, she and her colleagues are examining the impacts of flavors, device types, and health warning messages on the choice of e-cigarettes among US young adults. In the other projects, using time-series data of alcoholic beverage prices and taxes from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, she and her co-authors estimate the excise tax pass through rates to prices of alcohol products to provide evidence on factors associated with alcohol tax avoidance and evasion in both US and international contexts.