Lead Researcher:

Uma Rao, MD

Dr. Rao is the Lead Researcher of the UCI BRoAD Lab, as well as the Vice Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the UCI School of Medicine, and the Director of Education and Research in Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).  She completed her training in General Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the State University of New York at Stony Brook as well as a post-doctoral research fellowship in child Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. She is board certified in General Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Since completing training, she has had academic as well as clinical and research leadership positions in several nationally and internationally recognized academic institutions until she joined UCI in April 2017.  Dr. Rao has been involved in mood and substance use disorders research for over 25 years. Her primary areas of interest are adolescent depressive and addictive disorders, including neurobiological and psychosocial predictors of first onset and longitudinal clinical course in youth with familial and/or environmental risk, developmental/ethnic influences on the phenomenology and neurobiological processes, and translational intervention research. Recently, she has extended her work to include physical/medical conditions that frequently co-occur with these disorders, specifically obesity and pain, from a health disparities perspective.  Dr. Rao has published numerous research articles and has received awards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Indo-American Psychiatric Association and community agencies for scientific and volunteer contributions. She has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals and currently is the editor of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry News.


Co-Investigators & Collaborators:

Velma McBride Murry, PhD

Dr. Murry is a nationally recognized expert examining ways in which racism affects family processes, behavior, and health outcomes of families. At Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, she holds the Endowed Lois Autrey Betts Chair, Education and Human Development, Joe B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor, Co-Director of Vanderbilt Medical Center, CTSA, Community Engagement Research Core, Professor, Human and Organizational Development and Co-Director of the Community Engagement Research Core.  In addition to her renowned service at Vanderbilt, she is a Distinguished Senior Research Fellow at the George Brown School of Social Work at Washington University of St. Louis. She serves on several national boards, including Foundation of Child Development Board of Directors, National Academy of Medicine, Culture of Health Advisory Board, and Blueprints Advisory Board of Directors, to name a few.  Dr. Murry has published over 125 papers, presented her work in national and international conferences, and has received more than 25 external grants as principal investigator or co-principal investigator to fund her research activities. Her work is regularly published in premier journals such as Society for Research on Adolescence, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology; Prevention Science; Journal of Clinical Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology; and Journal of Marriage and Family. Murry is co-editor of the National Academy of Medicine’s Perspectives on Health Equity & Social Determinants of Health (2017).


Theo van Erp, PhD

Dr. Theo G.M. van Erp joined the University of California Irvine Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in 2010. He received his doctorate in clinical neuroscience from the University of Utrecht in 2007 and continued working on several multi-center brain imaging projects as an Assistant Researcher at the University of California Los Angeles between 2007-2010. In 2010, he started the Clinical Translational Neuroscience Laboratory with a research program focused on imaging and imaging genetics research in psychiatric disorders.  The primary aim of Dr. Van Erp’s Clinical Translational Neuroscience Laboratory is to understand the mechanisms underlying psychotic and affective disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. To achieve this aim, he conducts structural neuroimaging, functional neuroimaging, and neurocognitive studies. Dr. Van Erp collaborates with investigators locally at the University of California Irvine, nationally, and internationally with regard to neuroimaging, neurocognition, and genomic research.


Dave Keator, PhD

Dr. Keator has been an active researcher in the fields of neuroimaging and neuroinformatics applied to psychiatric and neurological disorders for over twenty years.  Dr. Keator’s research has been focused in three principle domains: (1) Identifying brain-based biomarkers of dementia in Down’s Syndrome, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease; (2) The development of advanced machine learning models for problems in neuroimaging and medicine; (3) Developing biomedical informatics tools and techniques for the field of neuroimaging and applying them to problems in medicine.  Dr. Keator’s education consists of a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UCI, an M.S. in Computer Science from California State University, Long Beach specializing in software engineering, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCI specializing in machine learning.  He is currently the Operations Director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center (NIC) and an Associate Professional Researcher.


Shlomit Radom-Aizik, PhD

Dr. Aizik is the Founder & Executive Director of the Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center (PERC) at UC Irvine Health. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, working to advance exercise medicine through clinical and laboratory research using genomic and epigenetic approaches, and to promote and foster community partnerships to encourage physical activity across the lifespan. In her current position as the Executive Director of PERC, she has fruitful collaborations with multidisciplinary group of local and international researchers on an array of pioneering exercise-science studies including studies on exercise and the brain, exercise and bone health in children, exergaming and exercise medicine. Dr. Aizik is a Principal Investigator (PI) on two NIH Grants: 1) MoTrPAC pediatric clinical center, which is a nation-wide consortium to study the molecular maps in response to exercise, and 2) project REACH; Revamping Exercise Assessments in Child Health.


Kate Kuhlman, PhD

Dr. Kuhlman is an Assistant Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California Irvine and the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at University of California Los Angeles. Dr. Kuhlman received her B.S. from New York University, her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan, and completed her postdoctoral training in Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA before joining the faculty at UCI. Her research is broadly focused on how childhood adversity confers risk for poor health outcomes throughout the lifespan, with a current interest in the neurobiological processes underlying depression in adolescence. Her research is currently funded by the National Institute for Mental Health and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation



Postdoctoral Scholars/Fellows:

Robmarie López Soto, PhD

Robmarie joined the BRoAD Lab in July 2019 as a postdoctoral scholar, with a primary focus on the Brain Development Study. She graduated from Ponce Health Sciences University in May 2019 with a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Her dissertation focused on assessing the BDNF val66met polymorphism in female outpatients with major depression or bipolar disorder. She hopes to continue biomarker-focused mood disorder research in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys graphic design, watching Netflix, and discovering new music on Pandora.


Kelly F. M. Kazmierski, PhD

Kelly Kazmierski joined the BRoAD Lab in August 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow after completing her Ph.D. in Clinical Science at the University of Southern California, with a specialization in child and family psychology. She was awarded the NIH NIMHD Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship to study parent-child relationships as sources of resilience from the health effects of adolescent stress, with a focus on the impact of discrimination-related stress on obesity-related health. Kelly received her B.A. in Psychology from Pomona College in 2012 and her M.A. in Clinical Science from USC in 2014; she completed her clinical internship in health services psychology at the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center. Kelly’s research measures how attachment relationships foster both emotional and physiological regulation in the face of stress. Her work focuses on how parent-child and romantic relationships might break links between exposure to adversity in childhood and adverse health-related outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. Kelly has previously received research support from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the NIH NCATS/Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute.


Marie L. Gillespie, PhD

Marie Gillespie joined the BRoAD Lab in September 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow primarily working on the Life Skills Study. She completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Science (Clinical Psychology) at the University of Southern California (USC) and earned her B.S. in Psychology (with minors in Criminal Justice and Behavioral Forensics) at the University of Central Florida in 2012. Dr. Gillespie completed her clinical internship at The Guidance Center and provided community mental health services to children and families impacted by trauma. She is interested in conducting translational intervention research for marginalized youth at high-risk of developing behavioral and mental health disorders and on finding methods of interrupting the intergenerational cycle of incarceration for vulnerable populations. Dr. Gillespie’s work focuses on the intersectionality of intervention development, culture, race, and ethnicity, adolescent development, program evaluation, and the criminal justice system.

Data and Imaging Analysts:

Derek Taylor, BS

Derek is our database manager and biostatistician (Data Geek), but has also been called “Data Ninja”. Derek took his first professional job at UCI as a neurochemistry consultant studying self-injury in persons with autism after completing a bachelor degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics from UC Davis.  His career includes six years coordinating a national study of alcoholic cirrhosis with the VA Cooper Studies, eight years as an programmer analyst at UCI Brain Imaging Center and Seven years as Biostatistician and DBA for a network of private neuropsychiatric clinics. Derek has contributed to twenty scientific publications with his favorite first author publication in American Journal of Applied Physiology.  When away from the data, Derek is an outdoorsman, excellent cook, wire artist, book author, musician, and singer touring with the Robert Allen Layman’s Gospel Chorus.

Akul Sharma, MSc

Akul was born and raised in New Delhi, India and moved to the USA in 2013 to complete his undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Earlham College, Indiana. His undergraduate research experience consisted of spinal cord regeneration in lampreys and memory consolidation in mice. As an undergraduate, Akul also participated in men’s varsity soccer and track & field specializing in the 60m, 100m, and 200m sprints. He also spent 6 months in New Zealand studying outdoor education, ecology, and working as an archives assistant in the regional natural history museum. After graduation, Akul moved to Los Angeles to complete a master’s degree in neuroimaging and informatics at USC. During that time he was involved in research dealing with characterizing functional connectivity strengths within the default mode network. Akul’s long-term goal is to get a Ph.D. at the intersection of neuroimaging & psychiatry and pursue research to develop diagnostic tools and treatments for psychiatric disorders. In his free time, Akul likes to workout, cook, watch Netflix, and pet dogs.


Research Staff:

Larissa Wong, BS

Larissa is the primary Study Coordinator for the Eating Patterns & Activity Study. She graduated from UCI in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health Science and a minor in Educational Studies. As an undergraduate, she was involved in community-based research that involved adolescents and physical activity. Larissa coordinated studies looking at motivational differences and influences in adolescents’ activity levels. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, biking and finding new shows to watch.


Tomás Zurita, BS

Tomas is a Junior Specialist working with the Eating Patterns & Activity and Brain Development studies. He grew up in Oregon and moved to Southern California in 2012 to attend UCI where he earned his bachelors degree in Public Health Science. As an undergrad he volunteered his time with various community health organizations devoted to helping the under-served communities around Orange County and abroad. He was also involved in community-based research looking at parental influences in their children’s eating habits. After graduation, he worked as a Behavioral therapist working with Spanish speaking families across Orange County before being welcomed to the BRoAD family. Tomas plans on applying to PhD programs in Public Health in the future. In his spare time, he likes to volunteer in the community, play/watch sports, workout, listen/produce music, “trying” to take up biking, look at memes and spend quality time with loved ones.


Summer Millwood, BA

Summer joined the BroAD Lab in January 2019 as a post-baccalaureate student volunteer for all three studies. She graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology. During her undergraduate career, she volunteered as a research assistant in both emotion regulation and sports psychology research labs and conducted her own research project. Her research interests include relationships, attachment, depression, interventions for mood disorders, and the physiological underpinnings of mood disorders. After completion of UCI’s post-bacc program, Summer plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. In her spare time, Summer enjoys attending concerts/music festivals, hiking, going to museums, and watching Netflix/Hulu.


Anna Ter-Grigoryan

Anna joined the BRoAD lab in October of 2018 as a student assistant to all of our three studies. She is currently an undergraduate in her fourth year at UCI, studying Biological Sciences. Aiming to fulfill her childhood dream and move forward with her academic career, she is planning on applying to optometry school, in the hopes of becoming an optometrist. She has always been interested in human behavior and how it affects our everyday life, thus she is eager to learn more and help the wonderful people who will be conducting the research. In her free time, Anna enjoys listening to music, working out and learning about optometry to help her ensure that it is the right career path for her.


Sabrina Kuo, BS

Sabrina graduated from UCI in June 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health Sciences.  She originally joined the lab in January 2018 as a PH 194 clinical and translational research student, and continued volunteering with the BRoAD Lab until she officially transitioned to a research coordinator for the Eating Patterns & Activity Study in June 2019.  In the future, she hopes to work in the public health and healthcare fields to raise awareness about wellness and improve access to quality healthcare. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music and podcasts, learning new languages, and trying new foods.


Gabriela López Ruano

In June 2018, Gabriela joined the BRoAD Lab as a research assistant for all three studies. Gabriela is currently in her third year as an undergraduate student at UC Irvine, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry with an emphasis on Medicinal Chemistry. She hopes to attend medical school in the near future to become a pediatrician. Psychiatry and Human Behavior has captivated Gabriela’s interest because a large part of being an exceptional healthcare provider is being able to understand the human brain and how experiences shape us both physically and emotionally to better provide patients with the care they need. In her free time, Gabriela enjoys taking long walks at the beach, reading poetry, traveling and discovering new artists.



Research Assistants & Volunteers:

Farheen Basith, BS

Farheen is a medical student at UCI School of Medicine and joined the lab in May 2019 as part of the Medical Student Research Program through ICTS. She graduated from UC Irvine in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences. While in college, she worked as a research assistant for Dr. Kyoko Yokomori studying how to correct the epigenetic abnormality associated with Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD). After she graduated from UCI, she spent over a year working as a medical scribe for a surgical oncologist at Breastlink, a breast cancer treatment center in Laguna Hills. Her career interests include pediatrics, neurology, and/or psychiatry. In her free time, she enjoys learning new recipes, traveling, and dancing.

Tiffany Lei, BS

Tiffany is a medical student at UCI School of Medicine and joined the lab in Fall 2017 as part of the Medical Scholars Program through ICTS. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cell Biology and a minor in Conservation and Resource studies. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant for Dan Lab at UC Berkeley studying neural circuitry in the basal forebrain of mice. After graduation, Tiffany joined the UCSF Diabetes Center as a research specialist and lab manager studying the onset of Type 1 Diabetes in pancreatic beta cells. Outside of school and research, Tiffany enjoys discovering new food, reading in coffee shops, and traveling with her friends.


Katherine Tseung, BS

Katherine has been volunteering at the BRoAD Lab since August 2018, with a focus on the Life Skills study. She graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, CA, with a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular neuroscience, and she plans to pursue a career in medicine. As an undergraduate, Katherine was a volunteer in the ER/Trauma department of the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center and a student intern at UCI neuroimaging and neurology research labs. When not in lab or buried in studies, you can find Katherine hanging out with friends, finding new cute boba shops, practicing her cello, and learning her father’s latest bread baking secrets.


Dania Felix

Dania joined the BRoAD Lab in January 2019 through the PH 194 course. She is currently an undergraduate student at UCI double majoring in Public Health Policy and Public Health Sciences with a minor in Civic and Community Engagement. Outside of the lab, Dania is passionate about educating people about sexual health and drug misuse while encouraging a healthy lifestyle as a Peer Health Educator and Program Assistant for the Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion. After graduation, she plans to get further schooling and work as a genetic counselor. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking healthy meals, listening to new music and watching stand-up comedy shows on Netflix.


Edith Luviano

Edith joined the lab in January 2019 as a PH 194 Clinical and Translational Research student. She is currently a third year at UCI, majoring in Public Health Sciences. At the lab, Edith assists as an RA for all of the research studies, with a special interest in the brain development study. Edith is also part of the All of Us Research Program in the Department of Medicine as a work study student. This program is very new, and she works in recruiting participants and assisting in clinical visits. Through these two great experiences and much more to come, Edith hopes to gain valuable experience in working with patients/participants, which will help her to pursue her goal of working in healthcare as a physician assistant. During her spare time, she enjoys watching new shows/movies, cooking and baking, working out, and trying new foods.


Chris Pineda

Chris joined the BRoAD Lab in April 2019 through the Biological Sciences Research 199 Program as a research assistant for all three studies. He is currently in his second year as an undergraduate student at UC Irvine, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and a minor in Medical Humanities. He aspires to attend medical school in the near future and follow his father’s footsteps in becoming a physician. Participation in this study is important for him as he is curious about how adolescent development can be affected by the phenomena studied at the BRoAD Lab. In his free time, Chris enjoys strength training, reading, spending time with family and friends, and sleeping.