About Us

KIM FROMME, PH.D.

SAHARA LAB DIRECTOR

Email: fromme@psy.utexas.edu
Office: SEA 3.242B
Vitae: PDF

Dr. Kim Fromme
Kim Fromme, Ph.D., is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and is also the Director of the Studies on Alcohol, Health, and Risky Activities (SAHARA). She received her Ph.D. from The University of Washington, and is a Fellow and former President of the Society of Addiction Psychologists (Division 50) of the American Psychological Association.

Her program of research focuses on the etiology and prevention of alcohol abuse and risk-taking behaviors among adolescents and young adults. With support from a $3.2 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Dr. Fromme recently completed a longitudinal study of the alcohol use and other behavioral risks (e.g., drug use, risky sex, aggression) of a cohort of first time college students, beginning with their senior year in high school and following them for the next 6 years. This research examined individual, environmental, and social factors that influence the developmental trajectories of alcohol use and other behavioral risks among students as they progress through college and beyond. Yielding over 30 publications thus far, this research has provided new insights into the development of alcohol use patterns and behavioral risks during emerging adulthood, as well as the event-level association between alcohol intoxication, subjective responses to alcohol, and participation in other forms of behavioral risks.

Dr. Fromme and Dr. Paige Harden received a second 5-year NIAAA grant to study the “Genetic mechanisms of change in trajectories of drinking and other deviant behaviors.” In the Genes and New Experiences Study (GENES), examined the effects of genomic variation on alcohol use and other risk behaviors and traits. To accomplish this, we collected saliva samples for DNA testing from 765 participants in our previous “UT Experience!” longitudinal study of first time college students. We directly assayed the DNA samples for approximately 265,000 genetic markers in a process called genotyping. After successfully genotyping samples, we then use a variety of statistical genetic methods to impute an additional ~6,500,000 genetic markers. Using this myriad of genetic data, we can calculate individual-specific estimates of genetic liability for a given trait or behavior, which will be used to predict individual differences in a range of important behavioral and psychological outcomes.

Findings from the longitudinal and alcohol challenge studies will be used to develop and evaluate new approaches to the prevention of alcohol abuse and involvement in other potentially hazardous behaviors.

VALERIA TRETYAK, M.Sc., M.Res., M.A.

GRADUATE STUDENT

Email: valeria.tretyak@utexas.edu
Office: SEA 2.302B

Valeria aims to build an interdisciplinary line of research examining relations between aberrant structure/function of the neural stress systems and alcohol/substance use consumption as a means to cope with acute life stressors, in psychiatric populations with a history of chronic stress and/or trauma exposure such as bullying victimization and childhood maltreatment. She is co-mentored by Dr. Elizabeth Lippard, whose research is focused on building a greater understanding of the development of problematic alcohol consumption in emerging adults with bipolar disorder. Valeria graduated with a Master of Research (M.Res.) in Brain Sciences from University College London (UCL), and an M.Sc. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from City, University of London. She has previously worked as a research assistant at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, and as patient coordinator at the Wellcome Trust Center for Neuroimaging at UCL. Prior to joining the clinical psychology program at UT-Austin, Valeria worked as a research assistant and clinic coordinator at the Emory University Adolescent Mood Program, and the Emory Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Services.

COLLABORATORS

ELIZABETH LIPPARD, PH.D.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, MAIN LAB

Lab Website: https://sites.utexas.edu/mood-addiction-lab/
Office: Health Discovery Building (HDB), Dell Medical School, The University of Texas at Austin
Vitae: PDF

Assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry at Dell Medical School

Beth graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in microbiology, a B.A. in chemistry, and minor in genetics in 2003. She obtained her Ph.D. in neurobiology in 2012 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to joining the Dell Medical School team, she completed two postdoctoral fellowships in psychiatry and radiology and biomedical imaging at Yale University.

Her research interests focus on the intersection of behavioral and developmental neuroscience. She studies brain-behavior relationships across development, in clinical and typically developing populations, and how genes and environmental stress influence these processes. Specifically, a focus of her research has been on understanding neural systems related to risk, onset and early disease progression in affective and alcohol use disorders. She has a unique skill set, having cross-trained in basic science models, wet lab methodologies and human clinical research. Her lab uses a combination of methods including multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetic techniques and behavioral phenotyping. She takes a developmental approach, using longitudinal translational neuroscience paradigms, in both human and rodent models, to identify genes, neural circuitry, environmental and behavioral predictors of problem behaviors and mechanisms by which predictors translate into adult phenotypes (e.g. suicide and addiction) within and across psychiatric disorders.

She has won numerous awards, including an NIDA Early Career Investigator Award, and she has been recognized for undergraduate mentoring, including two undergraduate research mentorship awards.