Research in Biobehavioral Health

The faculty listed below are those who are engaged in research and who are potential mentors to graduate students in Biobehavioral Health.

There are also research opportunities for undergraduate students in BBH. You can gain experience working with participants, collecting data, conducting data analyses, and presenting findings. You can also gain experience and familiarity with the equipment and the processes involved in the research process.

In keeping with our innovative and interdisciplinary mission in Biobehavioral Health, the research possibilities here are extensive and diverse. We have world-class faculty working in domains such as behavioral neuroscience, behavioral endocrinology, psychoneuroimmunology, genetics, behavioral pharmacology, health promotion, health psychology, epidemiology, health and vulnerable populations, social psychology, socio-ethical dynamics, and cognition.

Research Faculty & Graduate Student Mentors

Photo of Steven Branstetter

Steven A. Branstetter

Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health

sab57@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Youth tobacco use and cessation; parental and peer-influences on tobacco use; behavioral economics and tobacco use; smoking among cancer patients

Smoking Health and Behavior Website


Photo of Orfeu Buxton

Orfeu M. Buxton

Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health

orfeu@psu.edu

Research Interests:

The causes of sleep deficiency (insufficient duration or inadequate sleep quality) in the workplace, home, and society.

The health consequences of sleep deficiency, especially cardiometabolic outcomes, and the physiologic and social mechanisms by which these outcomes arise.

Sleep, Health, & Society Program Website


Sonia A. Cavigelli

Associate Professor, and Professor in Charge of Undergraduate Biobehavioral Health

s-cavigelli@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Influence of temperament and social status on stress and health; individual differences in stress and health in the natural environment; development of temperament/personality.

Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Website


Anne-Marie Chang

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

amchang@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Genetic analysis of sleep and circadian rhythms, and interactions that influence cardio-metabolic function in humans; examination of environmental effects on sleep physiology, circadian rhythms, and neurobehavioral and cognitive performance.

Sleep, Health, & Society Program Website


Christopher G. Engeland

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

cge2@psu.edu

Research Interests:

How factors such as stress, age, gender, and hormones affect immunity, inflammation, and health. I am particularly interested in tissue repair (mucosal and dermal wound healing). Also the feasibility of biomarkers for predicting health outcomes. I conduct both human and animal research.


Lori A. Francis

Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Center for Family Research in Diverse Contexts.

lfrancis@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Sociocultural factors influencing the development of obesity in low-income and minority children, including family environment, neighborhood characteristics and socioeconomic status; family-based interventions to reduce and prevent obesity and related morbidities in children; understanding biobehavioral, family environmental and cultural factors that influence self-regulation of energy intake and body weight in young children.

Family and Child Health Project Website


Thomas J. Gould

Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health Department Head

Thomas.Gould@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Learning-related changes in the strength of neuronal connections in the brain not only underlie memory formation and storage but are also affected by neurological and mental disorders that include addiction. The goal of our research is to use genetic, pharmacological, behavioral, and molecular biological techniques to study the neurobiology of learning and memory and the effects of addiction on it. Current research interests focus on identifying the cellular and molecular events that underlie the effects of nicotine on learning and memory with a specific emphasis on how those effects change as drug administration transitions from acute to chronic drug use and how adolescence may changes sensitivity to these effects of nicotine.

Neurobiological Investigation of Learning and Addiction Website


Jennifer E. Graham-Engeland

Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health

jeg32@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Dr. Graham-Engeland investigates the impact of psychological stress on physical health and the psychological, physiological and behavioral mechanisms underlying stress and health connections. She emphasizes the impact of cognitive and emotional responses to stress (e.g., rumination, meaning-making, anger) that are potential targets for non-pharmacological intervention. Drawing on perspectives from social psychology and psychoneuroimmunology, specific topics include: 1) adaptive consequences of recognizing and expressing negative emotion; 2) how emotion, depressed mood, inflammation, and physical pain are bi-directionally connected; 3) the use of immune-related biomarkers (particularly inflammatory markers) as outcomes or mediators of stress and health phenomena, and 4) the relevance of situational forces (e.g., relationship dynamics) and individual differences (e.g., hostility, loneliness, and gender) on stress and health connections, with particularly emphasis on chronic pain and inflammation.

The Stress and Health Website


Helen M. Kamens

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

hmk123@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Identification of genetic mechanisms that contribute to complex behaviors with a special emphasis on alcohol and tobacco use.

Behavioral Neurogenetics Website


Gary King

Professor of Biobehavioral Health

gxk14@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Current research using national data bases include: American smoking behavior, comparative international tobacco consumption (France and West Africa), and child maltreatment and reporting practices.


Laura Cousino Klein

Professor of Biobehavioral Health

lxk18@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Biobehavioral effects of stress on drug abuse in humans and animals; sex differences in neuroendocrine and behavioral stress responses; nicotine regulation of stress reactivity.

The Biobehavioral Health Studies Website


Stephanie Lanza

Professor of Biobehavioral Health

SLanza@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Latent class analysis; time-varying effect modeling; longitudinal methods; etiology of health risk behaviors.


Joshua G. Rosenberger

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

jgr17@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Sexual health, HIV/STI prevention; health disparities; innovative methods.


Hannah M. C. Schreier

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

hannah.schreier@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Adolescent development; health disparities; adverse early life experiences; social interventions; inflammatory markers

The Schreier Lab Website


Idan Shalev

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

ius14@psu.edu

Research Interests:

The focus of my research is to identify mechanisms underpinning the biological embedding of stress and its effect on biological aging. Specifically, to test the effects of stress from early childhood on change in telomere length and other biomarkers of aging across the life course, and the consequences of change in these biomarkers for physical and mental health problems.

The Shalev Lab Website


Joshua M. Smyth

Distinguished Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Medicine

jms1187@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Three broadly defined areas – and the integration between them – comprise my research program: (1) What are the effects of experiencing stress on psychological and physical well-being? (2) Can we assess stress, affect, and health in an ecologically relevant manner that facilitates our understanding of biopsychosocial processes as they unfold in time and in context? (3) Can psychosocial interventions improve health and well-being?

Stress Health and Daily Experiences (SHADE) Lab Website


Shedra Amy Snipes

Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health

sas84@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Intersections of Culture, Biology and the Environment; Biology and Health in Minority and Immigrant populations; Mixed-Methods Research with Qualitative, Quantitative and Biomarker Studies; Anthropology in Public Health Promotion in Special Populations (e.g. Mexican Immigrant Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers)

Bio-Qualitative Research Lab (BioQUAL) Website


Robert Turrisi

Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Prevention Research Center; Professor-in-Charge of the Graduate Program

rjt13@psu.edu

Research Interests:

My research examines psychological theories of behavioral decision-making and how these relate to: 1) adolescent and young adult health, 2) family relationships, and 3) efficacious brief interventions to prevent high-risk behaviors.

Prevention Research to Optimize (PRO) Health Website


David J. Vandenbergh

Professor of Biobehavioral Health; Neuroscience Faculty, The Neuroscience Institute, The Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences

djv4@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Molecular biology of the nervous system, and how it is modified by drugs of abuse; genetic components of drug abuse behaviors.

Molecular Genetics Laboratory Website


Sheila G. West

Professor of Biobehavioral Health, Director, Vascular Health Interventions Laboratory / Stress and Nutrition Research Program

sgw2@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Effects of foods, nutrients, and supplements on vascular response to stress, inflammation, and CVD risk factors

Stress and Nutrition Research Program Website


Laura Williamson

Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health, Ethics Co-Fund Faculty Member

luw24@psu.edu

Research Interests:

I work across the field of health ethics with a particular focus on topics related to public health, including addiction and public involvement.


Linda Ann Wray

Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health

law30@psu.edu

Research Interests:

Links among social environment, health, and aging; chronic disease management; health risks and middle-age.