Training

The Training Program, with funding from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, offers training to undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral fellows in the area of tobacco-related research. The mission of the Program is to train 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. The program offers diverse educational experiences and research opportunities under the mentorship of an experienced tobacco researcher.

Faculty mentors  participating in the Training Program all have NIH, ACS, or FDA-funded research grants examining diverse tobacco-related topics including:

  • Smoking Cessation with Underserved Populations
  • Tobacco Health Disparities and Comorbidities
  • Mobile Health Assessment and Interventions
  • Affective Neuroscience
  • Tobacco Biomarkers and Cancer Biology
  • Tobacco Regulatory Science and Policy
  • Healthcare Systems-Level Changes to Facilitate Tobacco Treatment Delivery
  • Smoking Health Risk Communications 
  • Laboratory Topography and Observation of Tobacco Use Behavior

The OTRC Postdoctoral Training Program is a structured training experience consisting of didactic seminars, workshops on grant-writing and professional development led by OTRC-core faculty, and a planned written candidate experience with the trainee’s faculty mentor. A Career Development Plan is completed annually, starting at the beginning of postdoctoral fellowship and revisited every 6-months (or annually, depending on the mentor’s preferred approach) to ensure progress is on track and postdoctoral professional development needs are being met.

The Career Development Plan is tailored to the individual needs and research interests of the fellow, and is completed in conjunction with the feedback and assistance of the primary mentor. There are five core criteria of the Career Development Plan: 1) Scholarly Activities, 2) Publication Plans and Activities, 3) Presentation Opportunities, 4) General Transferable Professional Development, and 5) Career Specific Professional Development. Additional faculty beyond the primary faculty mentor may be chosen to be part of the fellow’s Career Development Plan, in consultation with the primary mentor. This approach has been designed to foster working collaborations across departments and institutions and help expand the candidate’s exposure to a variety of professional mentors and colleagues. Faculty can be chosen from within OTRC, or outside of the OTRC.

The postdoctoral seminars occur monthly and topics are chosen at the beginning of each academic year (August/September), to align with the various interests and needs of the fellows. Feedback is obtained in a survey format prior to developing the schedule so that fellows have input as to the topics of greatest interest to them. Specific grant writing seminars are included in the structure of the training program. The 2020 postdoctoral cohort elected to have individual grant writing seminars, focused on a specific section of an NIH grant. Previous cohorts have had 1-day grant writing seminars, with an individual faculty member presenting their approach to one of section of the grant. For the 2020 cohort, each 1-hour grant writing seminar will be a roundtable format approach, with OTRC faculty volunteering to discuss input and “tips and tricks” of how they approach writing that particular section of a grant. Examples will be provided. Graduate students and junior faculty from within OTRC and other departments are invited to attend. Below is the schedule for the 2020 postdoctoral seminars.

OTRC Postdoctoral Training Program Seminars 2020

Month

Topic

Focus

January

Postdoctoral dinner

Career development

February

Academic and non-academic job search and applications

Career development seminar

March

Specific Aims

Grant writing seminar

April

Research Strategy

Grant writing seminar

May

K Awards: Training Plans

Grant writing seminar

June

Clinical Trials Forms + Analytic Plan/Power Analysis

Grant writing seminar

July

Promoting and sustaining diversity

Career development seminar

August

Introduction to new fellows; plan for upcoming training year

Career development seminar

 

Faculty Leader

Amy Cohn, PhD
amy-cohn@ouhsc.edu
 

Training Program Coordinator

Derek Matthesen
Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center
655 Research Parkway, Suite 400
Oklahoma City, OK 73104-6266
derek-matthesen@ouhsc.edu
Office: (405) 271-8000, ext. 50493


 

Postdoctoral Fellows

Adam Alexander, PhD


Dr. Adam Alexander is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Dr. Alexander holds a doctoral degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the University of Memphis School of Public Health and a master's degree in General Psychology, also from the University of Memphis. Dr. Alexander’s research addresses tobacco use and physical and mental health among Black Americans. His research also examines the effect of traumatic events on tobacco use and physical and mental health. Overall, Dr. Alexander seeks to understand the behavioral, cultural, socioeconomic, and biological determinants of physical and mental health, with an emphasis on examining and explaining health disparities.

Dr. Alexander’s current research investigates whether colorism affects smoking behavior and cessation. Colorism, which is prejudice based on skin color, is an understudied area of discrimination, and Dr. Alexander is exploring whether darker skin color is associated with smoking and poor cessation outcomes. Dr. Alexander is also investigating whether childhood adversity affects smoking behavior and cessation. Dr. Alexander thinks that colorism and childhood adversity contributes to persisting tobacco-related health disparities.

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 Environmental 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.

Chaelin Karen Ra, PhD

 

Dr. Chaelin Karen Ra is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center at the Stephenson Cancer Center. Karen 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.

 

 


 

Previous Postdoctoral Fellows

Raees Shaikh, PhD

Raees Shaikh started on March 14, 2016. He is 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 started on August 1, 2016. She 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 started on August 22, 2016. 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. Her work examines how emotional reactions to messages about health can have a subsequent effect on adopting or maintaining healthier behaviors. Her current research focuses on the cognitive and affective processes of nicotine addiction and how they may inform message design. Dr. Stevens is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University to study the cognitive and emotional responses to tobacco-related messages to help inform effective message design and tobacco policy.

 

 

David Frank, PhD

David Frank started on January 9, 2017. He 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

Bárbara Piñeiro started on May 1, 2017, and her faculty mentor is Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, PhD. She earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Her dissertation focused on the study of factors related to smoking cessation and relapse in smokers who received a cognitive behavioral treatment for smoking cessation. She was an International Postdoctoral Fellow at the Tobacco Research & Intervention Program (TRIP) at Moffitt Cancer Center. At TRIP she gained experience in dual use of tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes, as well as e-cigarette use and smoking among cancer patients; tobacco-related health disparities; and interventions for smoking cessation for Spanish-speaking smokers. Her current research interests focus on tobacco use/cessation with an emphasis on tobacco-related health disparities.

 

 

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 Oklahoma Tobacco 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)