Featured Grantees

The researchers highlighted below have been awarded at least one Behavioral Research Program-funded NIH grant. Read on to learn about their experiences as grantees.

Note: The views expressed here are those of the grantees only and do not represent any official position of the National Cancer Institute.

Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch

Shari Barkin, M.D., M.S.H.S.

Physician Scientist and Child Behavioral Health Researcher
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center

My "ah-ha" moment was recognizing that knowledge is necessary but not sufficient to change behavior. Behavior change requires setting new defaults that make achieving good health simpler.”

Paul Duberstein, Ph.D.

Clinical and Community Psychologist
  • University of Rochester Medical Center

After receiving NCI funding for a caregiver study, I was unexpectedly thrust briefly into a caregiver role. My personal experiences taught me that I knew less than I thought about caregiving. It motivated me to work harder to incorporate first-hand experiences into my research by using qualitative methods and by adding patients and caregivers to my research teams.”

Annice E. Kim, Ph.D.

Social Scientist
  • RTI International (formerly Research Triangle Institute)

The allure of big data has to be tempered by a healthy dose of skepticism about who and what these data represent.”

Alex H. Krist, M.D., M.P.H.

Family Physician and Primary Care Researcher
  • Virginia Commonwealth University

We are so much more than the sum of our parts. Health needs to be placed in the context of whole person care, including benefits and harms, values and preference, and family and social context.”

Poorna Kushalnagar, Ph.D.

Health Disparity Research Scientist and Public Health Advocate for the Deaf Community
  • Gallaudet University

Simply comparing a minority group with the general population can obscure real differences within the minority population.”

Amy McQueen, Ph.D.

Social Psychologist and Behavioral Scientist
  • Washington University in St. Louis

I am passionate about designing and testing more effective interventions for those who struggle to make health behavior changes and to make health a priority.”

Lisa M. Miller, Ph.D.

Cognitive Psychologist and Behavioral Scientist
  • University of California - Davis

The most compelling thing I've observed is that prior knowledge engages adults of all ages in learning and eases the burden of acquiring new knowledge and skills, which has huge implications for how we promote the adoption of new, often effortful, health behaviors.”

Gloria M. Petersen, Ph.D.

Cancer Genetic Epidemiologist
  • Mayo Clinic

A profound influence for me was seeing how cancer gene discoveries translated quickly to genetic testing, with consequences for patients and families.”

Megha Ramaswamy, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Sociologist and Applied Public Health Researcher
  • University of Kansas School of Medicine

Looking back, it was my early curiosity about inequality (kindled by a childhood in the Deep South and bedtime discussions with my dad about racism and politics) that ultimately motivated me as an adult to tackle the health disparities that affect marginalized women and men.”

Urmimala Sarkar, M.D., M.P.H.

Primary Care Physician and Health Services Researcher
  • University of California - San Francisco

I've learned from my primary care patients that I have to understand their social context to be able to partner with them to achieve healthy behaviors. You can't improve anyone's health in a vacuum.”

Anthony J. Viera, M.D., M.P.H.

Family Physician, Public Health Advocate, and Researcher
  • University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Several years ago, in an MD-MPH class on prevention strategies, I explained to my students that I didn't think calorie labeling worked. I said to the class (somewhat jokingly at the time!), "They should show how far you have to walk to burn off the calories..."”

Tobacco Control Research Branch

Jonathan B. Bricker, Ph.D.

Behavioral Scientist and Health Behavior Change Researcher
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

The rise of mobile technologies and third wave behavioral therapies are powerful inspirations for my work.”

Caryn Lerman, Ph.D.

  • University of Pennsylvania

I am passionate about transdisciplinary research to enhance our understanding about how the brain supports or constrains changes in habitual behaviors that contribute to cancer risk.”

Cheryl L. Perry, Ph.D.

Behavioral Scientist
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

When I was working as the Senior Scientific Editor of the first Surgeon General's Report on "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People (1994)," the ongoing and pervasive inter-relationships between health behaviors, their epidemiology and health effects; their social, political and economic determinants; and the predominance of powerful companies that directly support unhealthy behaviors, became evident and have guided the projects and science that I've done since that time. ”

Irina Stepanov, Ph.D.

Analytical Biochemist and Cancer Researcher
  • University of Minnesota

I have been very fortunate to be mentored by and collaborate with the prominent leaders in tobacco carcinogenesis research. Their example and guidance, along with my personal motivation to contribute to the prevention of suffering caused by cancer, shaped my research interests and direction.”

View sample grant application

Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch

Elliot T. Berkman, Ph.D.

Translational Neuroscientist and Social Psychologist
  • University of Oregon

Behavior change can be hard because we lack the skills or knowledge to do so, but more often the problem is motivational. Science needs to discover ways to help people who want to want to change but, for whatever reason, struggle to will themselves to change.”

Emily Falk, Ph.D.

Neuroscientist and Psychologist, focused on Health Behavior and Communication
  • University of Pennsylvania

People's brains sometimes know them better than they know themselves. Looking into the brain can help us understand what makes people change their behaviors. Likewise, linking neuroscience studies with field methods is critical to understanding how the brain works in the real world, outside of the lab.”

Carolyn Y. Fang, Ph.D., M.A.

Behavioral Scientist
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center

I appreciate the opportunity to work with investigators from diverse disciplines, as well as with community members and patient advocates, because they inspire me to learn new concepts and broaden my thinking in novel ways, as we all work toward a common and united goal to reduce the burden of cancer.”

Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D.

Psychologist and Interdisciplinary Affective Scientist
  • Northeastern University

The mind is an elegantly orchestrated self-fulfilling prophecy, embodied within the architecture of the nervous system.”

Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Psychologist and Affective Scientist
  • University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

When people experience positive affect while being physically active, they unwittingly trigger a chain of nonconscious and biological processes that can ultimately transform physical activity from a chore into a lifelong passion.”

Michael R. Irwin, M.D.

Psychiatric Clinical Translational Scientist
  • University of California - Los Angeles

The Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA has discovered that sleep and health are intimately inter-connected: insomnia induces adverse trajectories of disease risk, activates inflammatory biology, and accelerates cellular aging. In turn, interventional strategies from behavioral to mind-body treatments effectively target sleep problems and reverse the course of biological mechanisms of disease risk, aging, and possibly cancer, which together optimize healthspan.”

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D.

Behavioral Scientist
  • Ohio State University

Stress impacts many aspects of our physiology. Close and supportive personal relationships can buffer the effects of stress and can be an important resource during difficult times in our lives.”

Caryn Lerman, Ph.D.

  • University of Pennsylvania

I am passionate about transdisciplinary research to enhance our understanding about how the brain supports or constrains changes in habitual behaviors that contribute to cancer risk.”

Susan K. Lutgendorf, Ph.D.

Behavioral Scientist
  • University of Iowa

The resilience of the human spirit is remarkable-we are now studying how we can help patients cope more effectively in the face of ovarian cancer.”

Herbert Mathews, Ph.D.

Cellular and Molecular Scientist
  • Loyola University Chicago

Understanding the pattern of chromatin organization associated with psychosocial distress may provide a means by which to identify those at risk for immune dysfunction.”

Anil K. Sood, M.D.

Physician Scientist
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center

For me the opportunity to collaborate with renowned colleagues has provided many exciting research moments.”

Health Behaviors Research Branch

Ana M. Abrantes, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist
  • Butler Hospital/Alpert Medical School of Brown University

An important "ah-ha" moment came when discussing a colleague's work involving the pairing of brain stimulation with exposure-based behavioral treatment (an oft avoided therapy) to enhance adherence and improve outcomes among individuals with OCD. I thought, "Why couldn't the same approach be applied to vulnerable individuals who avoid or don't enjoy physical activity?"”

Barbara B. Brown, Ph.D.

Environmental Psychologist
  • University of Utah

I love finding community interventions that support both personal health and environmental health in a "stealthy" way-without requiring that people be committed to healthy behaviors or to environmentalism.”

David Buller, Ph.D.

Health Communication Scientist
  • Klein Buendel, Inc.

The "ah-ha" moment that I repeatedly experience is the importance of interpersonal relations in determining health behavior. Direct personal contacts with change agents, opinion leaders, and peers have been an essential aspect of my successful cancer prevention interventions and, more recently, relationships within organizational contexts, especially as influenced by policy, have emerged as influential for improving individuals' prevention practices.”

Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D.

Translational Researcher and Nutrition Scientist
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham

There are so many opportunities to discover new ways to prevent and control cancer and "ah-ha" moments are daily occurrences that spring from working in the laboratory, the clinic and the community. Being open and preparing oneself to actively receive or generate those ideas is the first step; however, finding the time, energy and most of all the resources to pursue a fraction of those ideas is the key and one that requires dogged determination.”

View sample grant application

Jacqueline Kerr, Ph.D.

Exposome Scientist
  • University of California - San Diego

My ah-ha moment came when I realized all the errors in our data processing that I focused on obsessively were only creating a couple of minutes of error a day at the personal level. I realized I needed to get out of this rabbit hole and look around at the majority of successful predictions we were creating. I have now accepted that perfection in such behavioral & environmental matches are not possible, and I focus on the larger probabilities that time and space may influence behavior.”

Nora L. Nock, Ph.D.

Transdisciplinary Researcher
  • Case Western Reserve University

The "ah-ha" moment that influenced my program of research the most was discovering that the ultimate underlying barrier to exercise is truly the lack of enjoyment from exercise and that a pivotal step in intrinsic behavior change will be to find ways to help patients experience pleasure from exercise.”