Maria Carolina Clark
Carolina Clark is a Clinical Research Assistant at the Institute. She graduated magna cum laude from the Elms College with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2014.
She then continued her academic training in Clinical Social Work, obtaining a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Connecticut in 2015. During that program, Carolina was a clinical intern at Behavioral Health Network (BHN), where
she was hired following her internship. At BHN, she has worked in a variety of different capacities that all provided mental health care for children and families. Carolina’s work has since focused on early childhood and infant mental health, and the impact
of the social determinants of health on children’s development. She is currently working for the Institute on a grant focused on improving care for mothers with a history of substance use disorder and in turn, their children. Carolina hopes to develop her skills as a researcher while continuing to connect her research to her clinical practice.
Taylar Clark is a Clinical Research Assistant for the Institute. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2019 with a BA in Neuroscience and Behavior. While at Wesleyan, Taylar worked as a research assistant in two different research labs. During the fall of her junior year, she worked in a neuroscience lab studying the neurogenesis of zebra finches. She worked with a senior on their senior thesis comparing habituation rates in adult born and general population neurons in zebra finches’ caudomedial nidopallium. Then, during the spring semester of her junior year, she joined a child cognitive development lab in the psychology department where she worked with children to study how they think about the world around them and intake information. While in this lab, she worked on many research projects including topics such as spatial reasoning, number line estimation, decision making, and implicit biases. She attended conferences and has been published on conference papers, posters, and presentations. During her senior year, she was the lead researcher on a study evaluating the implicit biases adults have on decision making as it pertains to people.
Outside of the lab, Taylar was also Wesleyan’s Leadership Intern, an Office Assistant for the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development, Event Staff Captain, an elementary school tutor, student forum instructor, a member Wesleyan’s student judicial board, a Wesleyan Math and Science Scholars Program scholar, and a McNair scholar. Taylar plans to apply to graduate school in two years to get a degree in clinical psychology to become a pediatric clinical neuropsychologist.
Christene DeJong, MA, MA
Christene DeJong is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Institute. She holds a Masters of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, where she received the University Fellowship and a Tinker Foundation Grant to support her field research on grassroots women’s activism in Venezuela. Additionally, she holds a Masters of Arts in Sociology from Rutgers University where she received the Excellence Fellowship.
Christene is a qualitative researcher with expertise in in-depth interview studies. Prior to her arrival at the Institute, she was the Senior Researcher for the Hampshire Research Project at Hampshire College, where she led multiple qualitative studies, including the design and implementation of a multi-year longitudinal interview study on student experience. Christene’s recent research publications include, "Voices of Students: Using Grounded Theory Research to Engage Faculty and Improve Programs" (under review) and “Student Driven Research in the First Year: Increasing Curiosity and Motivation in the Natural Sciences” (under review).
Aubri A. Drake, MSW, MLS
Aubri Drake is the Clinical Research Administrative Coordinator for the Institute. They graduated summa cum laude from Southern Connecticut State University with a BA in Psychology, and earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Library Science degree from Southern Connecticut State University.
Aubri has a background in social-behavioral research, including research related to adolescent pregnancy prevention with young fathers, faith-based Type 2 diabetes prevention for those with pre-diabetes, and rapid rehousing for those experiencing homelessness. They currently assist with all aspects of projects in the Institute—federal grant submissions, grant management, IRB, data requests, and project management.
M. Kamal Faridi
Kamal Faridi is a biostatistician at the Institute. Kamal has a master’s degree in Public Health in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from Boston University School of Public Health. He has previously worked at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Kamal has experience with creating and managing large databases, including diverse study designs and statistical analyses. His work includes using large administrative data sets such as Medicare, the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) family of databases as well as survey data including Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registries, the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS).
Brent Heineman is a Clinical Research Assistant for the Institute. He graduated magna cum laude from Boston University in 2018 with a BA in cell/molecular biology & genetics. While at BU, Brent worked on several clinical research projects within the department of diabetes, obesity, and metabolism at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. There, he helped publish a manuscript exploring the dynamics between human fructose intake and the expression of FGF21, an important signaling molecule.
After graduation, Brent worked as a research intern in the Center for Vascular Biology at UConn Health in Farmington, CT where he helped identify potential genes that regulate alternative splicing in response to vascular inflammation. Brent recently took the MCAT and plans to apply to medical school.
Briana Jurkowski is a Clinical Research Assistant at the Institute. She graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Pre-Medical Studies. While at UMass, Briana participated in Baystate’s Summer Scholars Program, worked as an intern to Dr. Peacock-Chambers, as well as completed a student practicum. During that time at Baystate, she worked on several research projects, focusing on interventions to promote early childhood development among families with history of substance abuse, and is a co-author on the manuscript “Engagement in Early Intervention Services among Mothers in Recovery from Opioid Use Disorders” (under review).
Briana is currently working for the Institute on a grant focused on Medicare Accountable Care Organizations and improving outcomes for patients with heart failure. She plans on taking the Medical College Admissions Test and applying to medical school.
Mike Moran is a Clinical Research Assistant for the Institute. He graduated cum laude from College of the Holy Cross in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Michael has previously worked with the Institute through the Baystate Summer Student Scholar Program, during which he co-authored a JAMA research letter that describes the structure of commercial physician-rating websites and the quantity of physician reviews on these sites. Michael also contributed to clinical research at UMass Medical School Worcester, where he worked with the Pediatric Surgery Department to study the potential benefits of mobile technology in its bariatric clinic. Michael recently took the Medical College Admission Test and plans to apply to medical school this upcoming admissions cycle.
Aixa M. Perez-Caraballo, MS, MPH
Aixa Perez-Caraballo is a Clinical Research Assistant at IHDPS. Prior to working at IHDPS, Aixa was at the Weitzman Institute working for Community Health Center NIH’s All of Us Research program, which aims to engage a million Americans from diverse ethnic backgrounds in large-scale genomics research. She was also a Research Associate in two ongoing investigations at Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA: “Proyecto Mama,” a randomized lifestyle intervention in overweight pregnant Hispanic women, and “Estudio PARTO,” a randomized trial of a postpartum diabetes prevention program for Hispanic women.
In 2011, Aixa obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Industrial Microbiology and in 2014, she completed a Masters in Science degree in Epidemiology from the University of Puerto Rico, School of Public Health. In 2017, she obtained a Master in Public Health degree in Epidemiology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, School of Public Health. While at UMass-Amherst, Aixa worked as a graduate research assistant in various projects including suicide prevention service data management, the association of urinary melatonin levels with prevalent and incident of hypertension, and also collaborated with an Epigenetics research study related to breast cancer risk and DNA methylation of white blood cells. Aixa is interested in developing and disseminating knowledge to prevent disease & promote women and minority groups’ health through interdisciplinary efforts.
Vera Postell joined the IHDPS as Staff Assistant in January 2019. Vera has been a resident of Springfield, MA since 1991. Her past experience includes 10 years as a Senior Administrative Assistant for the Mercy Continuing Care Network and 5 years
as a Secretary for the Mercy Pain Management Program.
Aruna Priya, MA, MSc
Aruna Priya is a biostatistician with the Institute. She has graduate degrees in Statistics (Operations Research) from the University of Hyderabad in India and in Biostatistics from the University at Buffalo in New York. Before joining IHDPS, Aruna was employed as a statistician for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, NY.
She has experience working with large administrative databases as well as RCTs, and studies on in-house databases collected by individual physician researchers. She is a coauthor on several of the Institute’s published papers and also serves as a peer reviewer for various journals. She is associated with work that focuses on research in healthcare quality while her additional statistical interests include statistical modeling, multivariate statistics, experimental design, statistical inference and machine learning methods.
Meng-Shiou Shieh, PhD
Meng-Shiou Shieh is a biostatistician with the Institute. She received her PhD in statistics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Before coming to the Institute, she worked as a statistical consultant where she proofread and verified formulas for the study, "Measurement Error: Models, Methods and Applications,” published March 4, 2010 by John Buonaccorsi.
She is also a coauthor with Charles M. Schweik and Robert English for Chapters 9 and 10 of “The Success and Abandonment of Open Source Commons,” MIT Press, Spring 2012. Her recent work focuses on application of analytic methods appropriate for use with large observational databases like the Nationwide Inpatient Sample and Premier, Inc.’s Perspective.
Kerry Spitzer, PhD, MPA
Kerry Spitzer is the Senior Clinical Research Coordinator at the Institute. She holds a PhD in Urban Policy and Planning from MIT and a Masters in Public Administration from NYU Wagner. She is a mixed-methods researcher with expertise in both qualitative and quantitative methods. She received a Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy grant to support her dissertation research and was an MIT Presidential Fellow.
Her research is focused on issues related to inequality and public policy including, housing and homelessness, incarceration, and military veterans. In addition, she has worked for New York City government as a budget and policy analyst at the Independent Budget Office and as a project manager at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. She has taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.