Letter from the Department Head
A message from Tom Gould, head of the department
It is hard to believe we're at the end of the 2022-23 academic year. It has been another strong year for the Department of Biobehavioral Health (BBH) as we continue to grow. Our major is very healthy and the enrollments in BBH continue to rise. Our faculty-led research program is also strong and growing.
With that increase, BBH has seen new faces join our ranks. Allison Iadarola has joined the wonderful BBH staff. If you have not met her, please stop by the main office. You will find her at the reception desk where she will greet you with a smile and if you are lucky, a funny joke or story.
Our faculty ranks continue to grow thanks to the support of Dean Newschaffer and the efforts of everyone in BBH to demonstrate its value as an academic home and a place of growth. This year, Drs. Harold Lee, Audrie Lin, Liz Losin, and Sudha Veturi have joined BBH’s faculty. We are grateful to have them join BBH.
- Dr. Lee brings expertise in precision population health to study the genetic basis of physical activity, diet, and cardiometabolic health.
- Dr. Lin brings expertise in understanding the role of the exposome in the biological embedding of childhood adversity, to advance programs that promote nutrition and environmental justice in low-resource settings.
- Dr. Losin brings expertise in how cultural experiences and social situations influence pain perception and the brain mechanisms underlying it, in order to advance doctor-patient interactions, especially in underserved populations.
- Dr. Veturi brings expertise in integrating multi-omic, neuroimaging, and environmental data with electronic health records to advance understanding the genetic etiology of complex human traits and diseases, in particular neurodegeneration.
In addition to all the new faces in the department, there are many other reasons to celebrate. Because of the generous contributions of many associated with BBH, we are able to honor Dr. Frank Ahern for his unwavering commitment to our department and our students by establishing the Dr. Frank Ahern Student Award, which recognizes student excellence in academic performance and in community service; this award will be granted in perpetuity.
Further reasons to celebrate:
- Dr. Shelli Stine was promoted to teaching professor and elected as chair of the Penn State faculty senate.
- Dr. Chris Engeland was elected to the presidency of the Psychoneuroimmunology Society.
- Dr. Marc Dingman has published his second book, "Bizarre: The Most Peculiar Cases of Human Behavior and What They Tell Us About How the Brain Works," which has a 4.56 rating on Goodreads—check it out.
- Dr. Lindsay Fernandez-Rhodes received the Penn State Postdoc Society Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award.
- Dr. Danielle Rhubart received the Rural Sociological Society's Early Career Research Award.
- Dr. Asher Rosinger received the Michael A. Little Early Career Award from the Human Biology Association.
- Dr. Amy Snipes was recognized by the U.S. Health Secretary for her work with migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
- I am honored to serve as the president of the Society for Psychopharmacology and Substance Use, Division 28 of the American Psychological Association.
These are but a few of the accomplishments and honors bestowed upon BBH faculty.
Many of our graduate and undergraduate students also had their accomplishments recognized this past year.
- Lauren Chu received the Gerald E. McClearn Graduate Student Award, which recognizes achieved excellence in research accomplishments and demonstrated interdisciplinary research.
- Shannon White received the Biobehavioral Health Graduate Student Scientific Achievement Award, which is awarded for authorship of a published manuscript in a field central to BBH.
- Gabriela Revi received the BBH Graduate Student Teaching Award, recognizing exceptional teaching by a graduate student.
- David Reichenberger received the Elizabeth J. Susman Enhancement Fund Award to support and enhance scholarly activities of graduate students.
Our outstanding alumni honored:
- Stephanie Gonsiewski with the Alumni Recognition of Excellence Award, awarded in recognition of a senior with outstanding performance, achievement, and contributions within the major.
- Yani Hawthorne was selected for the Mullarkey Family Scholarship Award.
- Natalie Meriwether for the Dr. Frank Ahern Student Award.
- Emma Rouston for the Victoria N. Price Penn State Memorial Scholarship Award, all awards for academic and extracurricular excellence.
And finally, a special congratulations and thanks to BBH’s Sara Jimenez Rincon, the College of Health and Human Development student marshal, and Alexandra Pino, the department student marshal, at the 2023 Spring Commencement.
Congratulations to all our students and thank you to all the people that made these awards possible.
Other exciting news and events include the launching of the BBH Student Center, dedicated to helping BBH students achieve their potential. The Global Health Minor added two sites for student health work: one in Quito, Ecuador, and the other in Oaxaca, Mexico. This type of experiential learning is part of the transformative opportunities that BBH is committed to for our students.
In addition to the Global Health Minor, BBH has increased experiential learning opportunities in the class as we introduced trips to the Remote Access Medicine Clinic in Philadelphia, the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, the United Nations, and a wellness and meditation center.
Our BBH students bring their passion for service and health to the greater community as exemplified by Taylor Dorsett, a BBH senior who gives back to the community by serving as president for the Lion's Pantry, University Park's official on-campus student food pantry.
Biobehavioral Health continues to grow and thrive as we strive to advance health and well-being for all through research, education, and service. We are proud of and grateful for all our students, faculty, staff, and alumni that make significant contributions to advance health in all its facets. Please keep in touch and tell us about all your great accomplishments.
Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health
Head, Department of Biobehavioral Health