The integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV) announced its fourth class of iTHRIV Scholars. The eight selected researchers from Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia will participate in a structured two-year research training and mentorship program. The curriculum emphasizes data science training and interdisciplinary research collaboration.

The iTHRIV Scholars program, launched in 2017, helps early career faculty members advance their careers. The incoming cohort includes three new Virginia Tech faculty members, all from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, representing the full integration of the Virginia Tech Carilion partnership into the Scholars program.

The 2020 – 2022 cohort includes:

  • Laurie Brenner, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at the UVA School of Medicine. Mentored by Kevin Pelphrey, Jaideep Kapur, and Karen Johnston, Brenner will study if “Autism-plus-epilepsy is an autism subtype with a focal neurobiological basis.”
  • Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, an assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Mentored by Warren Bickel, Matthew Hulver, and Brooks King-Casas, DiFeliceantonio is an appetitive neuroscientist whose research project will explore the “Neural and metabolic correlates of carbohydrate reward.” Alexandra Hanlon will collaborate with DiFeliceantonio on this study.
  • Brittany Howell, an assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Mentored by Catherine Limperopoulos, Howell is launching a pilot study to examine the “Role of gut dysbiosis in the neurodevelopmental consequences of neonatal abstinence syndrome.” Kim Simcox, Lisa Andruscavage, and Cindy Smith will collaborate with Howell on this project.
  • Lisa Letzkus, an assistant professor in the UVA School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. Mentored by Karen Fairchild, Doug Lake, Jessica Keim-Malpass, Brynne Sullivan, and Richard Stevenson, Letzkus will study “Neurodevelopmental infant cardiorespiratory evaluation.” Santina Zanelli, Vince Pulido, Sandeep Pillutla, and Randall Moorman will collaborate with Letzkus on this project.
  • Nicole Long, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in UVA’s College of Arts and Sciences. Mentored by Carol Manning, James Morris, and Mark Quigg, Long will study “Mnemonic brain states and selective memory deficits in healthy aging.”
  • Kaitlin Love, a fellow in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the UVA School of Medicine's Department of Medicine. Mentored by Zhenqui Liu, Arthur Weltman, and Sue Brown, Love will study the “Effect of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonism on microvascular perfusion, cardiorespiratory fitness, and glycemic variability in Type 1 Diabetes.” James Patrie will collaborate with Love on this project.
  • Sora Shin, an assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Mentored by Warren Bickel and Robert Trestman, Shin will study “The role of leptin receptor neural circuits in mediating early life trauma-induced binge eating behavior." Anthony-Samuel LaMantia will collaborate with Shin on this project.
  • Kara Wiseman, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UVA School of Medicine. Mentored by Lee Ritterband, Roger Anderson, Laura Barnes, and Robert Klesges, Wiseman will examine the “Effectiveness of publicly available smoking cessation resources: Does rurality matter?”

Due to the pandemic, this year’s iTHRIV Scholars Program has transitioned to virtual programming, which starts in July.

“Some of our programming has been postponed or altered to fit our new environment, but we have ultimately harnessed the opportunity to test virtual programs and collaborate with our partner sites,” said Jennifer Kirkham, the iTHRIV Scholars Program Manager. “We are grateful to the vast number of instructors who have shared their expertise with our scholars. We thank the mentors for participating in the growth and development of the next generation of clinical and translational research colleagues.”

The iTHRIV Scholars Program is available to full-time faculty applicants who have a doctoral degree, or its equivalent, in a research or health profession. Each applicant must seek approval from their supervisor, department chair, or institute director, allowing them to dedicate roughly 75 percent of their time to their research project and the Scholars training curriculum.

“We appreciate the consideration and encouragement of the department chairs and institute directors by providing protected time for the Scholars to pursue these research projects and goals,” Kirkham said.

Funded by a Clinical and Translational Science Award, iTHRIV combines the expertise of biomedical researchers and data scientists to create infrastructure and investigator resources for using data to improve health across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Partner sites include Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Carilion Clinic, and Inova Health System. iTHRIV is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, through award number UL1TR003015.