The Internal and Mentoring Advisory Committee monitors the progress of Project Leaders’ research projects, adjusting mentoring plans - if needed - to ensure project success. Members of the IMAC assist in guiding the vision and the mission of the Center. Experts are selected based on their expertise in areas relevant to neurobehavioral, virological, epidemiological, and clinical approaches to understanding drug use and its related harms. Committee members provide advice and information relevant to Center growth, score applications for vacant Project Leader openings, and review pilot grant applications for relevance and merit.
The IMAC Mentors & Advisors
James Blair Mentor
James Blair, PhD is the Director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research. He is an expert in the neurobiology of emotion, aggression and antisocial behavior and has published more than 200 scientific manuscripts on this and related topics. Dr. Blair received a doctoral degree in Psychology from University College London in 1993 under the supervision of Professor John Morton. Following graduation he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Mental Health Research Fellowship that he held at the Medical Research Council Cognitive Development Unit for three years. Subsequently, Dr. Blair moved to the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. There, with Uta Frith, he helped form and co-lead the Developmental Disorders group, and was ultimately appointed Senior Lecturer. Dr. Blair Joined the NIMH Intramural Research Program in 2002.He joined Boys Town as Center Director in August 2016. He is currently President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy as well as the acting vice-chair of the Board of Scientific Advisors for the National Courts and Sciences Institute (the Institute educates judges on scientific topics relevant to the courtroom). He is also on the scientific advisory board of the Avielle Foundation. He is currently on the editorial boards of Biological Psychiatry, and Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.
David DiLillo received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Oklahoma State University in 1997. Prior to joining the faculty in 2000, he served as a Research Assistant Professor and project coordinator of a federal grant at the University of Missouri-Columbia, which explored predictors of unintentional injury among children. His primary research interests are in the area of family violence, including child maltreatment and marital and couple violence. He has a particular interest in the long-term functioning of adults who have experienced various forms of childhood trauma and maltreatment (e.g., sexual abuse, physical abuse, exposure to violence). He is particularly interested in understanding revictimization occurring during childhood/adolescence and again in adulthood. His research has been funded by NIMH and NICHD. Recent projects in his research group have focused on the marital adjustment of childhood maltreatment survivors, psychosocial mediators of revictimization, emotional influences on intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration, and the development of a Web-based measure of child maltreatment. He is currectly the Director of the Clinical Psychology Training Program. His teaching activities include psychotherapy, couples and family therapy, and supervision of clinical practicum.
Dr. Kimberly Tyler, Willa Cather Professor of Sociology at UNL, will serve as co-Director for cohort development at LNC. Dr. Tyler has a Ph.D. in sociology with specific training, experience, and expertise in key research areas relevant to current core goals of facilitating RDAR projects, including research in substance use, rural populations, hard-to-sample populations (e.g., homeless and street youth and young adults), and HIV risk behavior (i.e., sexual and drug use).
Dr. Tyler designed and successfully carried out three cohort-based NIH projects on hard to reach populations in the Great Plains region, including an NIMH-funded homeless young adult project (K01MH064897) and a NIDA-funded homeless youth R21 project (DA021079) on social networks and homeless youth and a NIDA-funded homeless youth and young adult project (DA036806) on alcohol and drug use, mental health, and social support using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) via short message service (SMS) surveying. This longitudinal project had a follow-up response rate of over 75%.
Dr. Tyler not only has expertise with sampling hard-to-reach populations, she also knows how to track and re-locate such populations. Her primary responsibilities as LNC co-Director will be to consult with Project Leaders, mentors, and the RDAR leadership team on the development, tracking, and retention of the RDAR Rural Drug User Cohort and, following this, to seek out new collaborative researchers across the Nebraska system and in the Central Plains region (such as BoysTown Hospital, Creighton Medical School, the Veterans Administration Hospital of Western Iowa and Nebraska, and universities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and the Great Plains).
Susan Sheridan is the Director of the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (CYFS) and the Associate Dean for Research and Creative Activity for the College of Education and Human Sciences at UNL. Her research focuses on family engagement, family-school partnerships, social-behavioral intervention strategies, and early childhood education and development. Dr. Sheridan has received more than $65 million in federal, state, and local grants to support her research. She also has a track record in mentoring early career faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students through both formal (grant-funded) and informal means.
Dr. Bilal Khan is a professor of Data Science and the director of the Health Data Warehouse at Lehigh University.
Christopher KratochvilTranslational Coordinator
Dr. Kratochvil specializes in child-adolescent psychiatry. He is a Professor of psychiatry, with an adjunct appointment with the Department of Pediatrics and College of Public Health. Dr. Kratochvil has an interest in clinical trials for children and adolescents, with a focus on ADHD and depression. Much of his research focuses on medications, and, in 2011, he co-edited the book Pediatric Psychopharmacology: Principles and Practice, 2nd Edition. He has also authored or co-authored over 100 articles in medical journals. Dr. Kratochvil has been active in the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, previously serving as president of the Nebraska Regional Council as well as on the national board of directors. He serves as the Associate Vice-Chancellor for Clinical Research at UNMC, Vice President for Research at Nebraska Medicine, and Chief Medical Officer at UNeHealth. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and a Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association.
Dr. Perdikaris is a professor for the Department of Anthropology, and an environmental archaeologist with a specialty in animal bones from archaeological sites-zooarchaeology. She is interested in people – environment interactions through time and the response of both to big climatic events. She has worked in Northern Norway and Iceland concentrating on the transition from the Viking Age to medieval times and how the early commercialization of the cod fisheries (AD 1200) affected the people and economy of the area. The last few years she has been focusing on the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean where she explored how heritage work can inform sustainability questions for the future.
Dr. Mario Scalora is the director of the Public Policy Center and professor of psychology with the Clinical Training and Law-Psychology Programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as coordinating an active academic research program engaging in collaborative research in targeted violence. He received his B.S. in psychology from St. Joseph’s University and his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research interests address various types of targeted violence issues including threats to public institutions and infrastructure/threat assessment, sexual offending, stalking, and workplace violence. This research continues to involve collaboration with state and federal agencies dealing with threat management and counterterrorism issues. Dr. Scalora has extensive relationships with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies related to threat assessment research and consultation assessing predictive risk factors and management strategies concerning targeted threatening, and violent activity. In addition to his role as director, Dr. Scalora also serves as a consulting psychologist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police regarding campus safety, threat management, and emergency preparedness.
Dr. Savage received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Oklahoma State University. He completed an internship in clinical psychology and postdoctoral fellowships in neuropsychology and functional neuroimaging at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)/Harvard Medical School. He previously served as Director of the Center for Health Behavior Neuroscience at the University of Kansas Medical Center and Director of Imaging Research at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. He is currently the Director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, and the Mildred Francis Thompson Professor of Social Sciences, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has published over 140 research papers and review articles and serves on editorial boards and numerous study sections and expert panels. Dr. Savage’s research uses functional neuroimaging techniques to investigate how the brain contributes to self-regulatory behaviors and to identify biomarkers that predict responses to interventions and progression or recovery from neurologic illness. In addition to his own research, Dr. Savage mentored numerous training grants with predoctoral postdoctoral students and junior faculty.
Dr. Katie Edwards, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln where she directs the Interpersonal Violence Research (IVR) Laboratory. Using community-based participatory action research, Dr. Edwards seeks to answer two questions in her work: (1) How do we prevent sexual and related forms of violence? and (2) How do we most effectively support survivors in the aftermath of violent victimization? Much of Dr. Edwards work focuses on minoritized populations, specifically Native American/Indigenous youth and families as well as LGBTQ+ youth. Dr. Edwards highly values community leadership in developing and evaluating (including the use of decolonized research approaches) strengths-focused, culturally grounded initiatives to prevent and respond to sexual and related forms of violence. To date, she has published more than 160 peer reviewed journal articles, and over the past 10 years has accrued over 10 million dollars in federal funding from the CDC, NIH, NIJ, OVW, and NSF. In her free time, Dr. Edwards enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her partner and their three rescue cats.
Dr. Habecker is a Research Assistant Professor with the RDAR center and is the Co-Director of the Longitudinal Networks Center. His current work is focused on substance use in Nebraska. Specifically on use, access, stigma, harm reduction, and public policy. He has training in survey research and methodology, experience with training recruiters and interviewers in peer-referral projects, programming and utilizing remote survey software, developing and managing Respondent Driven Sampling techniques, and working with network data.
Dr. Janos Zempleni is Willa Cather Professor of Molecular Nutrition and Director of the Nebraska Obesity Prevention Center in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received a B.S. and a Ph.D. in nutrition science from the University of Giessen in Germany. Dr. Zempleni trained as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratories of Drs. Donald B. McCormick (Emory University School of Medicine) and Donald M. Mock (Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences). He has been continuously funded by NIH, NIFA/USDA, NSF, foundations (Bill & Melinda Gates, Gerber, SynGAP Research Fund) and industry for a total of more than $50 million in external funding since 2000. Dr. Zempleni has mentored more than 100 undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral associates and visiting scientists, published more than 130 research papers and delivered 200 invited seminars and meeting presentations in the United States, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, and New Zealand. He is listed among the top 2% of most heavily cited researchers world-wide. Dr. Zempleni has pioneered a new field of research by demonstrating that natural nanoparticles (exosomes) and their RNA cargos from milk are bioavailable and regulate genes and metabolism within and across species boundaries. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences for his discoveries in the field of dietary exosomes and their RNA cargos.
The main focus of Dr. Pendyala’s lab is understanding how chronic drug addiction (cf. opioids, psychostimulants) leads to synaptic alterations and subsequent behavioral changes. While one arm focuses on understanding sex differences with drug relapse, another area is elucidating how drug abuse during and after pregnancy impacts neurodevelopment in the exposed offspring using in vivo model systems. The lab also employs state of the art ‘omics’ technologies to identify potential biomarkers in both tissue and biofluids (plasma, CSF) including decoding their associated mechanisms in vitro. Research in his lab is supported by funding from the NIH, Dept. of Defense, State of Nebraska, Children’s Hospital, Lieberman Foundation, and startup funds from the Dept. of Anesthesiology.
Jolene Smyth is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from Washington State University in 2007 and joined the Sociology Department at UNL in 2008. She served as the Director of the Bureau of Sociological Research from 2012 to 2020. Her research focuses on improving survey data collection processes through the reduction of measurement and nonresponse error. In her work she examines how questionnaire design impacts interviewer/respondent interactions and responses in telephone surveys, how various questionnaire design features (e.g., question wording, visual emphasis, response scales, etc.) impact responses in both interviewer and self-administered surveys, and mobile web survey design. She is a co-author of the fourth edition (2014) of Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method (with Don A. Dillman and Leah Melani Christian). She has also published a number of journal articles and book chapters on such topics as the effectiveness of web surveys, multiple-answer questions, open-ended questions, scalar questions, visual design, Internet surveys, context effects in web surveys, mode preference, within-household selection in self-administered surveys, survey sponsorship, and mixed-mode surveys.