Research in Biobehavioral Health

The research possibilities in Biobehavioral health are extensive. There are world-class faculty members and researchers examining multiple health-related studies. These include research on smoking, sleep, stress, global health genetics, and obesity.

As a student in Biobehavioral Health, you can have the opportunity to work with these researchers in some of Penn State’s leading laboratories. You can gain experience working with subjects, collecting data, interviewing individuals. You can get experience and familiarity with the equipment and the processes involved in the research process.

The Penn State Biobehavioral Health Department maintains several on-campus labs that are staffed by experts and consultants with specialties in a diverse array of biological assessments. These laboratories offer a variety of services for researchers and educators.

Biobehavioral Research Laboratories and Groups

Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Lab - (Dr. Sonia Cavigelli)

Research in the Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Lab focuses on how temperament or personality relates to physiology and health. The larger goal being to determine how and why individuals differ in their behavioral and physiological responses to common challenges and to understand how this influences individual susceptibility and/or resilience to certain disease states and rates of aging.

Behavioral Neurogenetics Lab - (Dr. Helen Kamens)

Research in the Behavioral Neurogenetics Lab focuses on the role of genetics in complex disorders. We examine if genetic variation influences behaviors and try to elucidate the biological mechanism through which this is occurring.

Biobehavioral Health Studies Laboratory - (Dr. Laura Klein)

The Biobehavioral Health Studies Laboratory is dedicated to the investigation of individual differences in the biobehavioral effects of stress. The lab incorporates both human and animal models to evaluate the multiple biological and behavioral factors that underlie individual stress responses.

Bio-Qualitative Research Lab (BioQUAL) - (Dr. Shedra Amy Snipes)

The Bio-Qualitative Research Lab (BioQUAL) sponsors behavioral, mixed-methods research on health in order to gain a richer understanding of how cultural beliefs, behaviors, and the environment merge to influence health.

Family and Child Health Project - (Dr. Lori Francis)

The Family and Child Health Project aims to identify various biobehavioral mechanisms that influence the development of obesity in children. While the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased among children from all socioeconomic groups, some groups are disproportionately affected, particularly children living in poverty, and African-American and Hispanic children.

Molecular Genetics Laboratory - (Dr. David Vandenbergh)

The research goal of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory (Vandenbergh Lab) is to understand the molecular basis of addiction, using a combination of human genetic studies and mouse models that focus on nicotine and its effects on the brain.

Prevention Research to Optimize (PRO) Health Lab - (Dr. Rob Turrisi)

The Prevention Research to Optimize (PRO) Health Lab specializes in peer, parent, and feedback interventions to help reduce risky drinking and health related behaviors in adolescents, college students, and adults. The research conducted in our lab is considered to be at the forefront of both the Alcohol and Skin Cancer fields.

Schreier Lab - (Dr. Hannah Schreier)

The Scheirer lab focuses on exploring the ways in which the social and physical environments that surround us relate to important physiological outcomes with relevance to chronic illnesses and long-term health trajectories.

Shalev Lab - (Dr. Idan Shalev)

Research in the lab leverages behavioral and molecular methods, across multiple and dynamic levels of analysis, to measure the aging process as it begins in early-life and to test how this process is affected by environmental stress exposures. Our research aim to inform new targets for intervention studies to reverse the damaging effects of stress on our body and mind.

Sleep Health and Society - (Dr. Orfeu Buxton)

Research focuses on the causes and consequences of sleep deficiency: causes of sleep deficiency in the workplace, home, and society; health consequences of sleep deficiency, especially cardiometabolic outcomes; use of biomarkers in field studies.

Smoking and Health Behavior Laboratory - (Dr. Steven Branstetter)

The Mission of our laboratory is to contribute to the scientific understanding of a range of smoking behaviors including smoking onset, the experience of nicotine addiction, nicotine withdrawal and smoking cessation.

Stress and Health Lab - (Dr. Jennifer Graham-Engeland)

The overall mission of the Stress and Health Lab at Penn State University is to examine the effects of psychological stress and stress responses on physical health. One long-term goal of our research is to provide a better understanding of the many influences on chronic pain and to develop novel and inexpensive supplemental therapeutic approaches for pain.

Stress and Nutrition Research Program - (Dr. Sheila West)

The mission of the Stress and Nutrition Research Group and the Vascular Health Interventions Lab is to measure the effects of specific foods and nutrients on multiple coronary risk markers, including cardiovascular responses to stress.

Stress, Health, and Daily Experiences (SHADE) Lab - (Dr. Joshua Smyth)

The overall mission of the Stress, Health and Daily Experiences Lab is to explore ‘Mind-Body’ issues as they relate to physical health and well-being. Notably, we study the dynamic interplay amongst stress, mood, behavior, social factors, and physiology, as well as interventions that might promote enhanced health and/or well-being.

Neurobiological Investigation of Learning and Addiction (NILA) - (Dr. Thomas Gould)

Learning-related changes in the strength of neuronal connections in the brain not only underlie memory formation and storage but are also affected by drugs of abuse, such as nicotine or alcohol. The goal of the NILA lab is to use genetic, pharmacological, behavioral, molecular and electrophysiological techniques to study the effects of these drugs on the neurobiology of learning and memory.