Meet the 2022-2024 iTHRIV Scholars

May 3, 2022

The integrated Translational Research Institute of Virginia, or iTHRIV, has announced its sixth class of iTHRIV Scholars. The eight selected researchers from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Carilion Clinic will participate in a structured research training and mentorship program.

The iTHRIV Scholars program, launched in 2017, is a cohort-based, mentored career development award for dedicated early career clinical and translational researchers. The intensive two-year program emphasizes data science training and interdisciplinary research collaboration.

iTHRIV Scholars dedicate roughly 75% of their time to their research project and the training program. The Scholars Program brings together innovative training in clinical translational research, data science, as well as research project development and management, all in a strong mentoring environment with support from peers and seasoned scientists and clinicians.

“The iTHRIV Scholars program continues to recruit exceptional early-career faculty. Alums of the Scholars program are already leading cutting-edge clinical and translational research programs with national and international recognition and this new cohort of faculty scholars have proposed research programs that will also lead to significant advances in health”, states Jason Papin a professor of biomedical engineering in UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Medicine, and one of the iTHRIV Scholars Program’s principal investigators. “The iTHRIV Scholars program will hopefully be a powerful catalyst to help them realize these research visions.”


The scholars also participate in an annual public symposium where they present their findings and learn more about the work of their peers. 

The 2022-2024 Scholars Cohort:


Carilion Clinic’s Shannon Armbruster, MD, MPH will study group-based exercise intervention for endometrial cancer survivors. Her mentors will be Samantha Harden, PhD and Jamie Zoellner, PhD, RD.


The University of Virginia’s Andrew Barros, MD, MSc will study ways to combat sepsis through machine learning. His mentor will be Randall Moorman, MD.

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Christine Ibilibor, MD, MSc of the University of Virginia will be mentored by Tracey Krupski, MD. Ibilibor will examine the effects of pre-habilitation and mindfulness for patients undergoing radical cystectomy.


Irène Mathieu, MD of the University of Virginia will examine community based approaches to improve pediatric mental health. Her mentor will be James Nataro, MD, PhD, MBA.


Rose Nevill, PhD of the University of Virginia will be assessing the evidence-base for mindfulness interventions for treating behavioral health in adults with autism and intellectual disabilities.Her mentor will be Micah Mazurek, PhD.

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The Virginia Tech Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Rell Parker, DVM, PhD, DACVIM will be mentored by Andrea Berkte, PhD. Parker will investigate how nerve damage affects nicotine receptors.


Patricia Rodriguez Lozano, MD of the University of Virginia will explore a novel therapy to treat microvascular disease in women. Her mentor will be Christopher Kramer, MD.

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Virginia Tech’s Jia-Ray Yu, PhD of the university’s Fralin Biomedical Research Institute will study Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). His mentor will be Catherine Bollard MD, MBChB.

“This is an exciting year for the scholars program: we are thrilled to welcome our first scholar from Carilion and in addition, we will welcome a scholar and mentor team from Fralin Biomedical Research Institute based at the Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus in Washington DC”, explains Leanna Blevins, assistant vice president for Virginia Tech Health Sciences Education and Student Affairs and the site director for the iTHRIV Scholars Program at Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic. “This cohort of scholars illustrates the diversity of the work that is being done by outstanding researchers at each of the iTHRIV partner sites.”

The 2022 iTHRIV Scholars Program cohort will begin in July. Building on the successful model of last year’s virtual cohort, this year will incorporate elements of distance learning, but will seek opportunities to phase in in-person collaboration. 

Funded in part by a Clinical and Translational Science Award, iTHRIV combines the expertise of biomedical researchers and data scientists to facilitate team science and accelerate innovation to improve health across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Partner sites include Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Carilion Clinic and Inova Health System.

Meet the 2021-2023 iTHRIV Scholars

Julia Basso, PhD

Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: Martha Ann Bell, PhD

Research Project:  Examining the clinical utility of dance to support social skills and behavioral and neural synchrony in individuals with autism spectrum disorder


Jessie Gibson, PhD, RN

Acute and Specialty Care Department, UVA School of Nursing

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: Bethany Teachman, PhD

Research Project:  Measurement and Modification of Threat Interpretation Bias to Reduce Anxiety in Huntington’s Disease


Lee Ann Johnson, PhD, RN

Acute and Specialty Care Department, UVA School of Nursing

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: Sarah Ratcliffe, PhD
Research Project:  Comorbidity Profiles and Their Influence on Treatment and Survival Among Underserved Individuals with Advanced Lung Cancer


Shawna Klahn, DVM

Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, VT Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

Assosciate Professor

Primary Mentor: Nicola Mason, BVetMed, PhD
Research Project: Nanopulse stimulation as an ablative immune modifier in spontaneous canine

diffuse large B-cell lymphoma


Gregory Madden, MD

Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, UVA School of Medicine

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: William Petri, MD, PhD
Research Project: Immune profiling to stratify Clostridioides difficile infection outcomes


Kazlin Mason, PhD

Department of Human Services, UVA School of Education and Human Development

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: Silvia Blemker, PhD
Research Project: Improving speech outcomes for cleft and craniofacial conditions through applications of machine learning algorithms and patient-specific pre-operative assessment


Adema Ribic, PhD

Department of Psychology, UVA College of Arts and Sciences

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: Jessica Connelly, PhD
Research Project: Vision deficits of non-retinal origin in preterm infants: circuit mechanisms and noninvasive approach for prevention and treatment


Meet the 2020-2022 iTHRIV Scholars

Laurie Brenner, PhD

University of Virginia

Assistant Professor, School of Medicine Department of Neurology, NeuroNEXT Scholar

Primary Mentor:  Kevin Pelphrey, PhD

Research Project:  Is autism-plus-epilepsy an autism subtype with a focal neurobiological basis?


Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, PhD

Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC

Assistant Professor

Primary Co-Mentors: Warren Bickel, PhD and Matthew Hulver, PhD

Research Project: Neural and metabolic correlates of carbohydrate reward

Brittany Howell, PhD

Frailin Biomedical Research  Institute

at VTC

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: Catherine Limperopoulos, PhD

Research Project: A pilot study of the role of gut dysbiosis in the neurodevelopmental consequences of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Lisa Letzkus, PhD, RN

University of Virginia

Assistant Professor, School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics

Primary Co-Mentors: Karen Fairchild, MD, and Doug Lake, PhD

Research Project: Neurodevelopmental infant cardiorespiratory evaluation (NICE)

Nicole Long, PhD

University of Virginia

Assistant Professor, College of Arts and Sciences

Primary Mentor: Carol Manning, PhD

Research Project: Mnemonic brain states and selective memory deficits in healthy aging

Kaitlin Love, MD

University of Virginia

Assistant Professor, School of Medicine Department of Endocrinology

Primary Mentor: Zhenqi Liu, MD

Research Project: Effect of Glucagon Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonism on Microvascular Perfusion, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Glycemic Variability in Type 1 Diabetes


Sora Shin, PhD

Frailin Biomedical Research  Institute at VTC

Assistant Professor

Primary Mentor: Warren Bickel, PhD

Research Project: Deciphering the role of leptin receptor neural circuits in mediating early life trauma-induced binge eating behavior

Kara Wiseman, MPH, PhD

University of Virginia

Assistant Professor, School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences and Neurobehavioral Sciences

Primary Mentor: Lee Ritterband, PhD

Research Project: Establishing the effectiveness of publicly available smoking cessation resources:  Does rurality matter?