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Zachary Harvanek, MD/PhD

Psychiatry Resident; NRTP, Yale Department of Psychiatry

Contact Information

Zachary Harvanek, MD/PhD

Biography

While I’ve always been interested in science and medicine, I must admit I did not foresee myself going into psychiatry. My scientific exposure began young, observing my dad work toward a Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Colorado, and I developed an early interest in technology. For undergrad, I attended Duke where I majored in Biomedical Engineering and Biology, and found myself working in a yeast genetics lab which pushed my interests toward the biology of aging. Ultimately, this led me to attend the University of Michigan for my M.D./Ph.D., where I studied the mechanisms through which the socio-sexual environment influenced aging in fruit flies for his dissertation. I was drawn toward finding the biological underpinnings of nebulous concepts like the social environment, and after absolutely loving my M3 psychiatry rotation, found my fit at the Yale NRTP.

Since starting at Yale in 2018, My interests have shifted toward understanding the mechanistic links between stress and aging in humans. I’m currently pursuing a project with Drs. Rajita Sinha and Ke Xu investigating the interactions between stress, resiliency, and epigenetic markers of aging in a healthy community population. For me, this was a shift not only in organisms (flies to humans), but also in methods (genetic and physiologic manipulations to epigenetics). Still, with the support of my mentors and collaborators, during my PGY-2 year CASE rotation I was able to complete a draft manuscript identifying specific physiologic and psychological mediators of the association between stress and epigenetic aging, which we’re currently polishing up for submission. Moving forward with this project, I plan to use my Detre Award funding to test whether both psychological and pharmacological interventions can break the link between stress and accelerated aging. Additionally, during my PGY-3 year I initiated a collaborative project with the Yale Sickle Cell Program, and we have started a pilot project investigating whether EEG correlates of chronic pain and whether mindfulness-based interventions 1) improve pain and 2) change these EEG correlates. Now during my PGY-4 year, I have significant protected time to follow up on both of these projects, and will serve as one of the chief residents on the CNRU.

Beyond work, I’ve found Connecticut to be a wonderful place to live. I have a 4 year-old starting pre-school and a 6 year-old who is now in 1st grade. Our family was able to purchase a home in the town of Guilford, and have been exploring the state parks, hiking spots, and beaches along the shoreline. I typically spend my free time being mediocre at trivia, playing basketball (at least pre-pandemic ☹), tackling various home projects that I am unqualified for, and instilling in my children a love of Star Wars, board/video games, and other nerdy hobbies.

Education & Training

  • MD/PhD
    University of Michigan, Molecular & Integrative Physiology (2018)
  • BEngSci
    Duke University, Biomedical Engineering & Biology (2010)