Skip to Main Content


The primary aim of our Career Development Core is to qualified PhD and MD junior faculty members with salary support and translational team mentorship to enhance their research career development focused on women’s health and alcohol use.

With grant and in-kind funds from our medical school, we are supporting Yale-SCORE Early Investigators (meeting NIH criteria for Early-Stage Investigators). The Yale-SCORE supports 50% of their faculty effort.

SCORE Trainees

  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

    Yasmin Zakiniaeiz PhD received two years of 50% salary support, to focus her MRI/PET multimodal program of addiction with sex as a biological variable. Dr. Zakiniaeiz was mentored by Drs Cosgrove and McKee. Her progress includes:

    • Received K01 career award from NIAAA titled “Sex Differences in Alcohol Use Disorder Neurodegeneration using Multimodal PET and DTI Neuroimaging.”
    • Received Peter F. McManus Trust Charitable Trust Grant titled “Imaging sex differences in dopamine and synaptic density in alcohol use disorder.”
    • Was promoted to ladder track faculty (Assistant Professor, Traditional Tenure Track).
    • Received the Enoch Gordis Award from the Research Society on Alcoholism, for outstanding research by a junior scientist.
    • Received the Early Career Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), for outstanding research by a junior faculty.
    • Published 11 peer reviewed papers.
  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

    MacKenzie Peltier PhD is an Assistant Professor in the department of Psychiatry with expertise in human pharmacology. Dr. Peltier received two years of 50% salary support to focus on the effect of ovarian hormones and neurosteriods on alcohol use disorder. Her translational mentorship team includes Sherry McKee PhD and Ismene Petrakis MD. Her progress includes:

    • Received a VA-based career award (Veteran’s Affairs VISN1 Career Development Award) titled “Brexanolone to target stress-induced alcohol use among men and women Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”
    • Received a Pharmacotherapies for Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders Alliance (PASA) planning grant, titled “Brexanolone to target concurrent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and stress-induced alcohol use in Veterans: A dose finding study.” The PASA grant is pending.
    • Published 19 peer reviewed papers.
  • Assistant Professor of Medicine (Digestive Diseases); Translational Research Director of the Metabolic Health and Weight Loss Program, Digestive Diseases

    Bubu Banini MD/PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine. Dr. Banini began translational research as an undergraduate student, subsequently pursuing a combined MD/PhD in genetics and molecular biology. After residency and chief residency in internal medicine, her interest in research led her to a postdoctoral research fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where she studied mechanisms of liver inflammation, fibrosis and hepatocellular cancer. She continued this research with a four-year NIH-sponsored T-32 research/clinical fellowship in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). There she studied basic and translational research in liver inflammation and fibrosis. Dr. Banini then pursued an additional year of training in transplant hepatology and was involved in developing standards and guidelines for liver transplant candidacy in patients with severe AH.

    Dr. Banini is mentored by Drs Ismene Petrakis, Wajahat Mehal, and Vasilis Vasiliou. Dr. Banini is currently completing her first year of 50% salary support. Her progress includes:

    • R01DK134624-01 (pending 13th percentile). Oral digoxin for the treatment of NASH.
    • 2023 Yale Cancer Disparities Award titled “Reducing disparities in liver cancer outcomes in Connecticut” $125,000.
    • Developed and organized YCARE (Yale Conference for Alcohol Research and Education) with the aim to increase integration and collaboration among researchers, clinicians, and stakeholders at Yale. The 2023 conference was attending by 110 participants, including NIAAA staff.
  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, and of Biomedical Informatics and Data Science

    Hang Zhou PhD is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and trained in computational biology. The focus of Dr. Zhou’s work is to understand the human genome and how it affects human traits and diseases. Dr. Zhou’s mentorship team includes Marc Potenza MD, and Joel Gelernter MD. Dr. Zhou is currently receiving his first year of 50% salary support. His progress includes:

    • Zhou H, et al. Multi-ancestry study of the genetics of problematic alcohol use in over 1 million individuals. Nature Medicine (in press). doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02653-5. PMID: 36747741; PMCID: PMC9901058.
    • 2023, Annual Pilot Award, Yale Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism
    • Developing R01 submission to conduct a genetic study of sex differences in alcohol use and alcohol use disorder.
  • Associate Research Scientist of Psychiatry

    Robert Kohler PhD, is an Associate Research Scientist in Psychiatry, trained as a behavioral neuroscientist. His current work has been focused on computational methods to identify risk factors for the emergence of psychopathology during development in humans. Dr. Kohler’s mentorship team includes Sara Yip PhD, Sherry McKee PhD, and Graeme Mason PhD. Dr. Kohler is currently receiving his first year of 50% salary support. His progress includes:

    • Developing a K01 submission for Feb 2024 titled “Relating Brain Metabolomics to Clinical Features of Alcohol Use Disorder.”
    • Presenting symposium talk at RSA titled “Predicting heavy drinking during outpatient alcohol use treatment using machine learning."
  • Postdoctoral Associate

    Vernon Garcia-Rivas PhD, is currently a trainee in Marina Picciotto’s laboratory who received his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Bordeaux, France. Recent progress includes:

    • Garcia-Rivas, V., Thomas, M.A., Soares, A.R., Picciotto, M.R. and Mineur, Y.S. “Involvement of the Basolateral and Central Amygdala in Stress-induced Ethanol Intake in Female Mice”, presented at the Society for Neuroscience Conference, Washington DC, Nov 11-15 2023.
    • Garcia-Rivas, V., Soares, A.R., Thomas, M.A., Mineur, Y.S. and Picciotto, M.R “Stress-induced Escalation of Ethanol Intake in Female Mice Requires Functional Microglia”, presented at the Research Society on Alcohol Annual Meeting, Bellevue WA, Jun 24-28 2023.
  • Nathalie Barrios is a graduate student from Clarkson University, who completed a dual-degree in Psychology and Mathematics. She is currently part of Yale’s Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) which helps students from underrepresented groups gain the skills and credentials necessary for advanced graduating training. With Career Enhancement funds, we were able to support an additional slot on this program, allowing Nathalie to join Dr. Kelly Cosgrove’s laboratory for a 1-year period. Nathalie’s training has been focused on sex differences, alcohol use disorder, and neuroimaging. At the completion of her training as part of the Yale-SCORE, Nathalie plans to begin a PhD program in Neuroscience to continue her research-focused career.

Polit Funding

A second aim of our Career Enhancement Core is to provide junior faculty and trainees with pilot funds to conduct a research study focused on the role of sex as a biological variable (SABV) within the context of alcohol use.

To date, we have funded 11 pilot projects.

  1. In vivo imaging of amygdala neural networks to elucidate sex differences in effects of ethanol and stress. Yann Mineur PhD.
  2. Sex Differences in the Kappa Opioid Receptor System in Alcohol Use Disorder. Yasmin Zakiniaeiz PhD.
  3. Brexanolone to target stress-induced alcohol use among men and women with PTSD and AUD. MacKenzie Peltier PhD.
  4. Genetics of sex differences in alcohol use disorder. Dr. Hang Zhou PhD.
  5. In vivo imaging of ACh release in the basolateral amygdala during sex-dependent stress-induced ethanol intake. Garcia Vernon PhD.
  6. Developing sex-specific machine learning models to predict relapse in women completing AUD treatment. Walter Roberts PhD.
  7. Imaging Sex Differences in the Neuroimmune Response to Alcohol. Ansel Hillmer PhD.
  8. Metabolomics analysis of sex differences in alcohol-associated liver disease. BuBu Banini MD/PhD.
  9. Developing predictive models to detect sex differences psychopathology from actigraphy data in the UK Biobank. Walter Roberts PhD.
  10. Measuring the neuroimmune response to a classic immune stimulator – lipopolysaccharide (LPS; endotoxin) in women and men with AUD. Yasmin Zakiniaeiz PhD.
  11. Selective inhibition of 11β-HSD1 through glucocorticoid target will prevent female-specific stress-induced escalation of alcohol drinking in mice. Vernon Garcia-Rivas PhD.

Summary of Pilot Project Mechanism:

FIG. 1. Grants—Twelve pilot projects funded by the SCORE Career Enhancement Program totaling $225,500 resulted in 14 extramural (4 NIH K-type, 7 NIH R-type, 3 Foundation) grants totaling $17,820,780.

Overall, our pilot funding mechanism has been highly successful. We have funded projects focused on molecular biology, neuroimaging, genetics, medication development, and machine learning on topics relevant to the primary scientific aims of our SCORE grant. A major goal of the pilot project program is to provide junior investigators with data to support K and R funding mechanisms.

We have evaluated our pilot program and across our prior and current SCORE grants (P50DA033945; U54027989). For every $1 invested in pilot funding, this has translated to $80 in extramural funding to junior investigators.

See Zakiniaeiz Y, Peltier MR, Mineur YS, Gueorguieva R, Picciotto MR, Petrakis I, Cosgrove KP, McKee SA. Developing Researchers with Expertise in Sex as a Biological Variable through SCORE Career Enhancement Core Center Programs. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2023 Aug;32(8):852-857. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2023.0015. PMID: 37585509; PMCID: PMC10457604.