Laura Ornelas, PhD, received a prestigious award from the National Institutes of Health as part of the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program – an effort to improve diversity within the academic research workforce biomedical.
Laura Ornelas, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at UNC School of Medicine, was selected as a MOSAIC Fellow, under the National Institutes of Health’s prestigious Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program. This program is part of NIH’s efforts to improve diversity within the academic biomedical research workforce and to facilitate the transition of promising postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds into independent faculty positions, leading to tenure or research-intensive equivalents. It has two components: a cooperative agreement for teaching through research with an institutional vocation (UE5) and an individual postdoctoral career transition grant (K99/R00) to promote diversity.
Ornelas conducts research in the lab of Joyce Besheer, PhD, professor of psychiatry and member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at UNC School of Medicine. This two-year fellowship will support research on corticolimbic circuitry in adaptive stress coping behavior and resultant alcohol consumption. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are highly comorbid, and individual differences in stress response suggest resilient and susceptible populations, which may be important for understanding this high comorbidity. Moreover, not only are women twice as likely as men to suffer from PTSD, but some people may be more likely or more resilient to adapt to stressful events. Ornelas plans to examine the neural circuits and mechanisms that drive adaptive or maladaptive coping strategies during stress and the relationship to subsequent alcohol consumption.
His research will also focus on the specific brain mechanisms that mediate gender differences in response to stress, and how men and women adapt in response to stress, responses such as alcohol consumption. By understanding the mechanisms that underlie how individuals cope with stress and alcohol use, Ornelas hopes his research will help provide more effective, gender-specific clinical prevention and treatment strategies for people. with PTSD and comorbid alcohol use.
Funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Ornelas will receive approximately $100,000 per year during his two-year fellowship. The MOSAIC K99/R00 program will provide independent NIH research support before and after this transition to help fellows launch independent and successful research careers.