NIDA welcomes Benda L. Curtis, PhD who joined the IRP on January 7th as a new Investigator (Tenure-Track) within the Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics Research Branch (CPTRB). Dr. Curtis will lead a cutting-edge clinical research program as the Principal Investigator of the Technology and Translational Research Unit. Dr. Curtis earned both a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois and subsequently obtained her doctorate in communication from the University of Pennsylvania, where she most recently held the appointment of Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Addictions at the Perelman School of Medicine.
Dr. Curtis’ research focus is translational, leveraging social media and big data methodology to form the development, evaluation, and implementation of technology-based tools that address substance use and related conditions such as HIV/AIDS. Dr. Curtis employs this methodology to facilitate the flow of scientific discovery to practical application allowing her to not only reach under-served populations, but to design health monitoring and behavioral change interventions that are user-centered, inclusive, and evidence-based. Dr. Curtis already has multiple exciting studies in the works and plans to expand her research focus once getting her research program up and running at NIDA. Upcoming projects include creating a real-time relapse prevention smartphone application, developing social media-language algorithms to identify adolescents at risk for alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, and utilizing social media surveillance to assess excessive alcohol consumption to predict opioid use, overdose rates, and treatment need from social media language that is geo-mapped. The long-term goal of this work is to disseminate low-cost intervention tailored to participants’ use patterns and social media behavior, thereby maximizing engagement and behavior change.
Congratulations to Dr. Curtis and a warm welcome from the IRP!