IRTA - PostDoctoral Fellow, Real-world Assessment, Prediction, and Treatment Unit
ContactBiomedical Research Center
251 Bayview Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21224
Ph.D – Social Work – University of Louisville – Kentucky
M.S.W. - University of Kentucky
B.S. Social Work, minors History, Psychology - University of Kentucky
Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies, Kirsten worked in a clinical capacity with people enrolled in community-based treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). Although that work prepared her for clinical practice, it also led her to change course and pursue a career in science because she concluded that this would enable her to be of service in a more enduring manner.
As she worked on her Ph.D., Kirsten was a research associate at the University of Kentucky’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, helping collect and analyze data from corrections-involved adults while also volunteering in treatment centers. Sustained, close clinical contact with people addicted to alcohol, opioids, and stimulants helped give Kirsten the passion and experiential knowledge that would sustain her during her development as a junior investigator. During this time, Kirsten studied stigma in the context of SUDs. She also investigated use of novel psychoactive substances and kratom among polydrug-using adults. Kirsten’s initial work on kratom led to conference presentations, international collaborations, and several publications.
Kirsten joined the Real-world Assessment, Prediction, and Treatment (RAPT) unit in August 2019 under the mentorship of Dr. David Epstein. Her current work falls mainly into three areas.
First, in keeping with her social-science roots, Kirsten is investigating use and misuse of multiple drugs can interact with social conditions in ways that confer either risk (e.g., for people who are socially marginalized) or protection (e.g., for people with reliable access to nondrug sources of both hedonic and eudaimonic social wellbeing).
Second, Kirsten continues to study how adults in the US use kratom. She has already embarked on studies of kratom use as it occurs in real-world settings, using social-media analyses and large-scale surveys; she is preparing to extend this work to include ecological momentary assessment. She plans to use these findings to inform a systematic line of laboratory studies ranging from observational work to randomized behavioral-pharmacology experiments.
Third, and relatedly, Kirsten will continue to invest in understanding the therapeutic potential of compounds that act as partial biased agonists at mu receptors, including specific kratom alkaloids. To this end, Kirsten serves as the Lead Associate Investigator on a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial examining the withdrawal-suppression efficacy of a biased agonist in humans with opioid-use disorder. Concurrent to her role in this clinical trial, Kirsten is developing protocols for her study of kratom, which she hopes to continue as she transitions into a tenure-track professorial position at a university.