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Office of the DBNBR Director

What We Do:

The Division's primary goal is to support basic biomedical and behavioral research to address the public health problem of drug abuse and addiction. DBNBR accomplishes this goal by developing and supporting an extramural research program that provides an understanding of:

  • The neurobiological and behavioral mechanisms of drugs of abuse and their consequences
  • the role of drug abuse in accelerating the progression and transmission of HIV/AIDS

The Division also supports training to increase the number of highly trained research investigators in the drug abuse field. The research supported by DBNBR provides important fundamental information to prevent and/or intervene in drug abuse and addiction. 

Staff Research Interests:

  • Joni Rutter, Ph.D. - Acting Director
    (301) 435-0298
    Dr. Rutter is a program director for human and population genetics, pharmacogenetics, bioinformatics, and molecular epidemiology, as they relate to vulnerabilities to drug abuse and addiction. Other interests include functional genomics in model organisms, technology development, and ethical, legal, and social issues in genetics. Dr. Rutter is actively involved in oversight and the continued development of genomics research at NIDA, which includes the NIDA Center for Genetic Studiesa repository of clinical data and biologic samples for drug abuse research in genetics. Activities: Trans-NIH Group on Issues Related to Human Specimen Resource; NIDA Neuroscience Consortium; NIDA Genetics Consortium Steering Committee; NIDA Genetics Workgroup; Trans-NIH Genomics Resources Working Group, and she is an ex officio member of the DHHS Secretarys Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society.
  • Paul Schnur, Ph.D. - Deputy Director for Program
    (301) 443-1887
    Dr. Schnur is an experimental psychologist with interests in the neuropsychopharmacology of drug abuse. He has conducted both animal and human research and has published in the areas of classical conditioning, selective attention, memory, and behavioral pharmacology. He brings interests in cognitive psychology to NIDA and is responsible for new initiatives that integrate cognitive, behavioral and social cognitive neuroscience approaches to understanding drug abuse. Dr. Schnur earned his Ph.D. at Indiana University (1970) and completed NIDA supported post-doctoral training at Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (1989-91). Dr. Schnur spent fourteen years at the University of Southern Colorado where he investigated biphasic effects of opiates on locomotor activity, conditioned tolerance/withdrawal and conditioned dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Prior to joining NIDA, Dr. Schnur served as Chairperson of the Department of Psychology at Indiana University South Bend (1993-2000). He joined NIDA as a Program Officer during the summer of 2000.
  • Karen Skinner, Ph.D. - Deputy Director for Science and Technology Development
    (301) 443-1887
    Dr. Karen Skinner joined the NIH in 1989 as a program officer in Developmental Neurogenetics at the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke. She moved to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1991, and currently serves as the Deputy Director for Science and Technology Development in the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior Research at NIDA. Prior to joining the NIH, Dr. Skinner served as a Special Assistant for Science Policy to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. During 1984-1986 she served as a Congressional Fellow in the office of Senator John Kerry (MA), concentrating on science, health and technology issues associated with the Senator's assignment on the Labor and Human Resources Committee. Dr. Skinner received her B.S. in Chemistry with Special Honors from George Washington University and her doctorate in chemistry from Yale University, where her research involved studying steric influences upon reaction pathways, including calculations of electrostatic and van der Waals forces among atoms in a known crystal structure. Dr. Skinner also holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard University where her studies included decision theory, statistics, information management systems and macro- and microeconomics. Throughout her career, Dr. Skinner has devoted herself to scientific communication. Prior to joining the government, she served as an Assistant Editor at Chemical and Engineering News magazine, authoring early reports on the emerging field of biotechnology. More recently, she has focused on digital communications, and has taught vector based digital animation using FLASH at NIH's Center for Information Technology and as a volunteer at a local high school. Recently she served as a visiting scientist at the National Center for Biomedical Information assigned to the electronic publishing project, PubMedCentral.
  • Beth Grigson Babecki - Training Co-Coordinator
    (301) 435-0899
    Ms. Babecki serves as the Deputy Training Coordinator for the Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research (DBNBR) at NIDA. As a Program Official, she mentors applicants and grantees for both institutional (T32 grants) and individual training grants (F30, F31 and F32 grants). She also provides information on small grants (R03) and Career Development (K-type) grants. Ms. Babecki counsels applicants, reviews draft applications, and assists applicants in the interpretation of, and response to, scientific reviews. Principal Investigators are urged to contact her and discuss concerns, funding or other issues as they arise. Grantees are assisted in preparing special requests and any necessary actions are facilitated though internal review by the NIDA Research Training Committee. Fellows nearing completion of their fellowships are mentored on submission of a NIDA research grant and by providing advice using all available human and electronic resources. Ms. Babecki also coordinates activities related to drug testing in hair and other body fluids and tissues.
  • Albert Avila, Ph.D. - Training Co-Coordinator
    (301) 443-1887
    Dr. Albert Avila is a pharmacologist with research interests in the area of neuroimmunology, psychopharmacology, stress, and HIV. Dr. Avila received his doctorate from Georgetown University studying the effects of cocaine, withdrawal, and stress on the immune response. Following postdoctoral training in pain neurotransmission at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, he became an Intramural Training Director, directing programs for pre- and post-doctoral trainees at the NIH. Immediately prior to join NIDA, Dr. Avila was a Extramural Training Officer for NIDCR directing research training and career development programs. Within the Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research he is a Program Official responsible for managing and directing fellowship and research training programs, as well as research grants in the area of neuroimmunology, psychopharmacology, HIV and stress as they relate to drug abuse.
  • Mark Caulder, M.S., M.P.H. - Health Program Specialist
    (301) 443-1887
    Mr. Caulder is a health program specialist for human Population and Applied Genetics in DBNBR's Office of the Director. His interests include human genetics, epigenetics, pharmacogenetics, and gene environment interactions as they relate to vulnerabilities to and consequences of drug abuse and addiction. Mr. Caulder provides support to the Associate Director for Population and Applied Genetics on multiple projects. Mr. Caulder actively participates and provides logistical support for the NIDA Genetics Coordinating Committee, the NIH Epigenomics Roadmap Initiative, and the NIH Genes, Environment and Health Initiative. Mr. Caulder holds a B.S. in Biology from the University of South Carolina, an M.S. in Human Genetics from the University of Michigan, and an M.P.H. from the University of Michigan in epidemiology specializing in public health genetics.
  • Christie Espinoza - Program Analyst
    (301) 435-0914
    As a Program Analyst for the Division, Ms. Espinoza is responsible for collecting, organizing and analyzing data about the Division's portfolio of grants to prepare reports for the Division such as the Operations Planning Report, the Division's Annual Report, Government Performance and Review Act reports, and others related to funding and program activities. Ms. Espinoza also develops and coordinates arrangements for workshops, meetings, and seminars sponsored by the Division. Ms. Espinoza is also the NIDA representative to the NIH Tracking and Inclusion Committee. She is responsible for ensuring that sex/gender and race/ethnicity requirements are adhered to by all NIDA grantees, contractors and intramural researchers. Ms. Espinoza advises program officers and principal investigators about the NIH requirements for human subjects research.
  • Myriam Selmane - Program Analyst
    (301) 443-1887
    As a Program Analyst for the Division, Ms. Selmane is responsible for developing the administrative and technical procedures for the Division. She assists in the processing and referral of grant applications for the Division. She creates a quarterly database of the DBNBR grants to be reviewed within all the three cycles of the review process. She is also responsible for keeping track of the schedules, meetings, appointments of the Director and Deputy Director; setting up meetings and arranging travel. She is responsible for tracking the Division's travel budget and purchasing office supplies. She is the liaison for the Director and Deputy Director in their absence and maintains contact with them. She coordinates activities among the various Branches of DBNBR and the Director's office. Ms. Selmane also develops and coordinates arrangements for workshops, meetings, and seminars sponsored by the Division. She keeps track of the official correspondence between DBNBR with the office of the Director of NIDA. Ms. Selmane is a District of Columbia Notary Public.
  • Joyce Williams - Program Analyst
    Joyce Williams joined the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1988. She serves as a program analyst in the Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Office of the Director. In this position she is responsible for tracking and analyzing the Divisions operating budget. She represents the division in a liaison capacity with the Management Services and Analysis Branch staff. Ms. Williams provides support to the Director and Deputy Director on special projects. She is the NIDA representative for the IntraMall activities.
  • Charles Sharp - Special Volunteer
    (301) 443-1887
    Dr. Sharp has and will continue to provide major input into NIDA's program dealing with "Inhalant Abuse". This includes the preclinical research area, which focuses on toxicity and basic mechanisms of gas (e.g. nitrous oxide, fluorocarbons) and solvent (e.g. thinner, organic nitrites) and mixtures (e.g. glues, spray paints) as well as clinical problems and patterns of inhalant abuse.

This page was last updated December 2011

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