2022-2023 Incubator Cohort
Pictured above from left to right: Emily Urban-Wojcik (Core Statistician), Meghan Seewald (Core Manager), Donovan Maust (Core Faculty Lead), Briana Mezuk (Core Faculty Lead), Aurora Le (Incubator Participant), Wei Zhao (Incubator Participant), Mike Smith (Incubator Participant), Peter Larson (Incubator Participant)

In the fall of 2022, the Data & Design Core welcomed its inaugural cohort comprised of 4 researchers from across the University of Michigan, who proposed impactful research projects with the potential to advance our understanding of depression and related illnesses. The cohort gathered in person in November 2022 (pictured above) to share their projects, offer feedback to one another and create connections with scholars that they may not have met otherwise. 

2022-2023 Cohort

Aurora Le, Ph.D. M.P.H., C.S.P., C.P.H.
John G. Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health

Project Title: Employment factors associated with opioid misuse and substance use disorder using the National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Dr. Aurora Le is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Dr. Le’s work concentrates on highly infectious disease mitigation and management. 

Dr. Le’s incubator project will analyze the relationship between the dual COVID-19 and opioid epidemics, employment, and mental health. The project hopes to better understand the efficacy or harm of having drug-free workplace policies on opioid use disorder and opioid misuse.

Michael Smith, Pharm.D, B.C.P.S.
Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy and Clinical Pharmacist, Michigan Medicine

Project Title: Relationship of Depression, Centralized Pain & Medication Burden in Older Adults using DataDirect

Dr. Michael Smith is a Clinical Associate Professor for Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy and is a Clinical Pharmacist in Pain and Palliative Care. His research focuses on the safe and effective use of pain management medication in centralized pain and the appropriate use of medications in vulnerable populations, particularly older adults.

Dr. Smith’s incubator project will investigate the less studied association between depression and centralized pain and the medication burden on the older adult population. The project intends to quantify the medication burden of these diagnoses to understand the prevalence of these comorbid diagnoses and improve medication management for these conditions. 

Wei Zhao, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research

Project Title: The direct and indirect genetic effects on depression using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics

Dr. Wei Zhao is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research’s Survey Research Center. Dr. Zhao’s research investigates genomics, aging and retirement, and population health.

Dr. Zhao’s incubator project will examine the heritability of depression and the direct and indirect genetic effects as an underlying risk factor for developing major depressive disorder. The project will investigate how genetic direct, genetic indirect, and non-genetic environmental factors impact depression.

Peter Larson, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research and Adjunct Lecturer in Epidemiology, School of Public Health

Project Title: Climate change and environmental determinants of mental health-related Emergency Department visits

Dr. Peter Larson is a post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research’s Survey Research Center and an adjunct lecturer in Epidemiology at the School of Public Health. His research interests include spatial and geographic information system analysis, environmental impact, infectious disease, and health disparities.

Dr. Larson’s incubator project will explore the impact of climate change on mental health incidents requiring hospital-level intervention in older adults. The project will examine the correlation between the effects of climate change and increased risk for acute mental health emergencies.