Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Preventive Medicine

Lab Personnel

Brian Hitsman, PhD
Principal Investigator


Please see Dr. Hitsman’s faculty profile here

Anna Veluz-Wilkins, MA
Clinical Research Associate and Lab Coordinator


Anna Veluz-Wilkins earned her B.A. in Psychology from Tufts University and her M.A.  in Clinical Psychology from the University of Illinois Chicago’s PhD program in clinical psychology.  She has worked on several NIH- and CDC-funded clinical trials.  Currently, she directs the two active clinical trials in Dr. Hitsman’s Lab in addition to assisting with pilot trials and grant writing. Her independent research interests have typically centered on the intersection of substance use and HIV risk behaviors, particularly among GLBT populations, and more specifically, understanding the motivation for reducing drug-use linked sexual risk.  More recently, her interests have expanded to exploring what motivates and perpetuates smoking behavior and its subsequent impact on health.

Nancy Jao, MS
Graduate Student


Nancy is a graduate student in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, with a clinical and research emphasis in behavioral medicine. Nancy completed her B.S. in Psychology and Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). During college, she conducted research on PTSD with Dr. Howard Berenbaum at UIUC as well as on cognition and perception with Dr. Steve Franconeri at Northwestern University. Prior to graduate school, she also worked full time as a Research Specialist in Dr. Kenneth Perkins's Nicotine Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center studying nicotine dependence and smoking cessation. Nancy joined the Hitsman lab in the fall of 2013, and currently serves as a research assistant and therapist on the study examining behavioral activation for smoking cessation for smokers with major depressive disorder. Her research interests include health psychology, nicotine dependence, biological mechanisms, and chronic disease.

Marcia M. Tan, PhD, MPH
Postdoctoral Fellow

Marcia Tan

Marcia M. Tan, PhD, MPH is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the NCI-funded T32 Behavioral and Psychosocial Research Training Program in Cancer Prevention and Control in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Her professional goal is to help eliminate health disparities among minority and underserved populations through reducing risk factors of chronic disease. Specifically, her research interests include smoking cessation and weight management among low-income and racial/ethnic minority populations, and using advanced statistical analyses to understand how biopsychosocial factors influence cessation and weight outcomes. Dr. Tan received a BS in Psychology from the University of Alabama in 2007, and an MPH in Epidemiology from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in 2010. She earned her PhD in Clinical Health Psychology at the University of Miami, completing a predoctoral clinical internship in health psychology at Miami VA Hospital in 2016.

Matthew Olonoff
Graduate Student

Matt Olonoff

Matthew is a graduate student in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, with an emphasis in behavioral medicine. He completed his BA in Economics at Cornell University and then went on to complete his MA in Clinical Psychology at Columbia University.  Prior to attending Northwestern, he worked as a Research Assistant for Katherine Shear, MD, at The Center for Complicated Grief, and more recently as a Research Coordinator at the Substance Treatment and Research Services (STARS) at Columbia University Medical Center. As Research Coordinator, Matthew supervised trials on behavioral mechanisms and pharmacological interventions for various substance use disorders. His research interests include addressing comorbidities with substance use and treatment interventions to address health disparities for tobacco smokers.

Edgardo Ramirez
Research Assistant

Edgardo Ramirez headshot

Edgardo earned his B.S. in Psychology at the University of Iowa where he assisted with a biobehavioral ovarian cancer study and a HPV vaccine uptake intervention for Latinos. He is a former post-baccalaureate CRTA fellow of the National Cancer Institute where he worked with Drs. Erin Kent and Sandra Mitchell in the Outcomes Research Branch on various population-based research initiatives concerning patient experiences with cancer care and the inclusion of patient-reported symptomatic toxicities in clinical trials. Edgardo joined the Hitsman Lab as a Research Assistant on the Choose to Change study, where he is excited for the opportunity to work with underrepresented individuals and learn more about tobacco use disparities and interventions. Edgardo ultimately plans to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology and has interests in health disparities, chronic illness management, sociocultural processes, and a special interest in Latino health. 

Celine Reyes
Research Study Coordinator

Celine Reyes Hitsman Lab

Celine is the Research Study Coordinator on the Behavioral Activation and Varenicline for Smoking Cessation Among Depressed Smokers study. She attended New York University to pursue her two passions: music and science. She earned her BA in Music while also on the pre-medicine track, and then she earned her MA in Medical Science at Loyola University Chicago. After working as the Research Assistant for the study, she discovered a new passion for research. Celine is a strong believer in early intervention, health education, and preventive medicine, and plans on attending graduate school for a Public Health degree with a concentration in Nutrition to explore the role of diet in chronic illnesses. 

Madeline Newman
Research Assistant

Maddy is the Research Assistant on the Behavioral Activation and Varenicline for Smoking Cessation Among Depressed Smokers. She earned a B.S. in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was also a pre-medicine student. At Madison, Maddy studied risk factors and biological correlates of schizophrenia under Dr. Diane Gooding. She also worked as an intern in the Hitsman Lab in the summer of 2016, and is so excited to be back in Chicago and at the lab full-time. Maddy is interested in studying the interplay between mental and physical well-being as well as how lifestyle factors affect physical health, and ultimately plans to attend medical school where she will delve further into these topics.

Sarah Boulton
Clinical Research Coordinator

Sarah is the clinical research therapist for the Behavioral Activation and Varenicline for Smoking Cessation Among Depressed Smokers study. Sarah earned her BA in English and Sociology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Masters of Social Work at University of Illinois at Chicago. She has worked in a variety of community health settings addressing numerous health disparities, including housing and homelessness, maternal child health and HIV prevention and treatment. Sarah’s primary clinical interests include chronic disease management, health promotion and addressing social determinants of health.    

Tania Gordon
Research Assistant

Tania earned a B.S. in Family and Child Studies at Northern Illinois University, with some graduate coursework in Applied Family Sciences and Sociology.  She has worked in behavioral health for a number of years.  Prior to this role, Tania worked as a clinical Intake Coordinator for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern Medical Group, where she also served in a dual role as coordinator for the Electroconvulsive Therapy program.  Tania is interested in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, increasing access for mental health services, and holistic approaches to mental health.

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