Bridging Connections in Addiction Research

Request for Applications: Bridging Connections in Addiction Research (BCAR) Pilot Grants

BCAR is committed to promoting addiction research by providing pilot grant opportunities among faculty and trainees at the University of Pittsburgh to advance addiction research. BCAR will award funds for successful pilot projects that include Pitt addiction researchers working across disciplines to support the generation of pilot data to develop interdisciplinary proposals for NIH project funding. The spring 2022 review cycle is now open to pilot grant applications from Pitt faculty.

Applications for pilot awards up to $100K are due 1/31/2022. Application instructions are available here.


Our vision is to develop and nurture a multidisciplinary addiction research community at the University of Pittsburgh, where we can explore collaborative opportunities in research, funding, and trainee development.


The mission of Bridging Connections in Addiction Research (BCAR) is to promote addiction research by providing networking and collaborative opportunities among faculty and trainees at the University of Pittsburgh. BCAR advances collaboration through regular meetings, where attendees present current research and have opportunities for structured and unstructured networking.


Upcoming Events

Friday, January 21st, 12-1 pm EST:
"Improving Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnancy"
Marian Jarlenski, PhD, MPH - Dr. Jarlenski is the Vice Chair for Practice and Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management in the Graduate School of Public Health. Dr. Jarlenski serves as Associate Director of the Center for Women's Health Research and Innovation, and is PI on two R01s focusing on (1) using real-world data to understand access to and quality of OUD treatment and pregnancy outcomes and (2) an implementation-effectiveness trial of a provider-level intervention to improve OUD treatment in pregnancy and subsequent outcomes. Dr. Jarlenski also provides research support for the Pennsylvania Medicaid program, where she currently co-leads a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded project to study interventions to advance racial equity in pregnancy and birth outcomes.
Elizabeth Krans, MD, MSc - Dr. Krans is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences and is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Addiction Medicine. She is Director of Perinatal Addiction Medicine at Magee-Women’s Hospital where she provides comprehensive substance use treatment services for women with substance use disorders. She also leads a NIH-funded research program focused on improving health care delivery for women with substance use disorders and their children. 
If you know of other local, addiction-related seminars or events to share with the broader Pitt community, please contact Jason Colditz (

Previous Events

Friday, October 15, 2021, 12-1 pm EST

 "Challenges in Managing and Preventing Pain (CHAMPP) Clinical Research Center"

Hailey Bulls, PhD – Dr. Bulls is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, clinical psychologist, and the Associate Director of the CHAllenges in Managing and Preventing Pain (CHAMPP) Clinical Research Center at Pitt. Broadly, her research focuses on improving pain management and quality of life in patients with cancer and survivors, with an emphasis on mitigating the impact of opioid stigma and promoting safe, effective medication use.

Charles Jonassaint, PhD, MHS – Dr. Jonassaint is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Social Work, and Clinical and Translational Science and a clinical psychologist. His research focuses on implementation of behavioral intervention technologies (e.g., mHealth apps for stress and pain management) in low-resource settings and underserved populations.

Friday, September 17, 2021, 12-1 pm EST

 "Cross-Generational Transmission of Risk for Alcohol and Other Substance Use Disorders"

Shirley Hill, PhD – Dr. Hill is Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Human Genetics and serves on the BCAR Steering Committee. Her research has been dedicated to understanding the neural and genetic underpinnings of addiction across the lifespan. She developed the first family study of densely affected families that now spans data collection on three generations with plans for extension into a fourth generation. The research program has provided numerous insights into the characteristics of individuals with high risk for developing addiction due to familial loading for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Friday, May 21, 2021, 12-1 pm EST

Alexander Star, PhD – Dr. Star is a Professor of Chemistry, Bioengineering, and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh. The primary focus of his Sensor Technology Advanced Research (STAR) laboratory is the development of chemical sensing applications of carbon nanomaterials.

Jessica Merlin, MD, PhD, MBA – Dr. Merlin is an Associate Professor of Medicine and the Director of the CHAllenges in Managing and Preventing Pain (CHAMPP) Clinical Research Center at Pitt. Her research includes work to understand the relationship between cannabis use and opioid prescribing in individuals with HIV, and front-line cannabis dispensary staff attitudes and practices.

Friday, April 16, 2021, 12-1 pm EST

"Examination of Acute Alcohol Effects"

Sarah Pedersen, PhD – Dr. Pedersen is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and co-director of the Youth and Family Research Program. A primary aim of her research focuses on integrating individual and environmental factors to understand health inequities in alcohol problems.

Michael Sayette, PhD – Dr. Sayette is Director of the Alcohol and Smoking Research Laboratory and Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry. His alcohol research focuses on the effects of alcohol on cognitive, emotional, and social processes in social drinkers.

Friday, March 19, 2021, 12-1 PM EST

"Nicotine Exposure and Reinforcement in Adolescence: Understanding Behaviors in Rates and Humans"

Alan Sved, PhD - Dr. Sved is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, having served as Chair of the department and co-director of the Center for Neuroscience until stepping down from this position this past year. His research program has focused on two separate areas, the neurobiology of the reinforcing properties of nicotine and on the central neural control of the autonomic nervous system, primarily as it relates to the cardiovascular system.

Jaime Sidani, PhD, CHES - Dr. Sidani is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, a Core Faculty member of the Center for Research on Behavioral Health, Media, and Technology, and an Affiliate Scholar at PittCyber. Her research centers on the intersection of media and health, with a specific focus on emerging tobacco products. Dr. Sidani is currently a K12 Scholar in PittCATS as well as an American Heart Association Career Development Awardee.

Friday, January 29, 2021, 12-1 PM EST

"Improving Cue Exposure Therapy for Addiction: New Human and Animal Methods to Examine and Attenuate Drug-Cue Conditioning"

Cynthia Conklin, PhD - Dr. Conklin is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry whose research focuses on underlying mechanisms of drug conditioning and development of novel methods to reduce cue reactivity and relapse in smokers.

Mary Torregrossa, PhD  - Dr. Torregrossa is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and her research focuses on how learning and memory mechanisms contribute to substance use disorders and how adolescent age and sex influence risk. She is also a lead investigator within the NIDA-funded (P50) Center for Adolescent Reward, Rhythms and Sleep (CARRS).

February 27, 2020

On Thursday, February 27, 2020, Bridging Connections in Addiction Research was held at the University of Pittsburgh to connect addiction researchers. Above, 17 presenters participated in the Data Blitz, during which they had just 3 minutes to present 3 slides.

The afternoon began with Dr. Jane Liebschutz, Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Pitt, introducing the NIDA Clinical Trials Network.

Our keynote speaker was Dr. Roger Weiss: Chief of Substance Use Disorders Division of McLean Hospital, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the PI of the New England Consortium of NIDA CTN. He presented "Evolution of the Field and Lessons Learned Over 40 Years of Substance Use Disorder Research."

We were so pleased to be present in this room full of addiction researchers—making connections, forming community, beginning collaborations. Thanks to all attendees for spending the time to get to know one another and bridge connections!

For more information on this gathering, check out all of the social media coverage of the event: #PittAddiction.