Student Spotlight Profile- Laura Zambrano-Vazquez

  1. Who are you? Tell us a little bit about your background and your current position (e.g., Which year of graduate school? Whose lab?). My name is Laura Zambrano-Vazquez and I am a postdoctoral fellow at the VISN 17 Center of Excellence. I recently received my clinical psychology Ph.D. from the University of Arizona where I had the honor of having Dr. John J.B. Allen as my adviser.
  2. What are your research interests? Why does this interest you? Like many others in SPR, I am particularly interested in the intersection and integration of neuroscience and clinical psychology. I feel passionate about using different psychophysiological tools in the investigation of etiology and treatment of emotional processing and anxiety related psychopathology. My research thus far involves using event-related brain potentials, particularly the error-related negativity (ERN), to investigate differences in response-monitoring systems across different emotional states. Additionally, we investigate how these same neural mechanisms may be altered by pathological levels of emotion in anxiety disorders. However, linking neural and physiological systems to specific anxiety disorders, as currently defined in the DSM, represents a serious challenge since these disorders involve heterogeneous symptoms within each disorder, and extensive overlap of symptoms across disorders.  Overall, my program of research, consistent with the NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria initiative, is aimed at developing a comprehensive approach to understanding the etiology of anxiety and its related psychopathology to arrive at a genuine disambiguation of different disorders that share a range of symptoms. Furthermore, I am interested in how these transdiagnostic constructs can differentially impact treatment outcomes across different comorbid disorders. Thus as part of my postdoctoral research I am looking at brain-based treatments such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and neurofeedback for treatment of PTSD.
  3. What are you most looking forward to in the coming year regarding your work? In this coming year I will be getting ready to submit my first grant and start to branch out my research to include more treatment based approaches. Through my postdoctoral fellowship I have the unique opportunity to continue using psychophysiological tools for the investigation of treatment of anxiety related psychopathology such as using TMS and Neurofeedback for PTSD and TBI treatment. I am also looking forward to publishing some of the work that has come out of my dissertation and other ongoing projects. Of course I am really looking forward to SPR in Vienna!
  4. What are your plans for the next stage in your career? As I am halfway through my first year of fellowship, I am focusing on continuing to learn as much as I can from techniques that are novel to me, while at the same time publishing and submitting several grants. Overall, I want to further my training as a well-rounded scientist so that I can be a competitive applicant when entering the job market next year.
  5. What are your long term goals related to psychophysiological research? Other long term goals? I hope my research will contribute to the understanding of the underlying nature of anxiety and it related psychopathology. Particularly I am hoping that I can use such improved understanding to contribute to the development of more targeted treatments or improving some of the existing treatments.
  6. When did you become a member of SPR? I became an SPR member during my last year of college when I was able to attend my first SPR conference in Austin, Texas (2008). I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend every conference since then.
  7. What has your experience been like as a member of SPR? SPR has had such a positive influence in my academic career, starting with the first conference I attended. As an undergraduate, I looked at the bulletin board during the conference and saw announcements of different labs that were recruiting graduate students. I remember thinking with excitement about all the opportunities that existed in the field. Since this early experience, SPR has not ceased to provide me with great networking opportunities. I have met and talked to brilliant scientists who listened with genuine interest about my own research. From these conversations numerous ideas to improve my own research have emerged. Every year around September/October, I know I can count on seeing good friends, hear about some excellent research and get my post-SPR motivation boost.
  8. Have you been involved with any SPR committees? If so, what was your experience like with these? I first became involved in the Women in Science Luncheon Committee, which I love and encourage everyone to attend each year. I have also actively participated in the Committee to Promote Student Interests (CPSI) and served as a liaison/representative of CPSI to the Education and Diversity Committees. Being a part of these committee has helped me gain a better understanding of how SPR works as a society, get to work more closely with wonderful researchers, and have a voice within the society to represent student interests. Overall, my involvement in SPR committees has given me a greater appreciation for SPR.
  9. What is your best memory of SPR? That is a tough question because I have really good memories from every SPR. For instance, I loved exploring the streets of Florence with all my friends and colleagues after the student social in 2013. However, one of the most memorable symposia for me was the Presidential Address in 2009. It was my first year of graduate school and I was in Berlin, Germany listening to this amazing man talk about his life and research. I just remember sitting there with a mix of excitement and a sense of pride to think that it was my advisor John Allen rocking that talk. A great way to start graduate school I think.