Research Infrastructure Team

Serves as the hub for minority health and health disparities research at the Center, including basic biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and population health research. The team oversees five groups that each specialize in an area of research—biomedical methods, measurement methods, health sensor methods, intervention methods, and data analytic methods.  Each group is developing resources and services that will facilitate research at SDSU.

 


Photo of Dr. Kristen Wells

Kristen “Kristi” Wells, MPH, MPI, PhD

Co-Director, SDSU HealthLINK Center
Leader, Research Infrastructure Team
Co-Leader, Measurement Methods Group

Dr. Kristen “Kristi” Wells is a Professor of Psychology at SDSU. She is also Director of the Cancer Disparities and Cancer Communication Lab. Her graduate training was in clinical psychology and public health, followed by post-doctoral training in behavioral oncology. Her research focuses on improving the quality of healthcare delivered to underserved populations, with a specific specialty in patient navigation. Since 2006, Dr. Wells has led or contributed to five studies which have developed and evaluated patient navigation interventions to improve quality of cancer and HIV-related care. She also leads studies developing technological solutions to improve adherence to recommended cancer care and oral medications for cancer.

In addition to her leadership as a Co-Director, Dr. Wells oversees the operations of the SDSU HealthLINK Center’s Research Infrastructure Team including five specialized research groups concentrating on measurement methods, health sensor methods, intervention methods, biomedical methods, and health data analytics.

See Dr. Wells’ profile for details on publications and projects.


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Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala, PhD, MPH

Co-Director, SDSU HealthLINK Center
Co-Leader, Community Engagement Team
Co-Leader, Intervention Methods Group

Dr. Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala is a Professor in the School of Public Health at SDSU, Director of the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, Director of the SDSU HealthLINK endowment, and Co-Director of the SDSU HealthLINK Center. Her combination of masters’ degrees in experimental psychology and health promotion and doctoral degree in clinical health psychology reflect her interest in identifying effective solutions for reducing health disparities. Dr. Ayala’s research focuses on the development and adaptation of family and system-based interventions to prevent and control obesity, diabetes and asthma among Latinos and other underserved populations. She co-leads the Administrative and Community Engagement Teams and coordinates transdisciplinary intervention efforts under the Research Infrastructure Team of the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Ayala’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Julie Pickrel, MPH

Center Research Manager

Ms. Julie Pickrel has over 20 years of experience of research administrative leadership with the SDSU Research Foundation. For most of those years, she worked as a Project Manager with the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, providing research leadership on several large NIH-and CDC-funded studies. Her expertise includes overseeing scientific activities (e.g., intervention development and implementation; measurement development and implementation; recruitment of hard-to-reach populations), training and supervising large teams, ensuring compliance with human subjects regulations, and management of budgets. For one study, Ms. Pickrel established and maintained an Advisory Board of highly qualified experts in both health and food retail industry.

Ms. Pickrel is a graduate of Pomona College, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Science, Technology, and Society. She received a Master of Public Health from SDSU, with a focus in health promotion. Ms. Pickrel is currently the Center Research Manager at the SDSU HealthLINK Center, a title she has held since 2018.

See Ms. Pickrel’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Elva Arredondo, PhD

Co-Leader, Intervention Methods Group

Dr. Elva Arredondo is a Professor in the School of Public Health at SDSU. She is the Co-Leader of the Intervention Methods Group. Dr. Arredondo’s research is in the area of health disparities. Her research focuses on the development, implementation and evaluation of community-based interventions that improve the health of ethnic and sexual minorities and socially/economically disadvantaged communities.  She has served as an investigator in studies that promoted healthy eating and physical activity behaviors in youth and in adult populations and in studies that identified effective and sustainable methods to prevent and control cancer in Latino/Hispanic populations. She is a Co-Investigator for research projects at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Arredondo’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Karla Armenta, MPH

Coordinator, Intervention Methods Group and Community Engagement Team

Ms. Karla Armenta is the Coordinator of the Intervention Methods Group and Community Engagement Team at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public health promotion from Purdue University and a Master of Public Health from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She facilitates new project development for academic-community partnerships, manages community-engaged research and practice activities, and assists in the development, translation, and adaptation of evidence-based health interventions.

See Ms. Armenta’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Petrona Gregorio-Pascual, MA, PhD Candidate

Doctoral Research Assistant, Intervention Methods Group

Mrs. Petrona Gregorio-Pascual is a Doctoral Research Assistant at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. She has a master’s degree in experimental psychology from California State University San Marcos and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health (Heath Behavior Track), in the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program. As a Doctoral Research Assistant, Mrs. Gregorio-Pascual is working with Dr. Guadalupe X. Ayala on analyzing multiple research studies on healthy eating and beverage consumption. Her research interest has focused on studying children and adults’ sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Mrs. Gregorio-Pascual also acquiring fidelity coding skills by working on an NIDDK-funded study led by Dr. Brian Saelens at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The research project is called SHIFT and Dr. Ayala is a subcontract PI on this study.

 

See Mrs. Gregorio-Pascual’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Photo of Dr. Scott Kelley

Scott Kelley, PhD

Leader, Biomedical Methods Group

Dr. Scott Kelley is a Professor in the Department of Biology at SDSU. His research focuses on the study of environmental microbiology. He has extensive experience analyzing microbial and viral diversity, including that of humans as part of the Human Microbiome Project, a research initiative to improve understanding of the microbial flora involved in human health and disease. Among other subjects, Dr. Kelley has investigated the role of the gut microbiome in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the relationship between heart disease and periodontal disease and whether saliva bacterial profiles may be useful as biomarkers for pancreatic cancer. For the SDSU HealthLINK Center, Dr. Kelley leads biomedical research methods, bioinformatics data analysis, and provides direction to the Center’s biomedical laboratory.

See Dr. Kelley’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Photo of Dr. Kim Finley

Kim Finley, PhD

Co-Investigator, Biomedical Methods Group

Dr. Kim Finley is an Associate Research Professor at the Shiley BioScience Center at SDSU. She received her Doctor of Philosophy from the Department of Medicine at UCSD and was a PostDoctoral Researcher and Staff Scientist in the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Her work has largely focused on the molecular-genetic mechanisms that regulate neural development, function and age-related degeneration. At SDSU, she leads a team of scientists who investigate the aspects of a key clearance pathway called autophagy. Autophagy is essential for the removal of damaged cellular material and pathological protein aggregates. Her work has shown that autophagic function is critical for longevity and the long-term function of the nervous system. Pathway defects are closely associated with accelerated aging and common degenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Recently, Dr. Finley’s work has expanded beyond Drosophila genetics, and has taken an integrative approach to identify factors that slow the progressive decline of the nervous system. Ongoing studies involve transcriptomic profiling following dietary manipulations, drug discovery and an examination of the dynamic physiological processes involved with severe and mild repetitive traumatic brain injury. These studies have largely centered on the ability that autophagy, stress response and inflammatory pathways have on neural aging and traumatic brain injury outcomes.  Dr. Finley also serves as a Co-Investigator on the Research Infrastructure Team at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Finley’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Noe Crespo, MPH, PhD

Co-Investigator, Biomedical Methods Group

Dr. Noe Crespo is an Associate Professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science in the School of Public Health at SDSU. His research focuses on reducing health disparities and prevention of chronic disease through large scale community-based interventions that promote physical fitness, physical activity and healthy eating in schools and recreation centers. He also studies the health consequences of sedentary behaviors and conducts behavioral interventions to increase physical activity in the workplace. He is a Co-Investigator at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

 

See Dr. Crespo’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Claudia Carrizosa, MD, MPH

Research Associate, Biomedical Methods Group

Dr. Claudia Carrizosa is a Research Associate at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. She has years of experience in research studies among medically underserved and populations affected by chronic disease and cancer. Her foreign degree in medicine and Master of Public Health with a health promotion emphasis has shaped her interest in interventions that offer more than clinical services to prevent and control disease. She has a strong background in qualitative data collection and as a research interventionist. Dr. Carrizosa’s research areas of interest focus on Hispanic and under-served communities in topics that include, but are not limited to, cancer disparities, patient navigation, sexual minority health, and healthy aging. She is part of the Research Infrastructure Team at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Carrizosa’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Shih-Fan “Sam” Lin, DrPH

Co-Leader, Measurement Methods Group
Co-Leader, Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Shih-Fan “Sam” Lin co-leads the Center’s Measurement Methods Group and Health Data Analytics Group at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. He is also a Research Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at SDSU. His research training has focused on social demography with an emphasis on temporal trends of racial health disparities and on various health outcomes. He has ample experience in data analysis, data management, and statistical programming. Dr. Lin works closely with investigators holding research projects and pilot projects within the SDSU HealthLINK Center to ensure methodological and data quality and integrity.

See Dr. Lin’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Photo of Dr. Jerel Calzo

Jerel Calzo, PhD, MPH

Co-Investigator, Measurement Methods Group

Dr. Jerel Calzo in an Associate Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science in the School of Public Health at SDSU. He is a developmental psychologist with postdoctoral training in social epidemiology. His research focuses on adolescent and young adult health, gender, sexual orientation, and community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches. His current research interest is on promoting health equity among gender and sexual minority populations, particularly in the areas of eating disorders and substance use. He is a Co-Investigator at the SDSU HealthLINK Center studying health behaviors through the use of ecological momentary assessment technology and CBPR.

See Dr. Calzo’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Photo of Dr. Kee Moon

Kee Moon, PhD

Co-Leader, Health Sensor Methods Group

Dr. Kee Moon is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at SDSU. His current research activities include the development of ultrasonic recharging technology for implantable medical devices as well as brain-computer-interface technology. Dr. Moon is a Co-Leader of the Research Infrastructure Team’s Health Sensor Methods Group at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. He guides researchers on the development of portable, wearable health sensor technologies that can provide real-time health monitoring. His primary research interests are in smart sensor and actuator technology.

See Dr. Moon’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Yusuf Ozturk, PhD

Co-Leader, Health Sensor Methods Group

Dr. Yusuf Ozturk is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at SDSU. His research focus is on wearable and ambient sensors, human centric sensors, medical informatics and mobile computing. He is the founding member of the Smart Health Institute. Dr. Ozturk leads the engineering and development of wireless wearable sensors for research projects and pilot projects within the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Ozturk’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Kim Phan, MS

Wireless Sensor Technology Coordinator

Ms. Kim Phan is the Wireless Sensor Technology Coordinator at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. She recently graduated from the Master of Science program in Electrical Engineering at SDSU. Ms. Phan works closely with our research teams to identify and develop hardware and software for clinically useful wireless health sensors.

 

 

 

 

See Ms. Phan’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Christopher Paolini, PhD

Co-Investigator, Sensor Methods Group and Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Christopher Paolini is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at SDSU. Dr. Paolini is the recipient of grants from the Department of Energy and NASA, and five NSF Office of CyberInfrastructure awards, most recently the current NSF CC* Storage Grant 1659169 Implementation of a Distributed, Shareable, and Parallel Storage Resource at SDSU to Facilitate High-Performance Computing for Climate Science. Dr. Paolini’s doctoral and post-doctoral research has been in the areas of combustion engineering, computational thermodynamics, and chemical kinetics. His current research interests include Internet of Things device development, machine learning, embedded systems, cloud computing, big data analytics, deep learning, software engineering, numerical chemical thermodynamics, numerical chemical kinetics, numerical geochemistry, high performance computing, scientific computing and numerical modeling, high speed (100gbps) networking, cyberinfrastructure development, and cybersecurity. The SDSU HealthLINK Center has granted Dr. Paolini a pilot research project award to design and manufacture a prototype of a wireless, wearable, low power, fall prediction and detection device for at-risk older adults. The device uses a small field-programmable gate array that executes a machine learning model to detect when the device wearer has fallen. Dr. Paolini received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in 1991, an Master of Science in Computer Science in 1998, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Computational Science in 2007, all from SDSU.

See Dr. Paolini’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Ming-Hsiang “Ming” Tsou, PhD

Co-Investigator, Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Ming-Hsiang “Ming” Tsou is a Professor in the Department of Geography at SDSU. He is also the Director of Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age. His research interests are in human dynamics, social media, big data, visualization, internet mapping, web geographic information systems (GIS), mobile GIS, cartography, and K-12 GIS education. Dr. Tsou is also a Co-Investigator in the Health Data Analytics Group at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

 

 

See Dr. Tsou’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Chii-Dean “Joey” Lin, PhD

Co-Leader, Health Data Analytics Group
Lead Biostatistician

Dr. Chii-Dean “Joey” Lin is the Associate Chair in Statistics in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at SDSU, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Language and Communicative Disorders, and the Co-Director of the Statistical Consulting Center. He is the Lead Biostatistician and Co-Leader of the Health Data Analytics Group at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. Dr. Lin provides statistical expertise for health-related research on study design, data management including management of missing data, statistical data analysis, and protocol development for research projects and pilot projects within the SDSU HealthLINK Center. His research areas include statistical computing, longitudinal data analysis, spatial-temporal statistics, mixed modeling, statistical methodologies in clinical trials, and global optimization.

See Dr. Lin’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Caroline Thompson, MPH, PhD

Co-Investigator, Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Caroline Thompson is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at SDSU School of Public Health. She specializes in cancer epidemiology and quantitative methodology and “big” data science. Dr. Thompson’s research interests include cancer screening and detection, cancer-related healthcare delivery, racial and ethnic disparities in cancer, and geospatial cancer epidemiology. She is a Co-Investigator on the Research Infrastructure Team at the SDSU HealthLINK Center, focusing on the use of electronic health records for population health research.

 

See Dr. Thompson’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Photo of Dr. Jose Castillo

Jose Castillo, PhD

Co-Investigator, Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Jose Castillo is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Director of the Computational Science Research Center (CSRC) at SDSU. He leads several initiatives of CSRC to provide computational infrastructure for the SDSU community and to bring together researchers in different disciplines who have a common interest in modern scientific computation. Dr. Castillo has an extensive experience in applied mathematics and has received numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and other various agencies and foundations. He serves as a Co-Investigator on the SDSU HealthLINK Center’s Research Infrastructure Team and responds to computational infrastructure needs at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Castillo’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Photo of Dr. Melody Schiaffino

Melody K. Schiaffino, PhD, MPH

Co-Investigator, Health Data Analytics Group and Measurement Methods Group

Dr. Melody K. Schiaffino is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Health Management and Policy at SDSU. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Health Services Research at the University of Florida and Master of Public Health in Epidemiology with a focus on HPV and cancer epidemiology from the University of South Florida. Her research areas of interest are the study of how health care is delivered to diverse older adults with cancer using massive administrative and medical record data, disparities in the organization and delivery of care, and systems science to address population and spatial context at multiple levels. At the SDSU HealthLINK Center, Dr. Schiaffino serves as a Co-Investigator of the Health Data Analytics Group.

See Dr. Schiaffino’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Photo of Dr.  Joseph Gibbons

 Joseph Gibbons, PhD

Co-Investigator, Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Joseph Gibbons is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Associate Director of the Center for Human Dynamic in the Mobile Age in the College of Arts and Letters at SDSU. He is an urban sociologist interested in how neighborhoods affect the wellbeing of their residents. His research interests have centered on how strong ties of community found in segregated neighborhoods moderate health disparities for racial/ethnic minorities. He is a Co-Investigator at the SDSU HealthLINK Center providing expertise on sociologic and spatial methods in demography research.

 

See Dr. Gibbon’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Hee-Jin Jun, PhD

Co-Investigator, Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Hee-Jin Jun is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health at SDSU, an affiliated Investigator at the Institute of Behavior and Community Health, and a participating scholar of the SDSU Center for Research on Sexuality and Sexual Health. She is a social and behavioral epidemiologist with expertise in population health, health behavior, disparities in health based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including weight-related outcomes, substance use, child and adolescent health and sexual health. She also has expertise in methods for designing and analyzing large representative health surveys and intervention studies. She provides statistical support to the Research Infrastructure Team investigators at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Jun’s profile for details on publications and projects


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Photo of Dr. Atsushi Nara

Atsushi Nara, PhD

Co-Investigator, Health Data Analytics Group

Dr. Atsushi Nara is a Co-Investigator and a member of the Health Data Analytics Group at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. He is an Associate Professor of Geography at SDSU and the Associate Director of the Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age. He has expertise in geographic information systems, data mining, and spatial statistics to research on health disparities in geographic space. He provides guidance and leads efforts on spatiotemporal database management and geospatial data analytics, and geovisualization methods. Dr. Nara also contributes to the development of an open data center and health science knowledge repository for the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Nara’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Lance Norita

Server and Database Administrator

Mr. Lance Norita is a Server and Database Administrator at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. He has a Bachelor of Science from San Diego State University. Mr. Norita oversees the Center’s physical and virtual server infrastructure including implementation, security, and management of the Center’s data analytic infrastructure and associated databases for the Center’s programs and affiliated projects.

 

 

 

See Mr. Norita’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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Yaritza Benitez, MPH Candidate

Research Assistant, Health Data Analytics Group

In her role, Ms. Yaritza Benitez assists in different tasks of data management. These would include but are not limited to the development of data management protocols, data entry, data verification and data cleaning as a Research Assistant at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. She graduated from SDSU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is now working towards her master’s degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology at SDSU School of Public Health. Her research interests lie in understanding and reducing health disparities among minorities. She has volunteered and worked at the Research Foundation since 2014 in different projects at the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, and at South Bay Latino Research Center.

See Ms. Benitez’s profile for details on publications and projects.


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