RARC Trainee, Manny Alvarez, Receives NIDA Diversity Scholars Travel Award

Congratulations to Manny Alvarez, graduate student in Neuroscience and a NIDA F31-diversity fellow at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, for earning a NIDA Diversity Scholars Travel Award.

Manny, recognized alongside another awardee, was showcased in the NIDA Office of Research Training, Diversity, and Disparities’ Monthly Newsletter. The feature included an interview discussing his experience at the 2023 Society for Neuroscience conference.

NIDA Diversity Travel Award Interview:
Please share a little about yourself and your upbringing (if you’re comfortable doing so), your educational background, research focus, and career goal(s).

Manny: Before moving to New Jersey, I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida to Puerto Rican parents. My childhood was filled with rice and beans for every meal, scorching summers, and corralling my 3 younger siblings. While I didn’t grow up in the best of circumstances, my parents always did their best and pushed my siblings and me to get our education. 

To further my studies, in high school, I applied and was awarded a Gates Millenium Scholarship, a prestigious award aimed to increase representation of minority students across academic disciplines.  With this award, I went on to complete my bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in biology and neuroscience at Rowan University in 2019, where I was fortunate to begin my research training on day one of my freshman year in the Schizophrenia Spectrum Lab, under the direction of Dr. Thomas Dinzeo. 

I’m currently a PhD candidate in Neuroscience and a NIDA F31-diversity fellow at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and member of the Addiction & Decision Neuroscience lab, under the supervision of Dr. Anna Konova. My dissertation research focuses on the cognitive and neural mechanisms that give rise to maladaptive health and addictive behavior. Specifically, I am interested in how individuals with substance use disorder incorporate better-than-expected relative to worse-than-expected information about the potential consequences of their drug use into their beliefs. Additionally, I am interested whether putative biases in this belief updating process are domain-specific and maintained over time in daily life, and what neural processes allow for the emergence of these biases. 

I ultimately aspire to be an independent translational addiction neuroscientist investigating cognitive biases that give rise to addictive behaviors. As an addiction neuroscientist, I aim to leverage interdisciplinary tools to test the behavioral and neural processes, and real-world contextual factors, that underlie and perpetuate risky drug use, to inform biological and just-in-time interventions.

Links to the newsletter and interview:

Office of Research Training, Diversity, and Disparities Newsletter, April 2024

NIDA Diversity Scholars Travel Awards