The Department of Psychiatry Welcomes Three New Research Faculty Members

Pitt Psychiatry extends a warm welcome to three new research faculty members:

Candice Biernesser, PhD, LCSW (Assistant Professor of Psychiatry)

Dr. Biernesser earned her PhD from the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, then joined the Pitt Department of Psychiatry as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded Innovative Methods in Pathogenesis and Child Treatment (IMPACT) T32 under the mentorship of David Brent, MD (Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Epidemiology, and Clinical and Translational Science, and Endowed Chair in Suicide Studies) and Shaun Eack, PhD (James and Noel Browne Endowed Chair and Professor of Social Work, and Professor of Psychiatry).

Dr. Biernesser’ s research focuses on leveraging technology-based interventions to reduce suicide risk and mental health impacts of negative social media experiences among adolescents underserved within traditional mental health services, particularly sexual and gender minority youth and youth of color. She currently leads an early career development award (K23) from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which focuses on the development and testing of a chatbot-based suicide prevention intervention to improve adolescents' capacity to adaptively cope following cyberbullying events. Dr. Biernesser is also developing digital suicide prevention interventions through an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Grant and a R34 project as part the recently renewed ETUDES Center (P50) Center grant (Principal investigator: Dr. Brent).

Thomas Karikari, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychiatry)

Dr. Karikari received his PhD in life sciences, with a specialization in neuroscience, from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. Following a visiting postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, he completed his postdoctoral training in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Dr. Karikari served as assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg until joining the Pitt Department of Psychiatry faculty. 

Dr. Karikari’s research aims to further understand the molecular and biochemical basis of pathological brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s patients, and to apply this knowledge to develop new biofluid-based diagnostic tools for clinical use. As a postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Karikari developed the most widely used and reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s disease to date, which reliably quantifies blood p-tau across all age groups to enable diagnosis and prognosis. In the Department of Psychiatry, he serves as director of the Mass Spectrometry Biomarker Laboratory and of the Single Molecule Array (SIMOA) Biomarker Program. He collaborates with multiple Pitt Psychiatry investigators in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research and leads the Fluid Biomarker Core of the recently renewed National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s Program Project Grant (Multiple principal investigators: Ann Cohen, PhD; Howard Aizenstein, MD, PhD; Victor Villemagne, MD; Milos Ikonomovic, MD).

Sierra Stringfield, PhD (Research Instructor in Psychiatry) 

Dr. Stringfield earned her PhD in neuroscience from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She then joined the Pitt Department of Psychiatry as a postdoctoral scholar in the National Institute of Mental Health-funded Training in Transformative Discovery in Psychiatry T32 program under the mentorship of Mary Torregrossa, PhD (Associate Professor of Psychiatry). 

Dr. Stringfield’s research is centered around understanding the behavioral consequences of cellular and circuit-level changes induced by drug exposure. During her training, she received a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) F32 grant to investigate the effects of adolescent cannabinoid exposure on cortical development. Continuing this research, Dr. Stringfield is currently principal investigator of a NIDA-funded K99 award focused on the molecular, neurotransmitter, and circuit-level changes that are induced by Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) self-administration. She has published her research on adolescent cannabis use in journals including Neuropharmacology, the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, and Behavioral Brain Research.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Biernesser, Dr. Karikari, and Dr. Stringfield!