The UCLA Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) Congratulates the Awardees of the “Impact of Discrimination on the Human Immune System” Seed Grant Program

May 7, 2021


The UCLA Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) under the direction of Drs. Michael R. Irwin, Director, and Steve Cole, Associate Director, announced a seed grant initiative for research on the Impact of Discrimination on the Human Immune System. The RFA called to analyze the psycho-neuro-immunologic pathways through which prejudice and discrimination contribute to disparities in physical and mental health as a function of race and ethnicity, sex and sexual identity, age, ability, and other aspects of social identity, with funding of up to $20,000 per year for two years. Of the many applications received, 3 outstanding proposals are awarded in 2021:

"The Influence of Racial Discrimination on Gene Expression of Inflammatory and Cellular Aging Pathways." This study examines racial disparities in disease risk by identifying specific types of genes that are activated in association with racial discrimination, and tests the potential of psychological and social factors in reducing the effects of racial discrimination on cellular aging.


Karen D. Lincoln, PhD, MSW, MA, FGSA is Associate Professor in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.


Judith E. Carroll, PhD is Associate Professor in Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science at UCLA, and also a faculty in the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology where she serves as Director of the Aging Biology and Behavior Laboratory. 


"An examination of the psychological and immunological correlates of discrimination in a community-based sample of Black Americans."  This study examines correlations between brain inflammation and discrimination in a community sample of Black Americans to better understand the effects of discrimination on mental health.


Yvonne Yang, MD, PhD is Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA and Acting Psychosis Section Chief and Director of the Psychosis Clinic at the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.



Derek Novacek, PhD is  Assistant Project Scientist in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA.



"A conserved transcriptional response to intersectional discrimination." This study examines a diverse sample of sexual minority men from the mSTUDY cohort in order to assess the impact of intersectional—or combined forms of—discrimination on the conserved transcriptional response to adversity, an immune gene expression pattern that may be a useful biomarker outcome for psychosocial interventions addressing adverse social experiences.


Michael Li, PhD, MPH, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles



Pamina Gorbach, DrPH, MHS, is Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, at University of California, Los Angeles



Laura Bogart, PhD, MS, is Senior Behavioral Scientist at the RAND Corporation


Sarah MacCarthy, ScD, MSc, is Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation