Postdoctoral Success Stories

Cathy Lau-Barraco, PhD

Cathy Lau-Barraco, PhD

RIA Postdoctoral Associate 2006-2009

Current position

Associate Professor
Dept. of Psychology
Old Dominion University

Academic Profile

Dr. Lau-Barroco’s research program focuses on nonstudent emerging adult drinkers, with her current grant focusing on the development of a tailored brief alcohol intervention for nonstudents. Her research in this area also focuses on the unique risk factors and drinking patterns of this understudied subpopulation of users, with the ultimate goal of reducing educational disparities in alcohol-related consequences.  Other aspects of her research program focus on the etiology of substance use, including individual-level (e.g., cognitions), social (e.g., social network), and environmental (e.g., context) determinants among emerging adults. 


“The postdoc at RIA was the ideal transition for me. It allowed the opportunity for me to acquire additional specialized training in addictions research and mentorship before heading into a tenure-track position and having to be “on my own.” RIA was instrumental in helping me to learn to trust my ideas, to bring those ideas to fruition, and to create my own path as an independent investigator.

The well-rounded training experience at RIA provided the support and skills I needed to cultivate and refine my program of research. An aspect of my current research, which focuses on nonstudent emerging adult drinkers, began during my time at RIA (inspired by a talk given to us by Dr. Helene Raskin White). I was fortunate to have received internal seed funding to collect pilot data that later served to support my K01 application to the NIAAA. This K award was ultimately funded and I am extremely grateful to have had this funding through the past five years. One of the many strengths of the T32 at RIA is learning the basics of NIH funding and developing strong grant applications. We had the benefit of learning from some of the best in the field.

In discussing my training, I would be remiss in not highlighting the many outstanding and generous mentors at RIA. As my primary mentor, Dr. Lorraine Collins not only provided her research expertise but was instrumental in helping me to develop confidence as a researcher.  She was and continues to be one of my biggest supporters. Dr. Gerard Connors was co-training director during my time and despite how busy he was, he always found time to have a conversation and share his wisdom. Aside from formal mentors, I had the opportunity to learn from a number of other mentors during my time at RIA. Drs. Ken Leonard, Maria Testa, Paul Stasiewicz, and Jennifer Read all invested their time, shared their expertise, and allowed me to develop projects with their data. The professional and personal relationships I built during my time at RIA were one of the greatest rewards of my experience there.”