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Principal Investigator & Lab Director

Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D.

Laura Cousino

Dr. Klein is an Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and Director of the Penn State Behavioral Neuroimmunomodulation Laboratory (BNIL). Her research focuses on the biobehavioral effects of stress on addictive behaviors including cigarette smoking and opioid abuse. Dr. Klein earned a M.S. (1995) and Ph.D. (1997) in Medical Psychology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD. She went on to complete a National Institute of Mental Health post-doctoral fellowship in Health Psychology at UCLA (1999) before joining the Penn State faculty in 1999. Dr. Klein examines human and animal subjects in laboratory settings using a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates neuroendocrine, immunological, behavioral (e.g., drug use, eating), and psychological variables to evaluate sex differences biobehavioral responses to stress. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD), the Office of Naval Research, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Dr. Klein's work examining the effects of adolescent nicotine exposure and stress on drug abuse earned her the 1998 Young Investigator Award from the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. Through research funded by NIDA, Dr. Klein established an animal model of oral nicotine consumption in adolescent mice that has yielded exciting results. Her lab has shown that adolescent male mice exposed to nicotine in utero have a significantly elevated risk of consuming nicotine during adolescence compared to control mice and compared to female mice, regardless of prenatal nicotine exposure. This work appears to be one of the first causal investigations designed to understand whether children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are at a greater risk of smoking during adolescence. Her research has been published in research monographs by NIDA, and in peer-reviewed journals such as Psychological Review, Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior, and Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Dr. Klein is an active member of several scientific societies including the Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco, Society of Behavioral Medicine, Society for Neuroscience, and the American Psychological Association, and she serves as a reviewer for many scientific journals, including Nicotine and Tobacco Research, Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, Addiction, and Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Klein also is a dedicated mentor. She has received departmental and college-wide teaching awards for her excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Current Graduate Students

Kim Walter, M.S.


Kim obtained a B.A in Psychology from Connecticut College in 2002 and a B.S.N from the University of Virginia in 2006. Prior to attending nursing school at the University of Virginia, Kim served as Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh, where she worked with the Department of Youth Development. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2006, Kim worked as a research assistant at the Center for Health Outcomes Research at United Biosource Corporation (UBC) in Bethesda, Maryland. While at UBC, Kim assisted with the development and psychometric evaluation of patient reported outcome measures in many therapeutic areas. She gained experience in qualitative and quantitative methodology while developing instruments that measured health-related quality of life (HRQL), symptom severity and frequency, treatment satisfaction, and caregiver burden. After one year, she was promoted to research associate and held that position until beginning graduate school at PSU in 2008. Kim is currently a 4th year doctoral candidate in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and is interested in examining the complex relationships between stress, neuroendocrine functioning, immune functioning, and health behaviors.

Alicia Revitsky, B.S.


After obtaining her B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology from Allegheny College in 2009, she immediately joined the laboratory of Dr. Klein. She is currently a 3rd year Neuroscience doctoral candidated and is studying the relationship between nicotine and body weight and food consumption, specifically on the hormones (e.g. ghrelin) and brain pathways (e.g. dopaminergic reward pathway) involved.

Current Undergraduate Students

  • Whitney Weston
  • Andrea Stroup
  • Elizabeth Canning

Current Honors Students

  • Sharmila Sandirasegarane

Current Staff

  • Nathan Jones
  • Sarah Gildea