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Science Policy Branch (SPB)

What We Do:

The Science Policy Branch provides scientific leadership and advice on a wide range of drug abuse research and policy issues:

  • Synthesizes and disseminates information about NIDA-supported science and programmatic activities
  • Identifies, analyzes, and prepares briefing materials on behalf of the Institute
  • Provides timely responses to inquiries from Congress, other public agencies, professional organizations, and the public
  • Develops and provides scientific review of NIDA publications and multimedia initiatives
  • Monitors and coordinates NIDA’s response to broad policy issues related to drug use and addiction
  • Coordinates NIDA’s strategic planning, performance reporting, program evaluation, and OMB clearance for NIDA-sponsored data collections

Staff Biographies:

  • Maureen Boyle, Ph.D., Branch Chief, SPB
    Maureen Boyle, Ph.D. is the Chief of the Science Policy Branch in NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications. Prior to joining NIDA Dr. Boyle was a Lead Public Health Advisor for Health Information Technology (HIT) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) where she coordinated efforts to promote the use of technology to improve the delivery of substance abuse treatment. Prior to joining SAMHSA Dr. Boyle was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow serving at the National Institutes of Health, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). In this role she led multiple initiatives to improve data collection and clinical quality measurement within behavioral health. Dr. Boyle received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis where she studied the genetic and molecular basis of depression and anxiety-related behaviors. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Allen Institute for Brain Science where she investigated neuropathological, molecular, and genetic abnormalities in Autistic children and animal models of autism.
  • Ruben Baler, Ph.D., Health Scientist Administrator
    Dr. Ruben Baler joined the Science Policy Branch in NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications in October 2004 as a Health Science Administrator. His early publications focused on gene promoter architecture and gene expression in the brain’s clock. At NIDA, he writes and lectures about the neurobiology of drug abuse and addiction for a range of audiences. Dr. Baler has gathered critical insight from diverse disciplines, which he combines to advance NIDA’s scientific mission as it intersects with cellular and molecular biology, genetics, immunology, bioinformatics, neuroscience, and neuroethics. Dr. Baler’s many contributions to other dissemination efforts include scientific writing (English and Spanish), teaching, public speaking to lay audiences, and fielding interview requests for a variety of print, radio, and broadcast media outlets. Prior to coming to NIDA, Dr. Baler worked at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he conducted basic research on the molecular basis of circadian gene expression in vertebrates. He received his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Biology from the University of Miami in 1993 and completed his postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, specializing in Molecular Chronobiology.
  • Jessica Cotto, M.P.H., Health Science Policy Analyst
    Ms. Cotto joined the Science Policy Branch in 2009 and serves as a Health Science Policy Analyst.  Her primary responsibilities include analyzing data and synthesizing information from disparate sources to identify trends related to substance use and contributing to a variety of science-based materials to inform the public about drug use, abuse and addiction. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from San Diego State University and a Master’s of Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from George Washington University. Prior to NIDA, Ms. Cotto served as a Clinical Research Associate for The Children's National Medical Center, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Cancer Institute.

  • Genevieve deAlmeida-Morris, Ph.D., Health Research Evaluator
    Dr. deAlmeida-Morris joined the Science Policy Branch in the Office of Science Policy and Communications in 2004 as a Health Science Administrator (Health Research Evaluator).  Her primary responsibilities include evaluation, Office of Management and Budget clearance, and Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) coordination. Prior to coming to NIDA, Dr. deAlmeida-Morris worked at the National Institute of Nursing Research as Acting Chief of the Office of Science Policy and Communications and as Program Analyst for Evaluation; at the Veterans Health Administration as Health Science Specialist; and at the Fogarty International Center writing evaluation proposals. She conducts successful program evaluations of NIDA’s research and dissemination programs and of trans-NIH programs for which NIDA has the lead. She serves on trans-NIH Workgroups and Evaluation Committees for GPRA, research training, and for the evaluation of trans-NIH programs such as the NIH Common Fund.
  • Emily Einstein, Ph.D., Health Science Policy Analyst
    Dr. Einstein joined the Science Policy Branch, Office of Science Policy and Communications as Health Science Policy Analyst in January 2015. On the SPB team, Dr. Einstein develops materials to communicate the science of drugs of abuse and substance use disorders to members of the public, the scientific community, and the government, with an emphasis on prescription opioids and heroin. Prior to joining OSPC, Dr. Einstein was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of Autism Research Coordination at NIMH. Dr. Einstein received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yale University, where her research was focused on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of opioid reward.

  • Juanita Nelson, Program Assistant
    Ms. Nelson joined the Science Policy Branch (SPB) in NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications (OSPC) in June 1999 as a Program Assistant, providing substantive support and assistance to the SPB Branch Chief and staff, and other senior OSPC staff. She manages various administrative duties, such as processing and submitting procurement requisitions, training nominations, travel authorizations, and payment vouchers, and coordinating meetings for the branch. Prior to joining NIDA, Ms. Nelson served as a Printing Specialist at the Department of Defense for 8 years. There she accepted work directly from customers; prepared the technical contract procurement or in-house specifications required to get the jobs printed; managed the production, automatic distribution, and stocking of sponsored publications; and handled procurement of miscellaneous printing materials for headquarters personnel, field activities, and other Naval and Department of Defense activities.
  • Michele L. Rankin, Ph.D., Deputy Branch Chief
    Dr. Rankin joined the Office of Science Policy and Communications in December 2011 as a Health Scientist Administrator in the Science Policy Branch, where she helps to advance NIDA’s scientific mission by developing science-based educational documents and other materials and reports that inform the scientific community and public about drug use, abuse, and addiction. She also serves as the office contact for HIV and HCV materials, aids in the analysis of the NIDA research portfolio, and manages official reporting of the Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) database. She received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University and conducted her post-doctoral research in the intramural program at the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), where she focused on the molecular mechanisms that govern dopamine D1 receptor signaling. In 2010 she joined the NINDS Division of Extramural Research as a Health Program Specialist in the Neurodegeneration Cluster, where she helped manage the research portfolio for Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and others. Dr. Rankin is also an Adjunct Associate Professor for UMUC and has taught and guest lectured for the NIH graduate school offered through the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES).
  • Cathrine Sasek, Ph.D., Health Scientist Administrator
    Dr. Sasek has been a Health Scientist Administrator in the Science Policy Branch, Office of Science Policy and Communications, since 1990. Shortly after coming to NIDA, Dr. Sasek initiated NIDA's Science Education Program, which she currently coordinates. Her other duties include serving as co-chair of NIDA’s Neuroscience Consortium and as NIDA’s Animal Welfare Coordinator. Dr. Sasek received her doctoral degree in Anatomy with an emphasis in Neuroscience from the University of Minnesota in 1985, followed by 2 years at Harvard Medical School as a postdoctoral research fellow before joining the Pharmacology Department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. 
  • Eric Wargo Ph.D., Science Writer
    Dr. Wargo currently serves as a Science Writer in the Science Policy Branch (SPB) of NIDA’s Office of Science Policy and Communications. Before coming to NIH in 2012, he was Editorial Director at the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, DC. There he managed two top-ranked journals: Current Directions in Psychological Science and Psychological Science in the Public Interest. In SPB, Dr. Wargo writes and edits a variety of materials for a range of audiences, including fact sheets, blog posts, and other web materials; treatment guides for clinicians; and responses to congressional inquiries and other special projects. He received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Emory University in 2000.

This page was last updated May 2016