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    THINK LAB

    Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences

    Wayne State University School of Medicine

  • About

    The Trauma History Investigation of Neurodevelopment in Kids (THINK) lab studies the impact of stress and trauma during childhood on brain development in children and adolescents, as well as, neurodevelopmental mechanisms leading to anxiety and other "fear-based" disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders are extremely common and affect about one in three people at some point during their lifetime. Fear-based disorders also begin during childhood and adolescence, so our research takes a developmental approach.

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    Research Themes

    • The impact of environmental adversity on brain and behavioral development in children and adolescents. This includes childhood trauma —such as interpersonal forms of trauma (e.g., violence, peer victimization) and medical-related trauma (e.g., cancer diagnosis, treatments), and also environmental toxicants (e.g., particulate matter air pollution, lead).
    • The role of the endocannabinoid system in modulating frontolimbic brain development and risk of fear-based disorders.
    • Behavioral (e.g. exercise, meditation) or pharmacological interventions (e.g., cannabidiol, CBD) that target the endocannabinoid system for the treatment and/or prevention of fear-based disorders in youth.
    • The impact of perinatal cannabis exposure and adolescent cannabis use on neurodevelopmental and mental health outcomes.
    • Effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on the brain and mental health outcomes.
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    Techniques

    To study brain development in children and adolescents, our research uses several neuroscientific techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), structural MRI, electroencephalography (EEG), blood and saliva biomarkers, genetic variants, skin conductance responses (SCRs), and behavior.

  • Ongoing Research Studies

    Volunteer for paid research opportunities

    Participate in paid research studies!

    Click below to complete a form to be contacted about research opportunities!

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    BRAINS Study: Recruiting now!

    Research opportunity for 14-17 yr-olds and one parent/guardian: Help Wayne State researchers learn about the effects of exercise on brain health in youth!

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    Warrior C.A.R.E.: Recruiting now!

    The overall goal of this research program is to understand how cannabis affects mental health in United States armed forces veterans.

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    PATH Study: Recruiting now!

    The Peer Adjustment and Teen Health (PATH) study is being conducted in partnership with Dr. Hannah Schacter's lab (WSU Department of Psychology). This study examines the impact of social experiences on health of teens, ages 10-17 years.

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    Canna Mama Study: Recruiting now!

    Survey for pregnant people living in the Detroit area about their perceptions and use of cannabidiol (CBD) and other substances during pregnancy.

  • Recent Publications

    For a list of the THINK lab's published research, click here

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    Endocannabinoids and stress-related neurpsychiatric disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of basal concentrations and response to acute psychosocial stress 

    Leah Gowatch, Julia Evanski, Samantha Ely, Clara Zundel, Amanpreet Bhogal, Carmen Carpenter, MacKenna Shampine, Emilie O'Mara, Raegan Mazurka, Jeanne Barcelona, Leah Mayo, and Hilary Marusak

    Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2024)

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    Genetic variation in endocannabinoid signaling: Anxiety, depression, and threat- and reward-related brain funcitoning during the transition into adolescence

    Shreya Desai, Clara Zundel, Julia Evanski, Leah Gowatch, Amanpreet Bhogal, Samantha Ely, Carmen Carpenter, MacKenna Shampine, Emilie O'Mara, Christine Rabinak, Hilary Marusak

    Behavioural Brain Research (2024)

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    The impact of caregivers on COVID-19 fears, behaviors, and perceived impact in a majority Black American sample of children

    Amanpreet Bhogal, Autumm Heeter, Leah Gowatch, Tanja Jovanovic, Hilary A Marusak

    Mental Health Science (2024)

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    Effects of two cannabidiol oil products on self-reported stress relief: A quasi-experimental study

    Mohammed Faraj, Tyler Dautrich, Leslie Lundahl, Hilary Marusak

    Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids (2023)

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    The first "hit" to the endocannabinoid system? Associations between prenatal cannabis exposure and frontolimbic white matter pathways in children

    Julia Evanski, Clara Zundel, Samantha Baglot, Shreya Desai, Leah Gowatch, Samantha Ely, Nareen Sadik, Leslie Lundahl, Matthew Hill, Hilary Marusak

    Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science (2023)

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    Attention, attention! Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with altered attention-related brain function

    Samantha Ely, Clara Zundel, Leah Gowatch, Julia Evanski, Amanpreet Bhogal, Carmen Carpenter, MacKenna Shampine, Hilary Marusak

    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience (2023)

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    Smaller hippocampal volume is associated with reduced posttraumatic stress symptoms in children with cancer and survivors following a brief novel martial arts-based intervention

    Julia Evanski, Allesandra Iadiapolo, Samantha L. Ely, Clara G. Zundel, Leah C. Gowatch, Amanpreet Bhogal, Zazai Owens, Cindy Cohen, Elimelech Goldberg, Martin H. Bluth, Jeffrey Taub, Felicity W.K. Harper, Christine A. Rabinak, and Hilary A. Marusak

    Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology (2023)

  • LAB MEMBERS

    Meet the minds of the THINK Lab

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    Principal Investigator

    (she/her/hers)

    Dr. Marusak is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University School of Medicine. She also has a secondary faculty appointment Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development and the Department of Pharmacology, is a Scientific Member of the Karmanos Cancer Institute and the CURES Center, and a Science Advisor for the nonprofit organization Kids Kicking Cancer.

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    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    (she/her/hers)

    Dr. Zundel earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Wayne State University, then went on to complete a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience at Boston University School of Medicine. Her PhD work focused on the effects of neurotoxicant exposures on aging within the Gulf War veteran population, using neuropsychological assessment and structural brain imaging techniques. Dr. Zundel’s research interests include the impact of environmental stressors, particularly urban air pollution, on neurodevelopment and mental health in children and adolescents.

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    Research Coordinator & Lab Manager

    (she/her/hers)

    Leah graduated from the University of Michigan in 2022, earning a B.A. with a double major in Psychology and History. She is interested in examining how adverse childhood experiences impact brain and behavioral development. Leah plans to apply to Clinical Psychology PhD programs for a Fall 2024 start. Outside of the lab, Leah enjoys playing with her kitten, powerlifting, and watching Marvel movies.

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    Neuroscience Ph.D. Student

    (she/her/hers)

    Sam attended Albion College where she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, concentrating her studies in neuroscience. She is currently a second-year PhD student in the Translational Neuroscience Program at Wayne State University. Her broad research interests include investigating the neurodevelopmental mechanisms of anxiety- and stress-based disorders. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys painting, photography, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

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    Research Assistant & Social Media Director

    (she/her/hers)

    Aman earned her B.S. in Psychology in 2019 from Wayne State University. Her recent work at the lab has focused on the impact of perceived discrimination regarding sexual orientation on mental health and neurodevelopmental (e.g., brain structure) outcomes. Additionally, Aman has been interested in bridging the communication of research to the lay audience with her creative work in film.

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    Research Technologist

    (she/her/hers)

    Reem is a Computer Science graduate from Wayne State University as of May 2022. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Data Science and Business Analytics. Reem's interests lie in the field of neuroimaging data analytics.

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    Research Assistant

    (she/her/hers)

    Carmen earned her B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Criminal Justice in May 2023 from Wayne State University. She plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys coloring, candle making, hiking, and spending time with her bunny.

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    MacKenna Shampine

    Research Assistant

    (she/her/hers)

    MacKenna recently graduated from Hope College in May 2023 with a B.A. in Psychology. Her research interests include post-traumatic therapeutic interventions, resilience, and heart rate variability. MacKenna plans to pursue her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology to work clinically and in academic settings. In her free time, she enjoys reading, coffee, and paddle boarding.

     

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    Research Assistant (with Dr. Hannah Schacter)

    (she/her/hers)

    Jennifer is an alumnus of Wayne State University with her Master's degree in Basic Medical Sciences, preceded by her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Central Michigan University. Her main research interest lies in better understanding the biological and environmental factors that puts children at risk for development of psychiatric disorders and utilizing neuroimaging techniques to evaluate structural and functional brain changes associated with psychiatric disorders.

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    Research Volunteer

    (she/her/hers)

    Shelley is currently an undergraduate student at Wayne State University majoring in Public Health and minoring in Neuroscience. She is currently studying for the MCAT and her plans are to apply to medical school and specialize in Pediatric Oncology. Shelley has been a research assistant in Dr. Marusak's lab for over 4 years and has worked on several projects and co-authored 2 publications. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her son and cat.

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    Student Research Assistant, Richard Barber Fellow

    (she/her/hers)

    Mariya is currently an undergraduate student at Wayne State University majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Psychology. She loves to learn about various fields of neuroscience, specifically developmental, cognitive and behavioral. Mariya is also interested in health psychology which ties in with her current research about the effects of exercise, meditation, and stretching on anxiety in youth.

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    Research Volunteer, Richard Barber Fellow

    (she/her/hers)

    Sarah is currently a senior undergraduate student at WSU and in her last semester of her bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports Science. Additionally, she will begin graduate school in the fall to pursue her Master’s degree. She also has an Associate degree in Business and plans on earning 500-hour yoga certification next year. She loves learning and working out. When she is not hitting the books, she is in the gym, doing yoga, or doing research on health and fitness. She also really loves being outdoors. Her favorite pastime is fishing, but she enjoys anything that involves camping, hiking, or being in or by water.

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    Research Volunteer

    (he/him/his)

    Jovan is currently a Medical Student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine with an interest in intervention development and translational research. He has a background in mental health research and cognitive development, and is hoping to build and add to this experience while a part of the THINK lab. He hopes to take this experience and leverage it as a clinician in the future developing interventions that can address existing gaps in healthcare.

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    Shravya Chanamolu

    Research Volunteer

    (she/her/hers)

    Shravya Chanamolu is currently a medical student at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine with an interest in pediatric psychology. She has prior experience with mental health outreach and clinical pediatrics, and is hoping to build upon that while contributing to the THINK Lab.

     

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    Alex Jakubiec

    Research Volunteer

    (he/him/his) 

    Alex is an undergraduate student at Wayne State University who is working towards a Neuroscience major, a French major, and a Biochemistry minor. In the future, he would like to attend medical school to become a physician and an educator. His interests include neuroscience, chemistry, music, writing, and languages.

     

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    Natalia Shakouri

    Research Volunteer

    (she/her/hers)  

    Natalia is a junior at Wayne State University, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry and Biology. She is interested in studying developmental psychology, and the impacts of stress and drug usage on embryonic development. Additionally, she loves acquiring new skills such as painting, crocheting, and playing the piano.

     

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    Sneha Bhargava

    Research Volunteer

    (she/her/hers)  

    Sneha is currently a second-year medical student at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She received a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in Psychobiology. She is interested in pursuing a career in pediatrics and/or psychiatry. For fun she likes to try new restaurants and outdoor activities.

     

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    Jess Corkins

    Research Volunteer

    (she/her/hers)

    Jess is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Wayne State University. She is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Neuroscience. She is specifically interested in neuropsychology and the relation of brain and behavior. With plans to pursue a PhD program in the future, Jess is very excited to gain experience with research at the THINK lab. In her free time, she loves playing with her cat, making music, and being outdoors.

     

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    Emily Crisan

    Research Volunteer

    (she/her/hers)

    Emily is a fourth year undergraduate student at Wayne State University. She is majoring in Honors Neuroscience and minoring in Business Administration. Her research interests include pediatric and developmental neuroscience and she currently volunteers in recruitment and data collection. She is applying to medical school and hopes to work in a pediatric specialty.

     

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    Tamanna Pandita

    Research Volunteer

    (she/her/hers)

    Tamanna is a second year undergraduate student at Wayne State. She is majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry. She is planning on going to medical school and pursue her career as a surgeon. Tamanna is super excited to gain research experience through the THINK Lab. In her free time, she loves to dance and go out with her friends.

     

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    Join the lab!

    The THINK lab takes PhD students through the Translational Neuroscience Program and the Pharmacology Program. Email Dr. Marusak if interested in a PhD or postdoctoral position.

     

    We have openings througout the year for volunteer research assistant positions. Click here to apply!

  • Alumni

    • Doug Nefcy, medical student at WSU
    • Reva Bakkal, undergraduate student at WSU
    • Esma Alysofi, undergraduate student at WSU
    • Ahmad Almaat, undergraduate student at WSU; now a medical student at WSU
    • Camryn Kowalski, undergraduate student at WSU
    • Takai Jones, undergraduate student at Xavier University of Louisiana
    • Aneesh Hehr, medical student at WSU
    • Micala Cagle, undergraduate student at WSU
    • Julia Evanski, Research Coordinator; Now a PhD Neuroscience student at the University of Michigan
    • Autumm Heeter, undergraduate and post-bacc student at WSU; Now a medical student at Central Michigan University
    • Mohammed Faraj, MD student at WSU; Now a resident (Emergency Medicine) at Beaumont Trenton/Dearborn
    • Shreya Desai, undergraduate student at WSU; Now an MD student at Oakland University
    • Zazai Owens, post-bacc student at WSU; Now an MPH student at Harvard University
    • Sarah Haque, undergraduate student at WSU
    • Evelyn Odunayo-Ojo, undergraduate student at WSU
    • Myles Jennings, post-bacc student at WSU
    • Rima Maroki, BUILD scholar at WSU
    • Nina Lipanski, undergraduate student at UCSB
    • Savanah Rayyan, now pursuing a graduate program and full-time employment
    • Austin Morales, Master's of Science in Biomedical Engineering at WSU; Now abroad
    • Breanna Borg, Master of Public Health
    • Lauren Lowes, DO student at Michigan State University
    • Daed Daher, undergraduate student at WSU
    • Violet Zhou, post-bacc volunter; Now a Research Assistant at University of Michigan
    • Pelli Mechnikov, undergraduate student at MSU; Now a Research Assistant at Michigan State University
    • Saurav Singh, undergraduate student at WSU; Now a JD student at WSU

  • Affiliated Groups

    Collaborators & community partners

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    Science Policy Network-Detroit

    Dr. Marusak is a faculty advisor

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    BrainSTEM podcast

    Hosted by Dr. Marusak and produced by Amanpreet and Manmeet Bhogal

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    Kids Kicking Cancer

    International nonprofit organization

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    Drug Lab Detroit

    Drs. Leslie Lundahl, Mark Greenwald, Eric Woodcock, and Dave Ledgerwood

     

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    TNP2 Lab

    PI: Christine Rabinak, Ph.D.

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    Detroit Trauma Project

    PI: Tanja Jovanovic, Ph.D.

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    MR Research Facility

    Wayne State Core Facility

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    Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

    Division Chief: Jeffrey Taub, M.D., F.A.A.P.

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    Behavioral and Field Research Core

    Scientific Director: Felicity Harper, Ph.D.

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    Adolescent Relationships in Context Lab

    PI: Hannah Schacter, Ph.D.

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    Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery Program

    Medical Director: Aimee Luat, M.D.

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    Wayne Pediatrics

    Chief Medical Officer: Christopher Youngman, M.D.

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    Center for Health & Community Impact

    Asst. Professor of Community Health: Jeanne Barcelona, Ph.D.

  • BEYOND SCIENCE

    The THINK team in the lab and in the community!

    If you are interested in having us visit your classroom, school, or other group, please complete this form.

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    Science advocacy

    2023

    SciPol-Detroit's second annual visit to Capitol Hill!

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    Summer Camp visits

    2022

    THINK lab member Leah Gowatch brought the brains to Crowell Recreation Center over the summer.

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    Capitol Hill

    2022

    Three THINK lab members visit Capitol Hill with Science Policy Network-Detroit to advocate for federal science funding and science-based policies!

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    School visits

    2022

    THINK lab members visited the Melvindale Medical Club to talk to high school students about the brain.

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    Brain Day

    2022

    THINK lab members volunteered at Brain Day at the Michigan Science Center.

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    Community events

    2021

    THINK lab members help pass out resources and gun locks at the 11th precinct in Detroit

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    Washington, D.C.

    2020

    Dr. Marusak advocating for federal research funding for neuroscience on behalf of the ACNP and SFN

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    School visits

    2019

    In partnership with Kids Kicking Cancer

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    MRI

    2019

    Dr. Maruask high-fiving a child who completed one of our neuroimaging studies

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    Celebration of Life

    2019

    For pediatric cancer patients and survivors

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    Therapeutic Techniques for the 21st Century: Pediatric Psychosocial & Palliative Care

    2019

    Dr. Marusak discussing the impact of stress and trauma on the brain and the benefit of martial-arts based meditative techniques

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    Celebration of Life

    2017

    For pediatric cancer patients and survivors

  • Resources

    We have compiled a list of resources for families living in the Detroit area, including healthcare, employment, support groups, and much more. Click the below button to access.

  • Sign Up For Our Newsletter!

    Click here to view previous newsletters.

  • Contact Us!

    You're awesome. Let's talk.

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    Phone

    313.577.1993

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    Email

    thinklab@wayne.edu

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    Location

    Tolan Park Medical Building 3901 Chrysler Service Drive, Suite 2B
    Detroit, MI 48201

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    X/Instagram

    @wsuthinklab

  • Research Support

    If you would like to make a donation to the THINK lab or the School of Medicine, visit this link: DONATE. For THINK lab donations, hit "Other" under Designation, then write in "THINK lab".

    We are thankful for research support from various funders. Our current and prior research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Children's Foundation, the State of Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs/Cannabis Regulatory Agency, the WSU Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, and the NIH/NIEHS CURES P30 Center.