jovanovic lab


Tanja Jovanovic, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences and the David and Patricia Barron Chair for PTSD Neurobiology at Wayne State University.


Dr. Jovanovic’s research program focuses on the interaction of traumatic experiences, neurophysiology, neuroendocrinology, and genetics in stress-related disorders in adults and children in high-risk populations. A large focus of her work is on urban trauma exposure and developmental as well as intergenerational risk factors. Her research employs psychophysiological (e.g. fear-potentiated startle, skin conductance response, heart-rate variability) and brain imaging methods to investigate biomarkers of risk for trauma-related psychopathology, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Her laboratory developed novel human fear conditioning, fear inhibition, and extinction paradigms for PTSD patients.


Dr. Jovanovic is the lead investigator on several federally funded grants from the National Institutes of Health and has an Independent Investigator Award from the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and served on national and international grant review panels. 

Director, Principal Investigator

Tanja Jovanovic, PhD


Research Associate

Anaïs Stenson, PhD

Anaïs Stenson, Ph.D. is a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology in 2017 from Emory University. After completing her doctorate, she was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Tanja Jovanovic, first as part of the Grady Trauma Project at Emory University School of Medicine, and then with the Detroit Trauma Project at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Dr. Stenson conducts research as part of the Detroit Trauma Project, a research team that examines genetic and environmental risk and resilience factors for mental health in a highly traumatized urban population. Her research focuses on how trauma exposure impacts children's physical and psychological development during middle childhood and adolescence. Her work also examines intergenerational transmission of trauma and its impacts on child development. Dr. Stenson uses psychophysiological, behavioral, neuroimaging, and clinical measures in her research.

Project Manager

Sterling Winters

I graduated from Weber State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology minoring in Chemistry. I then worked as a workforce analyst and a procurement officer. For ten years I taught snowboarding on the weekends in Utah and a few weeks out of the year in Italy. I transitioned from the business world to the world of academia when I moved to Atlanta and joined the Grady Trauma Project at Emory University as a Clinical Research Coordinator. Finally, I moved to Detroit to act as the Program Manager for Tanja Jovanovic at Wayne State University, School of Medicine, department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences.


John France

Graduate Research Assistant

I was born and raised in Harper Woods, MI. I left home to attend Michigan State University where I received my Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology. My prior research experiences include clinical research in the hospital setting as well as research on cognitive development. I am now a first-year graduate student in the Translational Neuroscience Program within the Wayne State University School of Medicine. I am interested in researching the effects of childhood trauma on neurodevelopment using various imaging modalities.

In my free time, I help manage a community garden where we teach basic gardening skills to the neighborhood.


Lana Grasser

Ph.D. Candidate in Translational Neuroscience, Graduate Research Fellow

I am in my third year of graduate school working towards a Ph.D. in Translation Neuroscience at Wayne State University. I obtained my Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience at Michigan State University in 2017 with a minor in dance. My research focuses primarily on non-pharmacological therapies for treating stress and trauma in refugees.


Outside of the lab, I enjoy traveling, scuba diving, practicing yoga, and wakeboarding. 


Charis Wiltshire

Research Assistant

I graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University and minored in Theater Studies. I interned with the Grady Trauma Project in Atlanta during my last two years of undergrad working specifically on the Critical Periods project. I’ve been a research assistant with the Detroit Trauma Project for a year now. I will be taking classes part time to complete my Masters in Public Health through Wayne.


I’m an enneagram 8 and a Leo. 

Mariam Reda

Research Assistant

I graduated from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor with dual degrees in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience (BCN) and Poetry. My research interests include intergenerational trauma, long-term trauma exposure and the neurocircuitry of PTSD. I am interested in pursuing Psychiatry and working with the Arab American population and minority women in Michigan.

In my free time, I enjoy writing poetry and running Heal-Move-Shift, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to facilitating wellness seminars throughout grade schools in Michigan.

William M. Davie

Research Assistant

I am a Detroit native and graduated from Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) in 2019 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Physiology, and a research focus in cancer cell biology. I joined the Detroit Trauma Project at Wayne State University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences in September 2019. I am interested in practicing primary care medicine and serving underserved populations in the metropolitan area.


My personal hobbies of interest include spoiling my pet schnauzer, gardening, traveling, running and anything outdoors.

Seth WSU headshot.jpg

Scientific Director, Neuroscience Center for Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma (NeuroCAST), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan

Seth D. Norrholm, PhD, is a translational neuroscientist with over 20 years of research experience in furthering the understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying fear-, anxiety-, trauma-, and stressor-related disorders and the psychiatric conditions with which these disorders are co-morbid. Dr. Norrholm has trained in both the “classical” bench-based neurosciences as well as within clinical arenas dedicated to the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Together with a network of collaborators, Dr. Norrholm has employed objective, psychophysiological methods to study the underpinnings of mammalian fear processing as well as the mechanisms mediating effective treatments for fear and anxiety. Dr. Norrholm is a recognized world leader in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Fear and joined our faculty in September 2019.

Seth Norrholm, PhD


Dr. Marusak is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University (WSU) School of Medicine in Detroit Michigan. Dr. Marusak received her PhD in Translational Neuroscience from WSU and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Christine Rabinak's Translational Neuropsychopharmacology lab in the WSU Department of Pharmacy Practice.

Dr. Marusak directs the WSU THINK Lab, which focuses on pediatric anxiety, understanding the impact of childhood trauma/adversity on neural development, and using that knowledge to improve interventions that can enhance mental health in pediatric populations. Her predoctoral training was in pediatric neuroimaging, childhood adversity/trauma, and developmental neuroscience, and her postdoctoral training was focused on the neurobiology of fear, the endocannabinoid system, and anxiety disorders/posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hilary Marusak, PhD


I went to medical school in Iran, and finished my research track residency at the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry.   Currently, I am an assistant professor of psychiatry specialized in anxiety disorders and PTSD, and director of the STARC. My research is focused on the underlying neurobiological body and brain mechanisms in anxiety disorders and PTSD, and how psychotherapy works. I am specifically interested in the role of personal meaning and cognitive interpretation of (or information about) traumatic events in the way people are differently traumatized by those events. I also research neurobiology of cognitive, cultural, physical, and temporal context invulnerability  or resilience to negative effects of trauma and PTSD. My other area of interest is the use of technology, in diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders and PTSD. I use functional MRI (brain imaging), electrophysiology, and genetic methods in research. In clinical practice, I focus on a treatment plan specifically tailored for each person based on their psychosocial and life circumstances, personal goals, the meaning of life, and needs. I use medications, psychotherapy, exercise, nutrition, and improving social life to help patients not only overcome their anxiety and fear, but also achieve their highest potentials in having a better life.

Arash Javanbakht, MD

Marwa Headshot.jpg

I graduated with degrees in Chemistry, Mind/Brain/Behavior, and Arabic from Harvard University and am now a medical student at Wayne State University. I’m passionate about community work and previously worked in public service with the Arab American population. I’m currently part of an equity fellowship with the Kellogg Foundation and hope to put an emphasis on racial healing in medicine.

In my free time, I love exploring new places and indulging in their coffee.

Marwa Harp


Cassandra Wanna

Outreach Representative

Although I am fortunate to call many places home, I was raised in Macon, GA. I graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Arabic. During my studies, I worked with refugee populations domestically as a research assistant at Connecting Cultures, a clinic dedicated to providing psychosocial support to refugees and asylum seekers who have survived torture and trauma, and abroad in Jordan with CARE Jordan at Azraq Camp. I have worked for the Detroit Trauma Project since July 2018.


When not working, I can usually be found teaching ESL classes, writing in pretentious wine bars, or snuggling with my foster pups. 

©2019 by Detroit Trauma Project.