Research Assistants


Jennifer Fillo, BS, PhD is a research associate on Operation: SAFETY and a postdoctoral fellow in the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo (UB). She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008 and her doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2014.

Prior to coming to UB, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Houston, where she served as project coordinator for a study funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) examining the effects of deployment on the spouses and children of service members. Her research interests lie at the intersection of close relationships, stress and health. She is particularly interested in how individuals and couples respond to stressful life transitions (e.g., military deployment and reintegration, transition to parenthood), including how they regulate the emotions that arise in stressful situations and the implications for these tendencies for physical health and health behavior (e.g., substance use).

Jessica Kulak, PhD, MPH, MS is a research associate on Operation: SAFETY and a T32 NRSA Fellow in the Primary Care Research Institute, Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo (UB). She received her doctoral and MPH degrees from UB in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior. Previously, Kulak received her master’s degree in school and community mental health counseling from the University of Rochester. 

Kulak has published peer-reviewed journal articles on tobacco policies in nursing homes, cessation patterns among African Americans, nicotine content of tobacco products and research guidelines for monitoring the global tobacco use epidemic. Her current research focuses on addictions, including tobacco control efforts for emerging and non-traditional tobacco product use, with an emphasis on relevant policy implications. She is particularly interested in tobacco use among the military and reservists.  


Erin Anderson Goodell, SM: Erin is a doctoral student in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research interests include risk and protective factors for substance use and violence in military populations, focusing on reserve component personnel and interactions with their families and social groups. Erin has seven years of experience working in military health studies, including work as a research assistant for Army STARRS through Harvard Medical School and research associate for RTI International’s Substance Abuse Epidemiology and Military Behavioral Health program. Prior to beginning her doctoral degree program, Erin received her master's degree in epidemiology from Harvard University’s School of Public Health and a bachelor's degree in public health from the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health

Kathelyn Benson, BS: Research Assistant on Operation: SAFETY. Ms. Benson is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Community Health and Health Behavior at SUNY at Buffalo. She graduated in 2016 from Denison University with a degree in Biology. Her research interests include molecular biology, mental health, substance use disorders, and preventive medicine. 

Rachel Daws: Rachel is a research assistant on Operation: SAFETY. She is currently pursuing a dual master's degree program in social work and public health from the University at Buffalo. Rachel graduated from Buffalo State College with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in art therapy. Her research interests include mental health and substance use, and prevention of problems relating to substance use.

Rachel Hoopsick, MS, MPH, CHES: Rachel is a research assistant on Operation: SAFETY. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Public Health and Health Professions, with an interest in evidence-based treatment and prevention of substance use disorders. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, Ms. Rizzo completed her master's degree in epidemiology (2012) and Master of Public Health in health services administration (2013) at UB. Ms. Rizzo is a Certified Health Education Specialist with several years of experience in public health research, teaching, and practice in WNY.


Natalie Voos: Research Assistant on Operation: SAFETY. Natalie is pursuing a BS in Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. After graduating, she hopes to pursue an MPH and later attend medical school. Her research interests include substance use, social networks, and access to care. 


Operation: SAFETY would like to thank previous staff for their contributions:

  • Mary K. Bennet, MD, FACEP
  • Melissa Cirina
  • Kristina Cummings, MA
  • Julia Devonish, MD PhD
  • Meredith Eggert
  • Aylin Erdogan
  • Mazie Feenstra- Swensen
  • Jennifer Garcia-Cano
  • Sarah Cercone Heavey, PhD MPH
  • Carly Nichols
  • Eric Read
  • Celina Rodrigues
  • Emily Schaffstall
  • Erika van der Kloet