Kathryn Hefner, PhD

Associate Project Leader-Scientist

Why I joined Emmes

I became interested in a career at Emmes due to our work with the NIDA Clinical Trials Network and the ability to contribute to groundbreaking research that makes a meaningful public health impact. After spending many years in academia, I found the culture at Emmes was a better fit for me. I was also drawn to the fact that Emmes was a woman-led company, and that the leadership shared similar values as what is most important to me (honesty, integrity, passion for science among them).

How do you describe Emmes to other people

Emmes is full of hardworking people who care about doing high quality work that will make a positive impact on public health. Supporting and maintaining the integrity of clinical trials is taken seriously, and the result is sound science that can inform clinical decision-making, policy, and future innovations.

A bit about me

I am from New Jersey originally and have moved around a lot for my training and career. After attending college in upstate New York, I moved to the Washington, DC area, then to Wisconsin for graduate school, then Richmond, VA for my clinical internship and New Haven, CT for my post-doctoral fellowship. After almost moving back to NJ for my first “real” job, I ultimately decided to come back to the DC area, which eventually led me to Emmes. Madison, WI is my husband and my favorite place we’ve lived, but DC/MD is a close second! I also have two kids and a dog.

How I chose my career

When I was interviewing for graduate programs in clinical psychology, my interests spanned most areas of psychopathology – it was hard to narrow down what interested me the most. I had worked as a post-baccalaureate fellow at National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) on mouse models of substance use and addiction, but did not want to be pigeon-holed as “only” a substance use researcher. When I met my graduate advisor, I expressed my interest in wanting to contribute to alleviating other mental health conditions besides substance use disorders (SUDs) and what he said made a lasting impact on my career trajectory and research/clinical philosophy; Substance use is relevant to all psychological phenomena including other mental health conditions because it is both influenced by, and subsequently influences these other conditions and symptoms (such as depression, anxiety, attentional issues, emotion dysregulation, etc.) Substance use and mental health conditions are inextricably related, and my career has focused on understanding these complex interactions and researching (and providing) interventions designed to ameliorate them.

Best part about working at Emmes

I enjoy mentoring junior staff in the early stages of their career, who are interested in SUD and psychology. I thrive on the large variety of different types of tasks and projects I have the opportunity to work on day to day. Our SUD group at Emmes has an expansive portfolio of studies on substance use and addiction that we support (75+ at the moment!). The opportunity to contribute to so many groundbreaking studies is inspiring and keeps me motivated.

My background

After majoring in psychology in college and completing my post-bac fellowship at NIAAA, I recognized I wanted to work with clinical populations, so I pursued my PhD in Clinical Psychology. Throughout my pre- and post-doctoral training, I have worked as a clinician in primary care settings, outpatient addiction clinics, and inpatient hospital settings within Veterans’ Affairs and other organizations, primarily working with patients who have SUDs and comorbid mental health conditions such as PTSD and anxiety, as well as medical issues like chronic pain. While I initially planned to serve primarily as a clinician, who conducted research on the side, I found that it is difficult to do both well while also maintaining work-life balance. After deciding to focus on research full-time, I was fortunate to find and help define my unique position at Emmes, which allows me to contribute to important clinical research questions.


Post-doctoral Fellowship – Yale University and VA Connecticut Healthcare Center
PhD, Clinical Psychology – University of Wisconsin-Madison
BA, Social and Clinical Psychology – University of Rochester

Associated projects

NIDA Data and Statistics Center