Assistant Professor, Bioengineering

Beatriz Peñalver Bernabé, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Bioengineering. She received her PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Northwestern University and completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Chicago and the University of California San Diego. Her research is focused on translational applications in female reproductive biology. In a transdisciplinary group, she has brought her expertise in statistical and computational methods to tackle complex women’s health disorders. With an instrumental Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Award, her training was concentrated on the human microbiome, the microorganisms that reside inside us, and their associations with human physical and mental health. Her initial studies aimed to establish the relationships between depression during pregnancy and postpartum and the evolution of the maternal microbiome during the perinatal period. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Peñalver Bernabé will continue working on perinatal depression in light of the maternal microbiome and further expand her research in perinatal women’s mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.

Dr. Peñalver Bernabé’s Research Profile


Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine

Pavitra Kotini-Shah, MD is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine. She is a tenure-track researcher who specializes in using large data registries to reduce disparities in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA). She is also a resuscitation and ultrasound enthusiast. Most recently, she is the recipient of a Zoll Foundation grant to study sex hormone differences in OHCA patients. She is also utilizing the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) Echocardiographic database to evaluate global longitudinal strain (GLS) as a predictor of adverse cardiovascular outcomes among Hispanic subgroups. Dr. Kotini-Shah is also co-investigator on a recent CCTS pilot grant recipient focused on Racial Ethnic and gender disparities Among a COVID-19 hyperTensive population (R.E.A.C.T). As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Kotini-Shah will continue to uncover and translate how sex as a biological variable contributes to cardiac disease, from the molecular level to the phenotypic level, and highlight the need for sex-specific resuscitation approaches to improve survival outcomes for both sexes.

Dr. Kotini-Shah’s Research Profile


Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery/Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery

Heather M. Weinreich, MD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery/Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery in the UIC College of Medicine. She has a background in epidemiology and clinical research. Her research has expanded to include the evaluation of gender differences in resident surgical training. Specifically, she is examining the relationship of surgical instrument design with gender and the resulting effects on confidence, efficiency and surgical outcomes. Her research involves collaboration with human factors psychology and occupation/human factors engineering.



Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Natasha Crooks, PhD, RN is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing. She earned her BSN and PhD in Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed NIH-funded postdoctoral training at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Her research program centers on addressing sexual health disparities in Black girls and women. Findings from her grounded theory research entitled “The Process of Becoming a Sexual Black Woman” led to the development of a conceptual model describing the sociocultural processes and conditions that influence Black female sexual development and STI/HIV risk. She has extended this work in adolescents by investigating sociocultural conditions influencing Black girls’ sexual development. As a BIRCWH Women’s Health Associate, Dr. Crooks’ research project will focus on translating her conceptual model into practice and further exploring sexual pathways of Black female adolescents. Her future research goals include developing and conducting multi-level STI/HIV prevention interventions to improve Black female sexual and reproductive health across the life course.

Dr. Crooks’s Research Profile