Daniela Lopez joined us in April 2015 as a Project Manager for the Microbicide Trials Network studies (MTN 026 & MTN 027) that the SexLab is currently working on. Daniela has several years of experience working in health-related research, previously working at the UM School of Public Health and in the UMHS Department of Psychiatry. I had the great pleasure of talking to Daniela about her work and future plans.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at U of M, Daniela took a year off of school while working at the School of Public Health. At SPH, she worked on behavioral research with Professor Nancy Janz, interviewing both English- and Spanish-speaking women who had problems with pelvic or bowel prolapse. Daniela eventually moved on to psychiatric research, interviewing potential research participants with a variety of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While working at the Department of Psychiatry, Daniela earned her master’s degree in organizational development from Eastern Michigan University.

Daniela said the actual job posting she applied for at the SexLab was a bit of a mystery as to what she would be working on, but after she left her interview with Dr. Bauermeister and Laura, she was so excited about the research opportunity that she fell on the ice once she got outside. Thankfully, she survived and accepted her job offer to work with us!

When asked about how she felt about working at the same university she completed her undergraduate degree at, Daniela said, “It’s cool. I’m grateful to be working in a nationally-renowned research setting and I’ve been fortunate enough to have pretty awesome supervisors here that are doing fascinating work.”

Daniela will be interviewing MTN 026 and MTN 027 participants (virtually, since they are in Alabama and Pittsburgh) to better understand their experiences with the microbicidal products that MTN is testing. She has also been instrumental (pun intended) in designing and programming the survey instruments that we are using to collect behavior data in the trials.

A positive work environment is important for Daniela. She said that she loves making the people she works with laugh. I can say that she is definitely a bright spot in my day at work!

Daniela’s previous work has helped inspire her passion for understanding people’s psychological experience. Now while working on the MTN projects, she’s excited to understand how participants view the vaginal ring and rectal gel as a potential means of HIV prevention.

As far as her future goals, Daniela says that she’s pretty open to anything that is research related. She has considered getting her PhD in clinical psychology, where she could either choose to counsel or continue to conduct research. She would love to get more involved in international research throughout her career and has also thought about going into nutrition (as we both were eating cookies…). So maybe there is a way that she could study nutrition, sex, and counseling in an international context? “Wherever the wind takes me” is where Daniela said she will end up.

By: Adam Eickmeyer


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