Federally-funded Research Collaboration Programs


THRC is home to several federally funded programs that advance interdisciplinary health and resilience research partnerships with Central Texas community and business leaders, other academic institutions and medical centers, and Texas State faculty, staff, and students from 33 different academic disciplines. Our team has extensive experience helping Texas State investigators identify and collaborate with the best research partners on and off campus to advance their shared research interests.

Visualizing Mental Health

Dr. Melinda Villagran is currently the Principal Investigator on a large multi-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which aims to increase access to mental health data and service information among Central Texas community members, and increase the use of real-time data sources to inform healthcare services and planning among mental health professionals in Travis County. 


35 Health Merge

35 Health Merge & The Central State

35 Health Merge and The Central State are funded by a one million dollar grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to address mental health issues in the merging Austin-San Antonio metro area along the I-35 corridor in Central Texas. As the Austin-San Antonio region continues to be amongst the fastest growing areas in the U.S, it is expected that a new Austin-San Antonio Megaplex will emerge as one defined metro service area (MSA) before the 2030 Census. As our lives and geographical boundaries in Central continue to merge, so will the spread of disease and illness affecting our physical and mental health. For this reason, new datasets and new analyses methods are needed to capture data reflecting the ways people living in the new MSA travel, live, and work in Austin, San Antonio, and all along the I-35 corridor in between these two cities.  

To develop a new model for health risk assessment and merged data sets that reflect current travel patterns around the Austin-San Antonio MSA, 35 Health Merge and The Central State provide mental health data and resources from all sources across the region in real time.  The 35 Health Merge project will involve mental health and data science researchers from across the region working together to  create merged health indicators and regional analysis tools for Central Texas.  The Central State will provide mental health service agencies, law enforcement, educators, health professionals, and the public will information about prevalent mental health issues among those living in all corners of the new Megaplex, which spreads across over 400 miles in Central Texas along the I-35 corridor. A training program will equip participants to use The Central State and 35 Health Merge to gain knowledge and skills needed to customize their own mental health dashboard with key indicators for issues in their own area of service population. for their organization. 

PI: Dr. Melinda Villagran

Funder: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 




Nutrition for Underserved Elders Via Application (NUEVA) is a grant-funded research program supported by a $2.76 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a food delivery application for underserved elderly populations in Central Texas.

The app, NUEVA (Nutrition for Underserved Elderly Via Application), is intended to have a wide array of positive effects: improve food and nutrition security, reduce loneliness and enhance socialization and improve the health and mental health of elderly populations of low socioeconomic status. 

PI: Dr. Lesli Biediger-Friedman 

Co-PIs: Dr. Apan Qasem, Dr. Cassandra Johnson, Dr. Melinda VIllagran

Data Science Pathways

Translational Health Research Center investigators and the Texas State University System worked together to develop Zeus as a platform to advance skilled and knowledgeable needed by the Texas workforce. Zeus originated when Dr. Larry Fulton and Dr. Melinda Villagran sought to establish an online learning platform that could serve as the home for for Data Science Pathways (DSP), a program funded by a  $1.4 million dollar grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. As PI and Co-PI for Data Science Pathways grant, Dr. Fulton and Dr. Villagran conceptualized DSP and Zeus as tools to provide short-term, postsecondary credentials and career advancement opportunities for healthcare professionals, and those working in other industries requiring certifications to learn data science skills.  DSP includes education and training opportunities to learn the most current skills and knowledge required by high-demand careers, and it is taught at no cost to students by leading data science experts from universities in the Texas State University System.

DSP on the Zeus platform offers a successful pathway to earn a degree, a certification, or even a fast-tracked career in high-demand industries across the state. 

PI: Dr Larry Fulton (Dr. Fulton was subsequently replaced as PI by Dr Francis Mendez when he joined the faculty at Boston College). 

Funder: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board 





January 2018 - May 2020

Networx was funded by a $220,000 grant from St David's Foundation as part of their Focus on the Fourth grantmaking program to address postpartum issues among new mothers. Dr. Melinda VIllagran led a team of researchers who developed a health communication and social support intervention to assess messages and resources to improve maternal health among underserved women in the first year after giving birth. 

PI: Dr. Melinda Villagran

Funder: St. David's Foundation


September 2015 - September 2018

S.H.A.R.E. (Sexual Health Assessment and Risk Education), is a multi-year community-based partnership to reduce sexual risk behaviors among at-risk young adults in our community. 

Funded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

PI: Dr. Melinda Villagran


PartySafe / Bienestar Coalition

May 2013 - May 2016

PartySafe was a peer education campaign aimed at decreasing health risks including HIV that are associated with binge drinking. PartySafe was a campaign sponsored by the Bienestar Coalition with grant funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

In Spanish, the word bienestar means wellness or well-being. Our coalition worked to improve the well-being of campus and community members through more effective communication, programs and services about the health and safety risks of alcohol and substance abuse.

Funded by Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

PI: Dr. Melinda Villagran