Sarah Pedersen, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Psychology
  • Assistant Director, Youth and Family Research Program

Sarah Pedersen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Pedersen is a licensed clinical psychologist with a long-standing interest in treating and researching problematic substance use. Her primary research interests are focused on examining differences in how people experience the effects of alcohol in relation to decisions made while drinking and substance use behavior over time. She has integrated personality characteristics, environmental factors, and cognitions within this line of research to understand when and why people are at risk for alcohol problems. She is currently the principal investigator on two 5-year R01 (JAM Study, MARS Study) grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to conduct this line of research.

Dr. Pedersen is committed to conducting research in understudied populations to decrease health disparities in alcohol and substance problems. In line with this, Dr. Pedersen is leading the JAM Study. JAM utilizes laboratory and naturalistic assessment techniques to investigate the associations between stress, discrimination, response to alcohol, and alcohol use in order to examine pathways of risk for Black/African American drinkers compared to White/European American drinkers. She is currently disseminating findings examining differences and similarities in risk and protective factors for Black and White drinkers from her recently completed ACE study.

Dr. Pedersen is also interested in examining processes that may increase risk for negative substance use outcomes in psychiatric populations. In collaboration with Dr. Brant Hasler, Dr. Pedersen is examining how sleep disturbances are related to alcohol response and impulsivity (MARS Study). In collaborations with Brooke Molina, Dr. Pedersen has also examined factors related to substance use for adults with a history of ADHD. She is a co-investigator on the PALS study and the Teen Study, and she was the principal investigator on a study designed to examine in-the-moment decisions while intoxicated for drinkers with and without a history of ADHD (ACE 2.0 study). Separately, in collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Stepp, Dr. Pedersen examined the acute effects of alcohol for individuals with and without borderline personality disorder (APES study). Ultimately, through these scientific pursuits, Dr. Pedersen hopes to reduce the disproportionate burden of negative substance use outcomes in these vulnerable populations.

Dr. Pedersen really values getting to mentor undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, and clinical psychology interns. In this role, she prioritizes helping trainees to obtain relevant skills to pursue their career goals. In line with this, Dr. Pedersen is excited to serve as a faculty member on the Developmental Alcohol Research Training program (T32), Career & Research Development Seminar for post-docs in the Department of Psychiatry at Pitt, and as a member of the training committee for the WPIC clinical psychology internship.

In her free time, Dr. Pedersen enjoys spending time with her kids and partner, cheering on the Penguins, and writing about herself in third person.


View Dr. Pedersen's curriculum vitae (CV) »