Research Labs and Student Profiles

Clinical Health Psychology Research Labs and Student Profiles:

Each student accepted into the Clinical Health Psychology Program is simultaneously placed with a core faculty research mentor. In fact, compatibility between the interests of applicants and those of a specific core faculty member is an important consideration in admission. In their application, applicants are asked to identify at least one core faculty member as a potential research mentor. Below are links providing more information regarding the research of each core faculty member, followed by profiles for each current student in the Clinical Health Psychology program.

Relationship Studies Lab (Beth Allen)         

  • Dr. Beth Allen labMollie Shin earned her BA in Psychology and Business Administration from Baylor University in 2017. Following her time at Baylor she worked as a project coordinator at the VISN 17 COE for Research on Returning War Veterans. Her research interests include intimate relationship functioning following trauma, especially within the military population, novel couples-based interventions, prevention of interpersonal conflict, and maintenance of healthy romantic partnerships. Mollie is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in all areas of her work, including research and therapy.
  • Karima Shehadeh earned her B.S. in Psychology at Sam Houston State University in 2018 and her M.S. in Psychology at Arizona State University in 2020. At Arizona State, she completed her Master’s thesis on the role of intimacy, rumination and sleep quality on the psychological and physical health of individuals in relationships. Her clinical and research interests include the interplay of intimate relationships and mental health outcomes.
  • Lizette Sanchez  earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2020. Following her time at the University, Lizette dedicated her time to publishing research addressing the prevalence of infidelity within Latino subgroups. She strives to expand on the inclusion of intersectionality within couples and family research, primarily within the Latino population. Her research interests include intimate relationships, sexual intimacy, and extradyadic involvement.

  • Morgan Nance earned her B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 2013, and her M.A. in Child Development from Sarah Lawrence College in 2014. Since then, she has been working in mental health research. She is currently a senior research assistant at Rocky Mountain MIRECC for Veteran Suicide Prevention where she focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder and psychiatric outcomes following traumatic brain injuries. Her research interests include parenting within military families and the impact of military-related post-traumatic stress disorder on parenting teams and children.

Grigsby Lab     

  • Bahroze Rakeen graduated from the Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2015 with a BA in Biology and Psychology. He is interested in studying cognitive impairments associated with chronic health conditions. In addition, he is interested in advocating for the psychosocial needs of underserved populations through research aimed at informing public policy. He has served as the student representative for student interviews and enjoys assisting the incoming cohorts. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, road trips, photography, traveling/daydreaming of traveling to faraway lands, and finding good food.

Infant Lab at CU Denver (Peter Kaplan & Kevin Everhart)       

  • Kaplan_Everhart_lab_2021Caroline Harrison graduated from Georgetown University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology and completed her Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology in 2019 at the Colorado School of Public Health. After completing her bachelor’s degree, Caroline worked as a Health Coach for geriatric patients at a primary care clinic, where she cared for patients with complex medical histories alongside a physician. Her work with elderly people taught her the importance of establishing healthy development early in life and inspired her to pursue a degree in public health. While pursuing her studies in public health, Caroline joined the eXtraordinarY Kids Clinic at Children’s Hospital Colorado as a research assistant. She worked with infants, children and adolescents diagnosed with sex chromosome aneuploidies and studied factors that promoted or stymied healthy development. During her tenure at Children’s Hospital, Caroline was also granted a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship at JFK Partners on the CU Anschutz Medical campus where she worked closely with families and children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. In this position Caroline co-lead a group therapy intervention using cognitive-behavioral therapy to help adolescents on the autism spectrum overcome anxiety. She also completed a project investigating the relationship between anxiety, diagnosis of a developmental disability or disorder, and access to healthcare resources. As a member of the Infant Lab at CU Denver, Caroline looks forward to continuing to study infant development and the parent-child bond. Specifically, she is interested in learning about how genetic and environmental interactions predict maternal mental health and infant development, as well as identifying therapeutic interventions to optimize healthy attachment styles. In her free time, Caroline can be found in the mountains or seeking adventure with the people she loves.
  • Maura Gissen received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Western Connecticut State University (2015) and her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver (2017). During her time in her master’s program, Maura had two clinical internship placements working with at-risk, systems-involved youth diagnosed with Autism, as well as pregnant teens working towards high school graduation. After graduation, Maura worked for two years at the Denver VA as a Research Assistant studying suicide risk assessment. Maura is interested in maternal and infant health and outcomes, specifically among adolescent and teen mothers. She has a special interest in the intergenerational impacts of trauma and adverse childhood events, with a focus on health disparities and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Maura is passionate about amplifying and centering the voices of those directly impacted by these issues. In her spare time, she enjoys a combination of spending time outdoors, trying new foods at restaurants or ordering in, and quiet time at home with her partner and dog.
  • Reka (Princi) Kovacs received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Statistics from Salisbury University in Maryland. After graduation, she obtained her Master of Professional Studies degree in Clinical Psychological Science at University of Maryland, College Park. During her master’s program, she was employed at Childrens National Medical Center in Washington D.C. as a research assistant where she became most interested in working with families and children in the medical setting. In addition to working in the Infant Lab at CU Denver, Princi has also worked in the sleep lab at Childrens Colorado Hospital which she also has an interest in clinically. Princi has worked in the Child Clinical externship rotation at Childrens Colorado Hospital where she is practicing integrated care in a pediatric setting. Princi’s research interests focus on genetic and environmental interaction on maternal mental health as well as infant development. Princi’s dissertation focuses on coding mother-infant interactions to test hypotheses related to the development of post-partum depression. For fun, Princi enjoys traveling, watching reality TV with her friends, and being with her two orange tabby cats.   
  • Gabrielle Russo earned her B.S. in Psychology with honors at the University of Pittsburgh (2017) and a M.S. in Psychology at Drexel University (2019) in Philadelphia. At Drexel, Gabrielle conducted research in the area of women’s health psychology, with a focus on family adjustment to reproductive life events. She also conducted research and engaged in clinical activities at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU). Her master’s thesis examined the relationships among satisfaction with social support, parent mental health, and parent-infant bonding in the new parents. Gabrielle is interested in examining the influence of parental mental health and stress on parent-child bonding and infant learning. She has a specific interest in understanding how parent mental health impacts interactive behaviors between parents and their children, as well as understanding the role of the oxytocin receptor gene in this relationship. In her free time, Gabrielle enjoys hikings, camping, skiing, and reading.

  • Sunny Stophaeros graduated with Honors from San Francisco State University for both her BA in psychology and her MA in Psychological Research. Subsequently, she worked for the Autism Center of Excellence at UC San Diego as the Lead Clinical Coordinator and Director of Education for many years. She is a Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (LEND) Fellow and recently completed her externship with JFK Partners at the Anschutz Medical School and Children’s Hospital Colorado as part of her fellowship. Her research interests revolve around promoting healthy infant development and understanding the effects of attachment on early brain development and epigenetics. Her clinical interests include the assessment of children who have autism, learning disorders, and developmental delays. In addition, she enjoys providing psychotherapy to very young children through adults using a variety of approaches. She has the honor of working as the Mental Health Liaison for the MARC-U STAR scholarship program and is passionate about increasing diversity within the biomedical community and supporting the mental health of those who are paving the way. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband, son and exploring the many wonderful outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer.

  • M.T. (Mary Taylor) Goeltz received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. After graduation, M.T. went on to manage Dr. Audun Dahl’s Early Social Interaction Lab at UC Santa Cruz, where she oversaw a research project investigating the influence of scaffolding upon the emergence of helping behaviors in infancy. She then joined Dr. Isaac Petersen’s Developmental Psychopathology Lab as their coordinator, where she managed a project focused upon advancing understanding of the development of self-regulation in young children. M.T. is interested in genetic and environmental influences upon the development of social behavior in infancy and early childhood. She has a particular interest in the influence of early parenting behavior upon the development of empathy and antisocial behavior in later childhood. M.T. enjoys reading, trying new foods, spending time outside, and watching horror films in her free time.

Kristin Kilbourn Lab       

  • Dr. Kilbourn's lab members standing in front of tall buildingsEsmeralda "Ezzy" Adolf is a fifth year doctoral student at CU Denver in the Clinical Health Psychology Program. Ezzy completed her master's thesis titled "Associations Among Psychosocial Distress, Fear of Recurrence, and Quality of Life in Differentiated Thyroid Cancer Survivors." She is currently in the process of working on her dissertation and applying to pre-doctoral internships. Ezzy originally hails from Washington State, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Eastern Washington University. She also received her master’s degree in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College and worked at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as a clinical research coordinator, where she was responsible for maintaining and supporting the ongoing research activities in the Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology Division.  Her research interests include exploring barriers to psychosocial care in families and patients affected by cancer. She also has an interest neurocognitive late effects and quality of life outcomes in adult survivors of pediatric cancer. Previously, Ezzy worked on research with oncology providers at Children's Hospital of Colorado to understand the psychosocial needs of caregivers of children with cancer.  Her goal is to work in an academic medical center with families affected by pediatric chronic illness. She enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, exploring new places, and baking cakes.
  • Emily Bilenduke is in her final year as a doctoral student and is currently completing her pre-doctoral internship at Rush University Medical Center on the Health Psychology Track. She recently defended her dissertation focused on the impact of a behavioral health intervention on a community-based cardiovascular screening program. Emily defended her Master’s thesis in 2020 which focused on the impacts of breast cancer and chemotherapy on gut microbiome, cognitive functioning, and mood relative to healthy controls. Emily graduated from University of Redlands with a BA in Psychology and was a grant coordinator in a primary care clinic focused on cancer prevention. Her research interests include addressing health disparities for individuals from underserved populations, behavioral health integration into medical care, and implementation and dissemination of evidence-based practices. In the future, Emily’s goal is to improve outcomes for individuals with chronic conditions through clinical work and implementation of evidence-based practices. In her spare time, Emily enjoys being outdoors in the mountains skiing or hiking.
  • Bryan Contreras Zamora is a first-year doctoral student in the Clinical Health Psychology program at CU Denver. Bryan obtained his associate's degree in Psychology from the Community College of Denver in 2016 and transferred to complete his bachelor of science degree in Psychology from Colorado State University in 2018. Subsequently, he received his master's of arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from CU Denver in 2022. During his master’s program, Bryan interned at community health centers, where he became interested in understanding the relationship between health conditions, healthcare disparities, and mental health. Bryan also volunteered as a research assistant in the Psychosocial Oncology lab under Dr. Kilbourn’s mentorship, and was responsible for supporting research projects related to integrative healthcare and psychosocial oncology. His research interests include improving mental health services in integrated healthcare agencies, multicultural barriers to mental healthcare access for patients with cancer, and palliative care. Bryan’s professional service comprises supporting community health centers as a behavioral health provider. Bryan enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing “Loteria,” and going to the movies.

  • Catherine Pappano is a second-year doctoral student in the Clinical Health Psychology Program at CU Denver. Catherine graduated from Loyola University Maryland in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. After graduating, Catherine worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Cancer Outcomes Research and Education Program (CORE) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). At MGH, she contributed to research that focused on reducing health disparities for individuals from underserved cancer populations. Catherine hopes to continue her research on health disparities and the integration of mental health and cancer care through psychosocial interventions for patients and caregivers. She is particularly interested in technology-based interventions and the use of psilocybin-assisted therapy to improve quality of life in cancer patients. In her free time, Catherine enjoys spending time with friends and family, baking, hiking, and skiing.
  • Tamar Parmet is a first-year doctoral student in the Clinical Health Psychology Program at CU Denver. Tamar graduated from Brandeis University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Public Health. She also holds a Master of Social Work Degree from Boston University. Tamar has engaged in clinical research across a variety of disciplines including behavioral neuroscience, biomedical research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, preventative oncology, and psychosocial oncology. During her masters Tamar also engaged in clinical work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where she provided metastatic cancer patients with one-on-one and group therapy. Tamar is passionate about conducting research at the intersection of emotional wellbeing and severe medical illnesses. Specifically, Tamar is interested in exploring the various factors that influence cancer patients’ willingness to pursue psychosocial support. She is also interested utilizing shared-decision making as well as implementation sciences to better serve cancer patients in need of support. Outside of the lab you will find Tamar spending time with friends, training for marathons on the Cherry Creek Trail, exploring Colorado’s beautiful mountains, and snowboarding.

Calm Heart Lab website (Kevin Masters)       

  • Nick Kellar came to CU Denver with a B.A.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Previous research included pedagogical examination of classroom expression and the use of the term abnormal within psychopathology courses. Now as part of the CaLM lab, Nick is interested in looking at spiritual/religious/existential interpretation of suffering/health conditions/impactful experiences through mental and physical health outcomes. Email: |  Cohort: Year 1

  • Kristin Rabil is from Northern Virginia and graduated from Georgetown University in 2022 with a BA in psychology and minors in Theology and Spanish.  Prior to graduate school, she worked at the Health and Development Lab at UGA, which explores the social determinants of mental and physical health. Kristin is interested in learning more about spiritual and existential influences on health behaviors, with a particular interest in the role of social factors. Email: |  Cohort: Year 1 | 

Healthy Couples Lab (Dr. Krista Ranby); Dr. Ranby's Lab Page and Facebook page      

  • Ranby labTravis Kelly received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Religious Studies with minors in Computer Science and Human Development from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. There, he worked as a research assistant in multiple labs on projects associated with relationship health, miscommunication, big data, and mindfulness. His thesis focused on how linguistic analysis of big data can help provide a better understanding on how COVID-19 impacted mental health. He then went on to work with diverse populations as a supervisor at the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline while continuing research focused on referential communication. Travis's research interests center around romantic relationships and how factors (i.e. life transitions, miscommunication, and partner investment) can impact relationship satisfaction or change behaviors. In his free time, Travis enjoys exploring nature, reading, and visiting local coffee shops.
  • Jess Hopkins earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. There, she worked as a research assistant and lab manager on projects related to romantic relationships, intercultural competence, and health psychology. She then went on to work as program and development coordinator at a nonprofit brain injury support center. Next, Jess received her Master of Counseling degree from Arizona State University, where she worked on research projects related to stress and coping within the context of romantic relationships. For her thesis, she examined supportive factors and barriers related to the experiences of WoC in STEM doctoral programs. Jess’ research interests include close relationships, dyadic coping, physical and mental health outcomes, and traumatic brain injury. For her thesis in the CHP program, Jess plans to examine dyadic coping during the transition to parenthood. In her free time, Jess enjoys being active and spending time with friends and family.
  • Zane Freeman earned a BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin where he subsequently worked as a research coordinator for a community-based exercise intervention for smoking cessation. He then went on to work with oncology and diabetes patients on several FDA pharmaceutical trials from both the patient and sponsor side. In graduate school, he hopes to continue working with these populations to increase engagement in healthy behaviors and improve health outcomes. In his free time, Zane likes staying active by doing group fitness classes and playing tennis.
  • Kelsey Nogg earned her BA in psychology from Occidental College and her MA in psychology from San Diego State University. Her background is in both qualitative and quantitative behavioral health research, through which she has examined psychosocial factors related to health behavior change among LGBTQ+ and racial/ethnic minoritized groups. She is passionate about scientific advocacy and addressing health disparities. Her thesis at San Diego State University examined motivation for physical activity, and she later extended this work to examine how interpersonal factors relate to the same constructs within the parent-child dyad. Kelsey’s dissertation in the Healthy Couples Lab focuses on the experiences of same-sex couples during the transition to parenthood, particularly as they relate to stress, health, and relationship functioning. She is seeing patients in integrated primary care within academic medical and community health settings. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys cooking, checking out new restaurants, live music, and spending time at the parks in Denver.

Behavioral Cardiology Lab (Jonathan Shaffer)

  • Alex Presciutti  received his MA in clinical psychology from Columbia University in 2018. His research focuses on the neuropsychological and emotional implications of acquired brain injuries (namely, stroke and cardiac arrest). He is particularly interested in formulating interventions to improve the quality of survival in these patients. Recently, Alex was awarded a TL1 training grant through the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute to study the associations between provider-patient communication, readiness for discharge, and illness perceptions with patient-centered outcomes after cardiac arrest. In his free time, Alex enjoys writing, reading, visiting art galleries, playing soccer, hiking, and traveling.
  • Tiffany Ju graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Psychology from UCLA. Prior to graduate school, Tiffany was involved in research on chronic pain and digestive diseases at the UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience. She has also worked on studies of depression in heart failure at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include improving treatment outcomes and coping with chronic illness.

  • Caitlyn Wilson​ Caitlyn received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Previously, Caitlyn worked as a research assistant exploring associations between dimensions of positive psychological well-being (e.g., positive affect, purpose, optimism), mindfulness (e.g., self-compassion, emotion regulation, interoceptive awareness), and health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and Happiness and at the Cambridge Health Alliance’s Center for Mindfulness and Compassion. She plans to continue exploring the relationship between dimensions of psychological well-being, particularly meaning in life, and mindfulness, interaction with nature, and health behaviors in her doctoral work at CU Denver. In her free time, Caitlyn enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and playing board games.  CAITLYN.WILSON@UCDENVER.EDU

  • Karalee Kothe received a dual degree in Psychology and Global and Multicultural Studies from Montana State University and worked in the Stress, Adversity, Resilience and Health Lab, where she contributed to health psychology research and designed her own research project exploring the differences in psychological and physiological arousal to acute anxiety between emotion regulation and mindfulness coping strategies. She earned her M.A. in Psychology at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she aided with research in Near Death Experiences. She is currently a first-year Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology student and is interested in exploring how clinical health populations can live meaningfully unhindered by the fear of death, understanding the lessons that death and dying teach us about how to live, and connecting to our shared sense of mortality as our greatest common ground. Karalee enjoys spending time with trees, pretending to be a mountain goat as she frolics on trails, and considers herself to be a member of the feline community.

  • Steven Neville graduated from Kent State University in 2020 with a BA in psychology and a minor in interpersonal communication. Prior to graduate school, he was a clinical research coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital examining factors on how individuals with congenital and acquired heart disease can promote a healthy lifestyle and improve emotional wellbeing across the lifespan. His research interests include health promotion interventions for those with cardiovascular disease. In his free time, he likes to play basketball, watch movies, and go to concerts.

Bio-psycho-social Pain Management Lab (Amy Wachholtz)      

  • Dr. Amy Wachholtz and her graduate students standing outside behind a Clinical Health Psychology program sign.Maya Joshi Delity graduated from Boston University in 2021 with a BA in Psychology.  Maya then completed a two-year fellowship at the NIH. Her research interests include developing novel treatments for chronic pain and opioid use disorder. She is also interested in identifying and reducing ethnic health disparities in chronic pain.

  • Daniel Luedtke graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 2017 with BAs in Psychology and French. He is interested in studying the relationship between chronic pain, stress, and trauma as well as social and cultural means of resilience. In his free time he enjoys watching movies, listening to music, and hanging out with his friends. 

  • Dustin Goerlitz graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2013 with a BA in Psychology. His research interests are in positive psychology and complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) for chronic pain and pain management, as well as biopsychosocial factors for quality of life in chronic pain populations. He enjoys numerous outdoor activities, playing music, spending time with friends, puns, and is apparently a big fan of tea. 

  • Sarah Martin graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2016 with a BA in Psychology and from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a MS in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling. Her research interests include biopsychosocial factors affecting opioid misuse in people with chronic pain and interventions for comorbid chronic pain and opioid use disorder. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities with her two Siberian Huskies and spending time with friends.

  • Alex(andra) Otto graduated from University of Alabama Birmingham in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Her research interests include behavioral interventions and ethnic disparities in comorbid chronic pain and opioid use disorder. She enjoys reading, baking, and anything outdoors, namely skiing and hiking.

  • Dallas Robinson graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in psychology in 2017, and a MS in Clinical Psychology in 2019. Her interests include the role of stress in chronic pain and substance use disorders, as well as research using psycho-physiological measures. In her free time she enjoys rock climbing, kayaking, and dancing.