Graduate students 2017

Dr. Elizabeth Allen’s Lab

Jessica Kenny earned her BA in Psychology and Spanish from Pepperdine University in 2010 and her MA in Counseling Psychology from University of Denver in 2013. Broadly, her research interests lie in understanding how system-level factors both impede and improve health outcomes. Specifically, she is interested in understanding how various family dynamics can influence a child’s presenting problems and course of treatment, and how to best integrate behavioral healthcare into medical settings. Working with underserved and culturally-diverse populations is a passion of hers and has been a priority during her training, including a recent Spanish for a mental health immersion program in Peru.; Cohort: Year 6

Arjun Bhalla earned his BA in Psychology and Mass Communication from Rockhurst University in 2012 and earned his MA in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2014. His research interests include studying the effects of trauma (physical and psychological) on health and functioning in civilian and military populations, caregiver health, eHealth/mHealth interventions, and psychometric scale development. For dissertation he plans to focus on examining interpersonal factors related to sexual satisfaction in military couples post-deployment. Within the CHP program, Arjun has demonstrated a commitment to diversity through his involvement on the Diversity Council and CHP Diversity Admissions Taskforce. He is a staunch advocate for advancing diversity-related issues in clinical psychology.; Cohort: Year 5

Kelly Soberay graduated with a dual Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from the University of Dayton in 2005. She also earned a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver in 2010. Kelly is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. Her research interests include understanding underserved and diverse populations within military psychology, the chronic pain community and their partners, suicide prevention and intervention, and dissemination and implementation science. kelly.soberay@ucdenver.eduCohort: Year 4


Dr Grigsby's labDr. Jim Grigsby’s Lab

Tim Brunelle graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BS in Finance. He returned to school at the University of Colorado Denver and received a BS in Psychology and is currently completing his thesis for an MA in Clinical Psychology. He works with Dr. Grigsby and his primary research interest involves the effect of meditation on executive cognitive function. He enjoys mountain biking, travelling, trying new restaurants and spending time with his wife and friends.; Cohort: Internship

Anson Kairys graduated from the University of Michigan in 2011 with a BA in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science. He worked as a professional research assistant at the University of Michigan's Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center (CPFRC). His research interests are in the field of chronic pain, with particular emphasis on understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie abnormal sensory processing and cognitive dysfunction in disorders such as fibromyalgia and chronic pelvic pain. Anson plans to develop his own research program studying chronic pain conditions and other chronic illnesses. He is currently working under the supervision of Dr. Grigsby on several projects, including the longitudinal analysis of structural MRI scans of chemotherapy patients, looking for alterations in brain gray matter due to chemotherapy treatment. Anson spends his spare time outdoors, running, snowboarding, biking and fishing. He is a huge Michigan Wolverines fan, and spends the weekends watching football and basketball.; Cohort: Year 6

Susanne Withrow graduated from the University of Colorado Denver in 2013 with a BS in Psychology. Through a variety of externships, Susanne has gained experience in addressing health behaviors and psychological concerns for patients with diabetes, asthma, allergies, and infectious lung diseases. She has also obtained specialized training in conducting neuropsychological evaluations and hopes to pursue a career as a neuropsychologist. Her research has focused on cognitive and psychological outcomes in children with hearing loss and adults with prostate as well as breast cancer. She enjoys traveling abroad and the Colorado outdoors.; Cohort: Year 6

Keegan Walker is a native to Colorado and thrilled to be pursuing his PhD in his hometown.  An alum of Metropolitan State University of Denver, he received Bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Philosophy.  After attending one year of a philosophy PhD program at the University of Iowa, Keegan decided that the field was not suited to him and began pursuing a field with more dynamic human interaction.  His research interests are focused around variables that impact cognitive functioning, particularly executive functions such as attention, inhibition, organization, and planning.  He is particularly interested in exploring how microbiotic populations within the body affect the brain.  He hopes to enhance (and possibly create) therapeutic interventions based on his findings.  Keegan is a “foodie” at heart and loves playing in the kitchen, entertaining, and talking food, particularly fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc.  He also enjoys film, hiking, trying new restaurants, and spending time with “his people.”; Cohort: Year 3


Dr. Peter Kaplan and Dr. Kevin Everhart’s LabKaplan Everhart Lab

Kathryn Scheyer received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Health Sciences from California State University, Long Beach. As an undergraduate, she obtained research experience in several areas in health psychology such as health disparities risk factors, the impact of stress on behavior and physiological health and effect of maternal, infant and pregnancy mental and physical health. She is currently working in Dr. Kevin Everhart and Dr. Peter Kaplan's lab examining infant cognitive development and recently defended her master’s thesis examining relationships between socioeconomic factors and maternal lifestyle behaviors. Her hobbies include traveling, eating, relaxing, being outdoors, going to the beach, playing with dogs and most importantly spending time with family and friends.; Cohort: Year 4

Sunny (Lindsley) Pence graduated with Honors from San Francisco State University for both her BA in psychology and her MA in Psychological Research- Brain, Mind, and Behavior. She worked for the past five years for the Autism Center of Excellence at UC San Diego as the Lead Clinical Coordinator and Director of Education. Her research interests revolve around healthy and abnormal infant development, particularly with regard to early brain development and genetics. She has a specific interest in epigenetic factors that may lead to developmental abnormalities with the overarching goal of identifying preventive measures to promote healthy infant development. Her clinical interests include working with children who have autism, learning disorders, and social/emotional delays, as well as the parents who care for those children to promote healthy co-parenting relationships that are adaptive to the specific needs of their special needs children. She also works as the program assistant for the MARC-U STAR scholarship- a program dedicated supported stellar undergraduate students who are of a minority background, to increase the diversity of PhD programs. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband and fur babies, dancing, hiking, biking, rock climbing, snowboarding, and all of the other many wonderful outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer.; Cohort: Year 3


Dr. Kristin Kilbourn’s Lab Kilbourn lab members

Lauren Languido is currently working on her dissertation, which is focused on how cancer patients and their caregivers influence one another’s perceptions of stress, coping beliefs, and psychological outcomes during treatment. Her Master’s thesis (2017) examined how psychosocial factors might predict health-related quality of life and benefit-finding in Latina breast cancer survivors. She is bilingual (Spanish/English) and is concurrently working as a Graduate Research Assistant with the Latino Research and Policy Center (School of Public Health, CU Denver). She previously earned her Bachelor's degree with a dual major in International Studies and Spanish from DePaul University. She later completed a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Pre-Clinical Psychology at Northwestern University. lauren.languido@ucdenver.eduCohort: Year 5

David Avram has explored the association between social relationship variables and inflammatory biomarkers in a national U.S. sample. His present research focuses on the interaction between psychosocial variables and immunological indicators within cancer patient and caregiver populations. Dave earned his Bachelor’s degrees in History from the University of Calgary in 2009, and Psychology from Northern Arizona University in 2012. In 2014 he successfully completed his Master of Arts in clinical health psychology at Northern Arizona University. He also successfully defending his dissertation proposal this fall.  david.avram@ucdenver.eduCohort: Year 5

Alaina Carr graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in psychology. She then worked as a clinical research coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Cancer Outcomes Research Group (CORe). She recently defended her Master's thesis on a randomized control trial of a psychoeducation and skills based mobile platform to reduce distress in caregivers of patients with advanced illness. Her master's thesis was accepted as a preprint in Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) Cancer and this is Alaina's initial first author publication. She is now working on her dissertation, which is explores the feasibility and acceptability of a randomized control trial (RCT) telephonic phone intervention for Phase I oncology trial caregivers.  Her research interests include developing and evaluating psychosocial interventions to improve mental and behavioral health in cancer patients and caregivers. Alaina.carr@ucdenver.eduCohort: Year 3

Emily Bilenduke graduated from the University of Redlands in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. She then worked at the Summit Community Care Clinic, a primary care clinic, as the grant coordinator. Her time at the clinic inspired her to evaluate how people interact with their health. Her research interests include, preventative care, integrated healthcare, and health disparities. Currently, Emily is looking at the potential interaction between the intestinal microbiome and cognitive functioning in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.; Cohort: Year 1


Dr. Kevin Masters’ LabMasters lab members

Christianne Biggane is a 4th year doctoral student. She graduated in 2015 with Bachelor of Science degrees in Nutritional Sciences and Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Florida. As an undergraduate, she worked with electroencephalography (EEG) and psychophysiology equipment to examine the fear response. She is interested in the intersection of mindfulness and exercise with mental health. Her masters project focuses on how religiosity and spirituality are related to purpose and health outcomes. Christianne’s dissertation will examine how viewing images of nature impacts the stress response and executive function. Outside of school, she enjoys backpacking, yoga, lingering in coffee shops, cycling, and live music, and since moving to Denver has come to love skiing.; Cohort: Year 4

Christina Rush is a 3rd year doctoral student. Christina received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, and her Master of Arts in psychology from American University in Washington DC. She has been involved in cardiovascular and cancer research at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and Georgetown University. Her current research interests include strengths-based areas of human functioning such as grace, mind-body medicine, and components of religion and spirituality, such as meaning and purpose, which contribute to well-being in medical patients as well as healthy populations. Whenever possible she savors time with her husband and family, and loves coffee, exercise (especially yoga and dance!), hiking, and travel.; Cohort: Year 3

Katie Schneider is a 2nd year doctoral student. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Spanish from Kalamazoo College. Prior to her graduate studies she worked on adult inpatient units at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and on pediatric inpatient units at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, where she also assisted a clinical health psychologist in research. Katie utilizes a biopsychosocial-spiritual framework to conceptualize health in both clinical practice and in research. Her primary research focus is the connection between health and existential aspects of human experience (i.e., meaning, purpose, and spirituality). In her spare time Katie enjoys yoga, traveling, hiking, and she cherishes time spent with her fiancé and puppy.; Cohort: Year 2


Dr. Krista Ranby’s LabRanby lab members

Stephanie Callan received her BA in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and her MS in psychology from Drexel University. She comes to the Healthy Couples Lab with a diverse background that includes research in alcohol misuse and smoking cessation, matters within the field of professional psychology, and self-care behaviors in the context of the dyadic relationship between psychology graduate students and their supervisors. She is excited to bring that experience to the study of health behaviors within romantic couples, particularly those facing serious health issues such as heart failure and bone-marrow transplant. For her thesis, she will focus on the development and examination of the psychometric properties of a measure that will assess the degree to which partners are invested in one another’s health and well-being. In her downtime, Stephanie enjoys seeing live music, finding new coffee shops, and relaxing with friends and family.; Cohort: Year 1

Sydneyjane Varner received her BA in psychology from the University of South Alabama and her MA in clinical psychology with a concentration in research methods from Columbia University. Sydneyjane’s primary research interests include understanding the bidirectional associations between close romantic relationships and health, particularly as they relate to women’s health issues, such as chronic psychosomatic illness and reproductive health. Her thesis project focuses on examining how dyadic health behaviors and relationship factors during pregnancy translate to the postpartum period and their impact on physical and mental health outcomes among couples expecting the birth of their first child. In her spare time, Sydneyjane loves coffee and wine tasting, live music, traveling, biking, and exploring Colorado with her husband and fur-child.; Cohort: Year 2

Gillian Lloyd graduated Summa Cum Laude from Wake Forest University with a BS in Biology and then completed a Pre-Clinical Psychology Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program at Northwestern University. During the post-baccalaureate program, she worked as a research assistant at Feinberg School of Medicine and studied the determinants and health outcomes of physical activity participation in breast cancer survivors. As a PhD student in Dr. Krista Ranby’s Healthy Couples Lab, she plans to conduct dyadic research involving both cancer survivors and their romantic partners. Gillian is currently working on her master’s thesis, which examines predictors of couples-based exercise interest in both survivors and their romantic partners and the influence of cancer-specific exercise education on both survivors’ and partners’ exercise knowledge, outcome expectations and intentions. Gillian.R.Lloyd@ucdenver.eduCohortYear 2


Dr. Edward Dill’s LabDill lab

Diana Graham graduated from the University of California San Diego with a BA in Human Development and from San Diego State University with an MA in Psychology. During her master’s program she became involved in neuropsychological and behavioral testing for children who had been prenatally exposed to alcohol. She is now working with Dr. Edward Dill in assessing pediatric populations with chronic illness, particularly intractable epilepsy and cystic fibrosis. In addition to understanding the development of mood disorders associated with living with chronic illness, she is also interested in changes in neuropsychological competence with ongoing treatments related to chronic illness and in relation to transplant eligibility. In her free time she enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and snowboarding and seeing live music around Denver.; Cohort: Year 5

Holly O’Donnell graduated, cum laude, with a BA in Psychology from Middlebury College in 2012. Before beginning graduate school, she worked for a nonprofit called The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which is an organization that serves children with serious illnesses and their families. In this role, she worked with children in pediatric hospitals throughout New York City. As part of Dr. Dill’s lab, she is working on a project examining psychosocial correlates with employment status in individuals with Cystic Fibrosis. In her free time, Holly enjoys hiking, skiing and being in the mountains.; Cohort: Year 5

Kassie Guenther graduated with highest distinction from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln with her BA in Psychology. Her research interests encompass a broad range of pediatric health issues. Specifically, she is interested in child mental and physical health promotion and treatment, chronic illness, risk and protective factors of children suffering from illness, familial systems and the intersection between youth mental and physical health. In her spare time, Kassie enjoys being outdoors with friends and family.; Cohort: Year 4


Dr. Jonathan Shaffer’s LabShaffer lab members

Tiffany Ju is a second year graduate student in Dr. Jonathan Shaffer's lab and received her 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 and cardiovascular disease. tiffany.ju@ucdenver.eduCohort: Year 2

Adam Harris graduated with a BA in Psychology from the University of Connecticut in 2016. He is a currently a third-year graduate student in the Clinical Health Psychology PhD Program at CU Denver, and his research interests include health behaviors, mindfulness, self-compassion, and therapy processes and outcomes. In his free time, he does stand-up and improv comedy and plays jazz piano and saxophone. ADAM.HARRIS@UCDENVER.EDU; Cohort: Year 3

Amy Frers graduated from Eastern Washington University with a BA in Psychology in 2016. She is interested in chronic pain and disease management, mindfulness, and the efficacy of third wave therapies for improving quality of life in these patient populations. She is also interested in patient attitudes and outcomes of telehealth interventions. As part of Dr. Shaffer’s lab, Amy worked on a project which adapted an ACT based group intervention for survivors of spontaneous coronary artery dissection to a mobile app. For her master's thesis, she is examining the relationship between opioids and sleep in a group of chronic pain patients. When she has free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, playing board games, and rock climbing. amy.frers@ucdenver.eduCohort: Year 3

Alex Presciutti graduated Cum Laude from Stonehill College with a BA in Psychology in 2016 and then received his MA in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in 2018. During his MA program, Alex also worked as research coordinator in Neurocritical Care at Columbia University Medical Center, where he studied longitudinal neurological, psychological, and functional outcomes after cardiac arrest. He is currently interested in examining psychological implications of life threatening medical events (e.g. PTSD manifestations after cardiac arrest, stroke) and their relationship to clinical outcomes. He is also interested in how patients’ illness perceptions can mediate recovery. In his free time, Alex enjoys writing, playing soccer, hiking, and traveling. ALEXANDER.PRESCIUTTI@UCDENVER.EDU; Cohort: Year 1


Dr. Amy Wachholtz’s Lab Wacholtz Lab 2018

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. Cohort: Year 1 

Caitlin Kienzler is a 2nd year doctoral student. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following graduation, Caitlin continued her work with the University of Illinois, first as a lab manager and then as coordinator of the Lifelong Brain and Cognition Laboratory, studying cognition over the lifespan with an emphasis on neuroplasticity. Her research interests include chronic pain and pain management, substance use, and spirituality. She enjoys coffee, reading mystery novels, and running the Cherry Creek trail. ; Cohort: Year 2

Bahroze Rakeen is a 1st year doctoral student. He graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2015 with a BA in Biology and Psychology. He is interested in studying the the impact of prolonged substance abuse on cognitive function. He enjoys puns, photography, and hiking. Cohort: Year 1 

Trelsie Sadler is a 2nd year doctoral student. Trelsie received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA and her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Addiction specialization from the University of Denver in Denver, CO. Her research interests include pain and substance use issues that contribute to patients overall health and quality of life. Whenever possible she enjoys time with her family, hiking, reading and traveling. ; Cohort: Year 2