Diversity is an important value to the BMED team. As you scroll through the names and stories of our lab members, we hope you gain insight into who we are.

The BMED Team

Dr. Christopher P. Fagundes, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator (CV)

Areas of Interest: Psychoneuroimmunology, Health Psychology, Lifespan Development, Social/Personality & Affective Neuroscience

Working in the area of psychoneuroimmunology, Dr. Fagundes uses theories and methods from social/personality, developmental, and applied psychology to examine how stress “gets under the skin” to impact diseases of older adulthood such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. He is also interested in how the immune system regulates neuronal function in ways that influence mood and behavior. His theoretical work has focused on the adoption of attachment theory to understand physical health trajectories, particularly in relation to how attachment security can buffer the negative consequences of current and past life stressors. He has authored more than 85 articles and book chapters. The goal of his current funded work is to understand how attachment insecurity in the context of losing a spouse impacts inflammation, an immune marker that is prognostic for cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and some cancers. With a team of collaborators, he is also developing theoretically based interventions to improve the negative physical health consequences of stressful contexts. The National Institute of Health (NIH) funds most of his research; Dr. Fagundes has also been the primary mentor on several NIH training grants. He was named a “Rising Star” by the Association of Psychological Science. He was the recipient of the Robert Ader New Investigator Award from the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society, the Neal E. Miller New Investigator Award from the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, and the Excellence in Health Psychology Research Award by an Early Career Professional from Division 38 of the American Psychological Association.

luz-garcini-awarded-the-apa-distinguished-graduate-student-awardDr. Luz Garcini, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Luz Garcini is originally from Mexico and completed her doctoral degree at the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Clinical Psychology where she worked on a combined degree in clinical psychology and epidemiology (MPH). Her research has involved extensive binational collaboration with Mexico focusing on the study of health and well-being among undocumented Latino immigrants and deportees. Her primary interests include informing methodology to study hidden or hard-to-reach populations, as well as translational research to inform health and public policy for the underserved.  Luz is a Ford fellow, and she is highly committed to activities supporting increased representation and retention of minorities in the health sciences. Luz has received numerous awards including recently the 2016 American Psychological Association Distinguished Graduate Student Award in Professional Psychology.

Angie S. LeRoy, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Angie LeRoy completed her doctoral degree in the Social & Health Psychology program at the University of Houston. She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of North Florida and her M.A. in Psychology from the University of Houston. Her program of research aims to identify key psychosocial factors (e.g., self-perceived burden) that contribute to physical pain, dysregulated stress responses, and immune dysregulation. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how psychosocial aspects relate to health- studying health-related factors extending from the cellular level (i.e., inflammatory responses) to individual differences, to community and environmental impacts.

Ryan Linn Brown

Graduate Student Researcher

Ryan Linn Brown is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology as part of the Cognitive/Affective research interest group. Ryan graduated from Bryant University in 2017 with a B.A. in Applied Psychology and minors in Applied Statistics, Business Administration, and Economics. Ryan also studied abroad at Griffith University in Australia in 2015 while interning at Paradise Kids, a grief counseling organization. While at Bryant, Ryan was involved in research across the Department of Applied Psychology, represented Bryant in the College Federal Reserve Challenge, and was captain of the Division I Women’s Tennis program. Upon graduation, Ryan was awarded the Bryant University Scholar Commencement Award and the inaugural Janet Morahan-Martin Research Scholar award. Ryan is following her passion at Rice University by using psychology to understand social, health, and economic disparities. In her time outside the lab, Ryan enjoys playing tennis, running, yoga, reading, and playing with her dog.

Michelle Chen

Graduate Student Researcher

Michelle Chen is a graduate student in the Psychology Department at Rice University, where is advised by Dr. Fagundes in the Cognitive/Affective Neuroscience research interest group. After receiving a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Biochemistry at Rice University, Michelle first began her career at Texas A&M College of Medicine before transitioning over to a career in research. She then supervised the NIH-funded R01 grant: Project Break Free with the Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity (HOPE) aimed to understand the underlying social, psychological, and environmental effects of tobacco cessation in African-Americans. Her primary interests are in health disparities and outcomes research as well as community-based participatory research, with a focus on the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying how adverse life events such as trauma and discrimination affect psychological and physical health outcomes. Her long-term goal is to use her research to develop interventions to ameliorate health disparities in minority populations.

Lydia Wu

Graduate Student Researcher

Lydia Wu is an incoming graduate student in the Psychology department at Rice University within the Cognitive/Affective Neuroscience research interest group. She graduated from Wheaton College (IL) in 2016 with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Psychology. With a research background in behavioral neuroscience and health psychology, she enjoys learning about the biology that underlies psychological phenomenon. She is specifically interested in mechanisms underlying mental and physical health outcomes, with particular research interests in neuro-immune interactions and the role that inflammation, stress, and psychosocial factors play in the onset and exacerbation of psychological disorders such as depression. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family, playing basketball, hiking, and exploring coffee shops and restaurants in Houston.


Patricia Morales

Project Coordinator – Project Heart

Patricia Morales is the Research Project Coordinator for the NIH R01 funded grant- Project Heart: Biobehavioral effects on Cardiovascular Risk for Bereaved Spouses. She graduated from The University of Houston in 2013 with High Honors receiving a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. Ms. Morales joined the BMED lab in the summer of 2013. Since then, she has had several roles in the BMED lab primarily managing and directing the day to day operations of the NIH project. Ms. Morales will attend Texas Women’s University fall 2018 to receive her Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Health Care Administration to continue her career in public health research.

Kristi Parker, M.Ed.

Lab Manager

Kristi Parker graduated from the University of Tulsa with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Education and Exercise Sports Science.  She received her Master of Education in School Counseling with a PPS Credential from the University of Southern California. Immediately following her Master’s degree, she worked as a paralegal for over five years at a criminal defense law firm.  Wanting to shift back into the field of psychology, she joined the BMED lab in the summer of 2015 as a Project Coordinator on the Project Heart R01 grant. Her role has transitioned over the years primarily into lab management and administration.

Jeffrey Ramirez

Project Coordinator

Jeffrey Ramirez graduated from the University of Houston in 2015 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy. He joined the BMED team as a research assistant in July 2016 and was involved with the Relationship Study and the BOOST Study. Currently, he is involved with the Harvey Study as the project coordinator. His research interests are in PTSD and anxiety, stress, cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness, and childhood adversity, which he took interest in during his time in the US Air Force. He hopes to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in order to work as a psychologist for the VA Healthcare System and develop treatments for veterans suffering from PTSD (by combining Eastern and Western methods) as a means of continuing his military service as a civilian.


Levi Saucedo

Research Assistant

Levi Saucedo is currently a senior at Rice University majoring in Psychology with a minor in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Levi was born and raised in Houston and hopes to become a physician so that he can make a contribution to the city he loves. He joined the BMED Lab in March of 2016 as a research assistant and has enjoyed learning about how traditional psychological concepts can have significant physiological manifestations. He works primarily on Project Heart and enjoys interacting with participants from different backgrounds. He also enjoys sharing with them some of the knowledge he has gained since working in the lab. In his spare time Levi enjoys boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, running, playing guitar, and reading.


Khadija Ziauddin 

Research Assistant

Khadija is currently contributing to Project Heart, and ongoing bereavement study, as a Research Assistant since October 2015. She is a medical graduate from Bangladesh and is particularly interested in the interface between physical health and mental well-being.

Ashley Fite

Research Assistant

Ashley Fite is in the class of 2020 at Rice University studying psychology and health sciences. She came to join the BMED lab in April of 2017, works with Project Heart and the data team, and is loving it! She hasn’t entirely decided what she wants to do, but is interested in health psychology, public health interventions, and health disparities. Ashley is also involved in her residential college at Rice, plays for the Rice club ultimate frisbee team, and enjoys exploring Houston and traveling.

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