Our work in the BMED lab aims to eliminate health disparities (e.g., a higher burden of illness, injury, disability, or mortality experienced by one group relative to another). Diversity and inclusion is an important value to the BMED team and inherent to the success of our research. The BMED Lab does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, retaliation, parental status, military service, or other non-merit factor. We seek team members who are equally as passionate about diversity as we are. As you scroll through the names and stories of our lab members, we hope you gain insight into who we are.
The BMED Team
Christopher P. Fagundes, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator (CV)
Areas of Interest: Psychoneuroimmunology, Clinical & Social Health Psychology, Lifespan Personality Development, Affective Science, Psychophysiology
Working in the area of psychoneuroimmunology, Dr. Fagundes uses theories and methods from clinical, social, and developmental health 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 health behaviors. He has authored more than 100 articles and book chapters. His theoretical work has focused on the adoption of attachment theory to understand how attachment security can buffer the negative consequences of current and past life stressors. He is developing theoretically-based interventions to improve the negative physical health consequences of stress. As a principal investigator, his current grant portfolio consists of two longitudinal observational studies funded by the National Institute of Health, and one clinical trial funded by the National Endowment of Arts. He is a co-investigator on two additional NIH grants using mobile health sensing technology to identify when people are most at risk for poor health behaviors. 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, the Excellence in Health Psychology Research Award by an Early Career Professional from Division 38 of the American Psychological Association, and the Herbert Weiner Early Career Award from the American Psychosomatic Society.
Dr. Fagundes has served as a mentor on individual NIH training applications at the post-bachelor, pre-doctoral, post-doctoral, and junior faculty level. If interested in applying to his laboratory as a Ph.D. student, please contact him directly to determine the research interest group (area) that will best fit your needs. Regardless of specialization, Dr. Fagundes requires his graduate students to take courses in health psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, social psychology, emotion regulation, translational research methods, and clinical trial design. To maximize funding prospects, potential post-doctoral fellows, and research assistant professors (grant-funded, non-tenure track) should contact him well in advance of their ideal start dates (i.e., 6-18 months).
Angie S. LeRoy, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Angie LeRoy received her PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Houston in 2018. Her program of research aims to identify (1) how people detect, perceive, and experience real or imagined threats to their relationships with others, and (2) how socially threatening situations (e.g., social loss) impact mental and physical health and well-being. As part of her post-doctoral fellowship, funded by the National Institutes of Health (1F32HL146064-01; PI: Angie LeRoy; Sponsors: Chris Fagundes, Cobi Heijnen, & Robert Dantzer) she is currently investigating whether perceived burdensomeness (i.e., feeling like a burden to others) may partially explain the relationship between grief and inflammation (indexed by serum levels of Interleukin 6 (IL-6), C reactive protein (CRP), & Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNFα)) during spousal bereavement. Visit Dr. LeRoy’s website to learn more about her work.
Marzieh Majd, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Marzieh received her Pharm.D. degree from Tehran Azad University of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Iran and her Ph.D. in Biobehavioral Health from the Pennsylvania State University. Broadly, Marzieh is interested in understanding the underlying biology of mood disorders (with a particular interest in depression) and tailoring treatments based on combinations of biological and behavioral factors. More specifically, her research has focused on: 1) understanding the heterogeneity of depression, and 2) investigating the associations between depressive symptoms and inflammatory markers. For her Ph.D. dissertation, she measured depression-related constructs by employing a battery of questionnaires and laboratory-based tasks (e.g., the NIH toolbox cognition) and examined the inflammatory correlates of each construct. As part of her post-doctoral fellowship, she uses a complex data-driven machine learning approach to identify biological (e.g., inflammation) and psychological (e.g., depressive symptoms) predictors of complicated grief during bereavement.
Ryan Linn Brown
Graduate Student Researcher
Ryan Linn Brown is a graduate student in the Psychological Sciences Department at Rice University as part of the Health Psychology & Behavioral Medicine 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 to understand the mechanisms underlying how stress affects cardiovascular, immune, and endocrine function. In her time outside the lab, Ryan enjoys playing tennis, running, yoga, reading, and fetching with her dog.
Graduate Student Researcher
Michelle Chen is a graduate student in the Psychological Sciences Department at Rice University as part of the Health Psychology & Behavioral Medicine research interest group, where she is advised by Dr. Fagundes. After receiving a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Biochemistry at Rice University in 2016, 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.
Graduate Student Researcher
Lydia Wu is a graduate student in the Psychological Sciences Department at Rice University within the Health Psychology & Behavioral Medicine and Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience research interest groups. 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.
Graduate Student Researcher
Melia Bonomo is an Applied Physics graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University. She graduated from Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) in 2013 with a B.S. with honors in Physics and a minor in Italian. Upon graduation, Melia was awarded the Kenneth L. Cashdollar Prize in Physics and the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Award for Italian. She spent two years as a high school teaching assistant in Italy and a summer research advisor at Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY) before coming to Rice in 2015. Melia’s doctoral research is in theoretical biological physics. One of her specific interests is in analyzing the interactions between a variety of neuroimmunological measures to model disparities in health trajectories and outcomes after stressful life events. She is also interested in quantifying the impact of music therapy on social and emotional well-being and cognitive health.
Staff and Research Assistants
Kristi Parker, M.Ed.
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.
Project Coordinator – Project Heart, Project ACT
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 is currently in the Business program at Texas Women’s University to receive her Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Health Care Administration. She plans to continue her career in public health research.
Project Coordinator – Project CHROMA
Yoully Kang is the project coordinator of Project Chroma at the BMED Lab. Yoully graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2017, but she also studied music and applied health sciences during her undergraduate years. After college, she continued to explore her interest in the creative arts while gaining experience in customer and health services and volunteering at a school for autistic children. Shortly after realizing her desire to step back into the field of psychology, she found the opportunity to be a part of the BMED Lab and work on the CHROMA study, a project that integrates both her interests in the sciences and the creative arts. In her free time, Yoully enjoys calligraphy, playing piano, and spending time with loved ones.
Junior Project Coordinator – Project Heart
Valentina Maza is the Junior Project Coordinator and a former Senior Research Assistant for the NIH R01 funded grant Project Heart. She graduated with honors from the University of Houston with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Qualitative Social Sciences. Valentina joined the BMED lab in the Spring of 2018 and has been involved in both Project Heart and Project Voces. Her research interests are in Latino mental health, health psychology, health disparities, community-based outreach and interventions, and substance use. Ms. Maza is in the process of preparing for graduate school applications, in the hopes of pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. During her free time, Valentina is a youth leader at her church and also enjoys traveling and exploring Houston.
Levi Saucedo graduated from Rice University in 2017 with a major in Psychology and 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 psychological concepts can have significant physiological manifestations. He is currently the data manager responsible for consolidating the majority of the data that the BMED Lab gathers. Additionally, in 2018 he was awarded a diversity supplement grant trough Project Heart to conduct research and further his science education. In his spare time Levi enjoys boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, running, playing guitar, and reading.
Research coordinator – Project ACT
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, the BOOST Study, and the Harvey Study. Currently, he is involved with the Break Free Smoking 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.
Senior Research Assistant – Project Heart
Nyla Vela is a current sophomore undergraduate at Rice University majoring in Psychology. She hopes to go into Clinical or Developmental Psychology in the future. Nyla joined Project Heart in the Fall of 2018 as a means to learn and engage more in the field of Psychology through hands on experience. She enjoys the participant engagement aspect of Project Heart the most. In her spare time, Nyla can be found running and enjoying the outdoors.
Senior Research Assistant – Project Heart
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.
Amy Doan, class of ’21, is studying psychology and biochemistry at Rice University. She joined the BMED Lab in Spring 2019 as part of Project ASH and is continuing with Project CHROMA. Amy is interested in becoming a physician in the future and has appreciated learning about the biobehavioral impacts on health. In her spare time, Amy enjoys dancing, reading, and watching Korean dramas.
Arya is an undergraduate Rice student in the class of 2021. She has been working as a research assistant for Project Heart since January of 2019. She is majoring in psychology and intends to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology, although she is still deciding the specific field.
Jade Kanemitsu is in the class of 2021 at Rice University majoring in Cognitive Science and English. She joined the BMED lab in June of 2018 as a research assistant. Her primary interests are psychology-based, but she is interested in incorporating neuroscience and linguistic-based aspects into her research. Her goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in cognitive science to continue research and teach at the collegiate level. She is currently investigating the presence of depressive symptoms in bereaved participants using linguistic analysis techniques.
- Luz M. Garcini, Ph.D. (postdoctoral fellow), Assistant Professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio
- Kyle W. Murdock, Ph.D. (postdoctoral fellow), Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University
- Diana Chirinos Medina, Ph.D. (postdoctoral fellow), Assistant Professor at Northwestern University
- Maliha Khan (undergraduate), Liberty University Counseling and Family Studies Program
- Larissa M. Gonzalez (staff member), University of Utah Physician Assistant Program
- Andrea Lugo (staff member), McGovern Medical School
- Valentina Gonzalez (post-baccalaureate), Western University of Health Sciences, Physician Assistant Program
- Megan Lewis (undergraduate), University of Texas at Austin – Dell Medical School
- Allison Shields (staff member), Northwestern University Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program
- Vansh Vohra (undergraduate), Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech
- Ambreen Iqbal (undergraduate), DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine – Lincoln Memorial University
- Sanika Rane (undergraduate) – Baylor College of Medicine