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
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, developmental, and clinical psychology to understand how stress “gets under the skin” to impact diseases of older adulthood such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, fatigue, and cognitive decline (i.e. Alzheimer’s disease & other forms of dementia). He is particularly interested in how those who experienced early life stress and/or are low socioeconomic status (SES) are disproportionally burdened by the negative physiological consequences of stress. He has authored more than 60 articles and chapters in journals such as JAMA Psychiatry, Health Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Developmental Psychology, Brain, Behavior & Immunity, and Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Currently, Dr. Fagundes has an NIH-funded R01 grant examining how relationship insecurity (or attachment insecurity) in the context of losing a spouse impacts inflammation, which is prognostic for cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. He is also adopting theoretically based interventions to improve the negative physical health consequences of bereavement.
Diana A. Chirinos Medina was born and raised in Arequipa, Peru, where she completed her undergraduate work at Santa Maria Catholic University with a major in Psychology. While in Peru, Diana worked in a large epidemiological study of cardiovascular disease prevalence that sparked her interest in the relationship between biopsychosocial factors and health. She moved to the US in 2010 to attend graduate school at the University of Miami. She graduated with her M.S. in Health Clinical Psychology in 2012, and will receive her Ph.D. from the same institution in the summer of 2016. During her time in Miami, Diana continued to develop her interest in the bio-behavioral determinants of cardio-metabolic risk among Hispanic/Latinos both in the context of large epidemiological studies and within structured lifestyle interventions. In her time away from psychology, Diana likes to go out with friends, try out new restaurants, play with her dog, and make her annual trip to visit her family in Peru.
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.
Dr. Kyle W. Murdock, Ph.D.
Dr. Kyle W. Murdock received his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Utah, followed by his M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Northern Illinois University. Dr. Murdock joined the BMED lab as a postdoctoral research fellow in August, 2015. He is particularly interested in the dynamic associations between stress, neuropsychological functioning, interpersonal factors, and inflammation as they relate to health disparities. Dr. Murdock’s work aims to identify mechanisms underlying health disparities that may be susceptible to change through biobehavioral interventions. Such work may be important for reducing disease incidence and the economic burden associated with life-threatening health concerns (e.g., cancer, cardiovascular disease). In his free time, Dr. Murdock enjoys running, fishing, snow skiing, and racing cars and go-karts.
Dr. Annina Seiler received her M.S. in Clinical Psychology at University of Zurich, Switzerland in 2012, followed by her Ph.D. at University Hospital of Zurich and University of Fribourg, Switzerland in 2015. During her Ph.D., Dr. Seiler evaluated health-related quality of life and mental health of lung transplant recipients and investigated predictors of poor post-transplant outcomes. Due to her work as a clinical psychologist in the field of psycho-oncology, her current research focus has shifted back from transplant medicine to psycho-oncology and psychoneuroimmunology. Dr. Seiler joined the BMED lab as a postdoctoral research fellow in September 2016. She is particular interested in immunology, cancer biology and behavioral interventions that are intended to improve the health-related outcomes of cancer survivors.
Angie S. LeRoy, M.A.
Graduate Student Researcher; Project Coordinator – The Relationship Study
Angie LeRoy is currently a Ph.D. student in the Social Psychology program at the University of Houston under the advisement of Dr. Fagundes. 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 ultimate career goal is to be a tenured research professor investigating the mind-body connection, with a program of research aimed at identifying key psychosocial factors (e.g., self-perceived burden) that contribute to physical pain, dysregulated stress responses, and immune dysregulation in chronically ill or underserved populations. 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 (e.g., SES & neighborhood-level stress). In daily BMED lab operations, she works primarily as the project coordinator of the Relationship Study.
Project Coordinator – Project Heart
Patricia Morales is one of the BMED Laboratory Managers and the Project Coordinator for the NIH- funded R01 grant: Project Heart: Bereavement Study. She graduated from The University of Houston in the Fall of 2013 with High Honors and a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. After graduating, Ms. Morales worked as a Project Coordinator at the Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory-Substance Use and Treatment Clinic at The University of Houston. During this time, she also worked on multiple studies, one of which was at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Subsequently, she became Laboratory Manager of the BMED team. At MD Anderson, she coordinated and assisted on several studies and became the study director of a pilot study called The Vaccine Study, which examined the responses to the influenza vaccine in breast cancer survivors. Ms. Morales intends to pursue her MBA in Health Administration. Thereafter, she plans to continue her education in mental health by pursuing a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.
Project Coordinator – Project Heart
Ms. Kristi Parker graduated from the University of Tulsa with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Education and a minor in Exercise Sports Science. She received her Master of Education in School Counseling with a PPS Credential from the University of Southern California. She has been working as a paralegal for the past five years at a criminal defense law firm in the Los Angeles area. She’s excited to transition back into the psychology field as she begins work as a Project Coordinator at the BMED Lab in August.
Sally Acebo is a research assistant at Bioscience Research Collaborative. She holds a BA degree in Chemistry from the University of St. Thomas. She is also currently working as a science tutor at Educere Tutoring in Houston. Since 2011, she has been volunteering weekly at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Katy where she has given over 450 volunteer hours. Sally previously worked as a research assistant at MD Anderson.
Maliha Khan graduated from the University of Houston in the Fall 2013 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Biology. Maliha is currently pursuing her master’s degree in licensed professional counseling from Liberty University. She is also a behavioral science research assistant at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is working with Dr. Fagundes in the Biobehavioral Mechanisms Explaining Disparities Lab. In this lab, Maliha manages the study regarding Mindfulness Based Couples Therapy for breast cancer survivors. Her interests are in marriage and family counseling, as well as child psychology.
Allison Shields graduated from Rice University in 2015 with a B.A. in Psychology with Honors and Distinction in Research, and minors in Anthropology and Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities. She joined the BMED team as a post-bacc Research Assistant in October 2015 and works primarily with The Relationship Study. She enjoys studying health disparities in breast cancer survivors and is especially interested in the role that childhood attachment plays in the development of later stress and depression.
Aside from working at the BMED Lab, Allison is a Mental Health Associate at The Menninger Clinic, where she works with adolescents with complex psychiatric disorders. She hopes to get her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, focusing on developmental psychopathology and assessment of severe mental health problems in children and adolescents. She is particularly interested in bipolar disorder and emerging personality disorders. In her free time, Allison enjoys traveling, running, and exploring Houston’s restaurants.
Senior Research Assistant
Megan Lewis is a junior at Rice University studying sociology and biochemistry. Aspiring to become a physician, Megan hopes to build clinics and provide quality, personable healthcare to under-served populations. With the BMED Lab since October 2014, she spends her time working primarily on Project Heart. She enjoys studying health disparities and is particularly interested in the role that early childhood environment and adverse family environments influence adult health status through physiological mechanisms like inflammation and immune dysregulation.
Senior Research Assistant
Stephanie Zeibak is a student research assistant here at the BRC. She is an junior at the University of St. Thomas with a major in Biochemistry and minor in Psychology on the Pre-Medical track. Stephanie is hoping to attend medical school once she graduates from UST in 2017 and one day practice Pediatric Oncology. She has been working with the BMED lab since October 2014, and loves working here because she is “able to apply lessons that [she] learns in the classroom to real life, which is incomparable to any class setting”. Some fun facts about Stephanie are that she is the captain of her university’s fencing team (go Celts!) and she is also a cake decorator/baker. Stephanie is the founder of the new blog/Instagram: The More, The Batter. So who wants some cake?
Sydney is a Student Research Assistant at the BMED lab working on The Relationship Study. She is junior at the University of Houston studying Psychology and minoring in Law, Policy, and Values. After graduation, she plans on attending law school and entering the field of Health Law. Sydney enjoys working at the BMED lab because she is very interested in learning about the research process and how mental and physical health interact. She also works at a children’s learning center where she helps to create academic curriculum for toddlers.
Kathy Dang is a research assistant for The Relationship Study at the BED lab. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2013 with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Services. She hopes to one day become a pediatric physician and serve underprivileged populations around the world. Kathy enjoys working with the BMED lab because she is able to learn how different levels of relationship stress affect a person’s psychological and physical well-being. In her spare time, she is also a dental assistant at Soft Dental and takes pleasure in exploring different types of restaurants around Houston.
Tess Gabert is a sophomore at Rice University studying cognitive science and neuroscience. She has been a Research Assistant for Project Heart at the BMED lab since September 2015. Her life goal is to work as a physician for Doctors Without Borders. In the meantime, she loves working at BMED because of how supportive everyone in the lab is and how much she learns every day. Not only does she have a newfound respect for how closely related physical and mental well-being are, but a greater appreciation for what one can learn about life by simply listening because of the enlightening conversations she’s had with participants.
Valentina Gonzalez graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Corporate/Organizational Communications. She taught Title 1 students for five years while supporting her campus administration as a coordinator. She is pursuing a medical profession as a mid-level provider. Her former clinical study coordinator experience and background in education have solidified her decision to work with disadvantaged families in underserved communities in the future. Valentina enjoys being involved in various aspects and phases of the research process. In her free time, she enjoys tutoring and volunteering in health-related events. Her interests include globe-trotting, exploring different cultural events, and reading.
Savannah is a freshman at Rice University, studying psychology and neuroscience. After she graduates, she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with the goal of working with children one day. At the BMED lab, she works with both Project Heart and The Relationship Study as a data management assistant. She enjoys working with the BMED lab team and learning about how she can help the research process.
Andrea Lugo is a Research Assistant here at the BMED Lab. She is a senior at the University of Houston pursuing a B.S in Human Nutrition with a minor in Biology. Andrea hopes to attend medical school once she finishes her undergraduate studies and has an interest on Cardiology. She has been with the BMED Lab since October 2015 and is currently spending her time with Project Heart. Aside from working at the BMED Lab, Andrea is also a tutor at UH where she works with students to coach them in different upper level science courses. She loves working here because “it has let [her] gain analytical insight on research while also interacting one to one with participants. Besides, everyone is extremely supportive and they genuinely want you to succeed in the lab”. In her free time, Andrea likes exploring the city and discovering Houston restaurants!
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.
Emily Scannapieco works with the BMED Lab’s Relationship Study as a Research Assistant. She graduated from Baylor University in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and joined the lab in April of 2016. She plans to pursue a career in medicine as a Physician Assistant. Emily enjoys working at the BMED Lab and learning more about the research process.
Alyson Tseng is a student Research Assistant at the BMED lab and a senior at Rice University majoring in psychology. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in clinical psychology with a focus on health or developmental psychopathology. She has been working in the BMED Lab since August 2015, and enjoys working on the Relationship Study because “it helps me gain understanding on how many factors, such as attachment or relationship stress, can impact a person’s health. I also love the opportunities to interact with people outside of the lab.” She also has a passion for animals and worked in the Houston Zoo for a summer.
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.