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 65 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 and 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 5 year study- Project Heart. Ms. Morales intends to pursue her MBA in Health Care Administration to continue her career in the research field.
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.
Harvey Study 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 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 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.
Isabel Greiner studied the liberal arts at Lewis & Clark College and graduated with a B.A., cum laude. She double-majored in art history and English literature and spent about 10 months studying Spanish and the history of Spain in Seville. She joined the BMED team as a post-bacc research assistant in June 2017. There, she divides her time between Project Heart and some upcoming studies she’s coordinating. Her primary research interests are family systems and the psychophysiological mechanisms that underlie these dynamics. She hopes to begin a Ph.D. program in psychology next year.
Outside of her responsibilities for the BMED lab, Isabel is a practicing ceramicist. She also enjoys gardening, seeing art and films, pilates, and hanging with her poodle.
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.