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Health Psychology

Health Psychology research focuses on psychological influences on who gets sick, who stays healthy, and how people cope with illness. Researchers in this field are particularly interested in understanding how psychosocial, behavioral, and environmental factors are associated with health outcomes.

Health Psychology research in the Department of Psychology offers opportunities for interdisciplinary research in both theory and methods focused on physical health across the lifespan. Our faculty have expertise in health behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, physical fitness), clinical indicators of health (e.g., blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, cardiometabolic risk), occupational health (e.g., employee health and well-being, sleep, psychophysiological stress) and immunologic processes. In addition, students can take advantage of training opportunities across campus, including options for research in Public Health, Human Development and Family Science, Sociology, and Foods and Nutrition.


Click to expand each of the below faculty members' research focus, program affiliation, and lab information in the Health Psychology research area.

Steven Beach

  • Steven Beach is interested in the interconnected nature of problems in the family, problems with depression, and health-related outcomes. He also has focused on identifying ways to utilize social relationships as a method of enhancing health and well-being by constructing or enhancing resilience-promoting social resources (Brody, Yu, & Beach, 2016). His current work focuses on identifying biological markers, inflammatory processes, and epigenetic mediators of environmentally triggered effects on health and health behavior (Beach, Lei, Brody, Miller, Chen, Mandara, Philibert, 2017). This work contributes to the understanding of modifiable environmental factors that may indirectly drive biological and behavioral risk processes. Of particular interest are biological effects of family and social relationships.

Ron Blount

  • Ron Blount studies medical adherence, quality of life and adjustment to illness, medical outcomes, transition from pediatric to adult medical care, and related topics. His primary patient research groups include solid organ transplant recipients, patients with inflammatory bowel disease, cardiac conditions, and their families. Additionally, he has a variety of pediatric research interests and is currently or has recently conducted research on therapeutic camps and Tourette syndrome.

Malissa Clark

  • Malissa Clark researches under the broad topic of employee well-being. Her study topics include workaholism, work-family conflict, women at work, and the effects of mood/emotions on individual and workplace outcomes.

Brett Clementz

  • Brett Clementz has two general goals. The first is to understand how accurate sensory processing is maintained within the context of changing environmental circumstances. The second is to understand neurobiological distinctions between different subgroups of brain diseases called the psychoses (defined clinically by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, and cognitive disturbance), which have demonstrated, for the majority of cases to have a substantial genetic diathesis. For Dr. Clementz, the first goal, which often involves the study of the healthy brain, informs the second goal of understanding deviations in brain functions associated with manifestation of psychosis in order to facilitate improved diagnosis and treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. The methodological core of Dr. Clementz’ research involves use of simple and complex behavioral paradigms combined with use of neuroimaging technologies including electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He uses sophisticated approaches to analyzing data collected with these technologies and is known for developing innovative analysis techniques. He and Dr. McDowell co-direct the Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory.

Lillian Eby

Katie Ehrlich

  • Katie Ehrlich studies how children’s social experiences shape their mental and physical health. Her laboratory utilizes a variety of research methods to evaluate social and emotional functioning, including structured behavioral observations, clinical interviews, self-reports, and performance-based tasks. In addition, she incorporates clinical health measures and indices of cellular function and adaptive immunity. Current projects examine (a) the links between social experiences and children’s antibody production following vaccination, (b) intergenerational transmission of health disparities among African American families, and (c) skin deep resilience, depression risk, and cognitive development in adolescence.

Billy Hammond

  • Billy Hammond studies how lifestyle, primarily dietary, influences both the development of degenerative disease and the normal function of the central nervous system. For example, he uses psychophysical methods to measure the concentration of the dietary carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin within the fovea (termed macular pigment or the macula lutea) and have related those pigments to various aspects of retinal and brain function.

Philip Holmes

  • Philip Holmes studies neurobiological mechanisms responsible for cognitive, motivational, and emotional functions, with a focus on brain catecholamine and peptide neurotransmitters.  This research involves a combination of molecular, genetic, pharmacological, and behavioral approaches in rodent models. His research has revealed the essential role noradrenergic systems play in mediating the beneficial effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity and stress resilience.  He also studies how endocrine and immune systems impact brain catecholamines to influence learning, memory, and emotional behavior.  

Justin Lavner

  • Justin Lavner conducts basic and applied research to understand family dynamics over time and how family relationships can be improved. His basic research examines how relationships change and factors such as individual characteristics (e.g., personality, mental health), relationship dynamics (e.g., communication), and external stressors (e.g., discrimination, financial strain) predict these changes. His applied research focuses on developing interventions to promote couple and family health and well-being, particularly among marginalized populations.
    • Program affiliation: Clinical Psychology

Kristen Shockley

  • Kristen Shockley focuses on understanding the intersection of employees’ work and family lives. Specifically, she has conducted research aimed at understanding organizational initiatives to help employees managing competing life demands (i.e., flexible work arrangements); research that explores the relationship between work-family conflict and health outcomes, including eating behaviors and physiological indicators of health; research that addresses the theoretical foundations of work-family interactions; and research targeted at understanding how dual-earner couples balance work and family roles. Dr. Shockley’s secondary area of interest is in career development, with a specific focus on workplace and academic mentoring, people’s idiosyncratic definitions of career success, and the consequences of career compromise.

Richard Slatcher

  • Richard Slatcher focuses on understanding the effects of peoples' close relationships on their health and well-being from a social psychological perspective.

Lawrence Sweet

  • Lawrence Sweet integrates multimodal neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessments to examine brain-behavior relationships in clinical and at-risk populations (e.g., addictions, cardiovascular disease, early life adversity, aging). The Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory (CNS Lab) specializes in experimental design, and data acquisition, analyses, and interpretation for studies that employ functional magnetic resonance imaging, structural morphometry, and white matter lesion quantification. The CNS Lab is responsible for data analyses and consultation for several local and multi-site NIH-funded research studies.
    • Program affiliation: Clinical Psychology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Neuroscience
    • Laboratory: Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory

Michelle vanDellen

  • Michelle vanDellen studies self-regulation, the processes by which people choose, pursue, and disengage from goals. Her work is driven by two core assumptions: 1) goal pursuits are inherently interpersonal and 2) cognition and motivation interact to drive self-regulatory processes. She applies her work to a broad range of domains, including health behaviors of smoking (with a particular emphasis on dual-smoker couples), eating, and physical fitness.

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