Fellows of the T32
Savannah Girod received her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also received her MS in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her BS in Psychology from Stevenson University.
Savannah's research is focused on identifying multilevel (e.g., cognitive, psychological, physiological, and contextual) predictors of parenting behavior and understanding the processes by which parenting shapes children’s socioemotional outcomes. Her research aims to identify potential areas of intervention to mitigate the deleterious effects of negative parenting behaviors (e.g., child maltreatment, harsh parenting) and promote positive parenting (e.g., sensitivity).
Savannah primarily works with Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer in the Developmental Processes track to understand the occurrence of parent-child dyadic regulatory processes in families at risk for child maltreatment and how these dyadic processes shape trajectories of children's regulatory and behavioral problems. Savannah also works with Dr. Hannah Schreier in the Biological Process track where she examines how biological processes function as a mechanism for how child maltreatment shapes the development of psychopathology, and also as a moderator to identify children who are most susceptible to the negative effects of maltreatment.
Olusola Omisakin earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from Utah State University, United States, and his B.Sc. and M.Phil. in Demography & Social Statistics from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. Olusola’s research emphasizes the prospective association of early life trauma and abuse with sleep health and other conditions related to cardiometabolic risk (e.g., obesity).
Olusola is working under the direction of Dr. Orfeu Buxton as primary mentor in the Biology & Health training track to evaluate multidimensional sleep health facets from actigraphy data across multiple datasets to which Dr. Buxton has access. In addition, Olusola will be working with Dr. Jennie Noll as secondary mentor in the Developmental Processes training track on data from the Female Growth and Development Study (FGDS), a 30-year longitudinal study of sexually abused females tracked throughout development headed by Dr. Jennie Noll, examining sleep patterns among this multigenerational cohort.
Olusola is also keenly interested in uncovering mechanisms by which early life stress and trauma impact sleep and health. With both mentors and several additional datasets (e.g., Dr. Noll’s TechnoTeens study), Olusola will also be investigating the connection between biological embedding, as evidenced by accelerated biological aging, and sleep-health, cardiometabolic risk, and other key health outcomes that have grave public health relevance.
Metzli Augustina Lombera (she/her), is a fourth-year graduate student in the Clinical Child Psychology program at Penn State. Metzli’s research interests include : 1) examining different methods utilized to operationalize childhood maltreatment; 2) examining victimization in relation to a child's cultural identity (e.g., child emotional abuse associated with LGBT+ status); and 3) understanding mechanisms of action in implementing culturally adapted evidence-based practices for youth and their families following exposure to maltreatment.
Metzli is on the Prevention and Treatment, Developmental Processes, and Policy and Administrative Data Systems training tracks. Her primary mentor is Dr. Chad Shenk, and secondary and tertiary mentors are Drs. Martha Wadsworth, and Zachary Fisher respectively. She will work alongside Dr. Shenk on the TF-CBT+AAT RCT (R21HD091887) to examine differences in youth physiological responses in relation to different dimensions of child maltreatment. Working with Dr. Wadsworth, she will examine the protective role cultural identity has in relation to stress exposure. Moving to develop a stronger understanding of the Adaptive Calibration Model in her work, this goal will be achieved through secondary data analysis with Dr. Wadsworth’s RCT (BaSICS) examining the protective factors in the context of poverty on caregiver functioning in relation to stress.
Finally, working with Dr. Fisher, she will expand her current statistical analysis skills (i.e., MLM, CFA, SEM) while also developing new skills such as EMA. This work will include a collaboration on measurement models of child maltreatment that explores threat- and deprivation-specific maltreatment and a project that utilizes EMA data.
Sienna Strong-Jones is currently a third-year graduate student in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). She received a B.A in Criminology and in Spanish from the University of Florida in 2021.
Her research interests center on understanding effective ways to support racially/ethnically minoritized individuals who experienced child maltreatment, subsequent interpersonal violence as adults, along with systemic inequities (e.g., criminal justice and drug policy). Further, she is interested in examining and developing interventions that promote resilience and flourishing among racially/ethnically minoritized individuals who experienced child maltreatment (CM), despite adversity.
Sienna is on the Prevention and Treatment (PT) and the Developmental Processes (DP) tracks. With the guidance of her primary mentor, Abenaa Jones, Sienna is engaged in community-based research involving women with extensive child maltreatment experiences and who use drugs, along with criminal justice and drug treatment professionals who work with this population of women. Sienna also works with her secondary mentor, Jennie Noll, with whom she is being trained on how trauma disrupts development through developmental/longitudinal analyses and models.
Jane Lee received her M.Sc and Ph.D. in Child Development and Education from the University of Oxford. Jane’s research interests are focused on investigating typical and atypical processes of development, and identifying risk and protective mechanisms that attenuate or exacerbate children’s risk for mental health problems and associated difficulties.
Jane will mainly be working together with Dr. Yo Jackson in the Prevention and Treatment track to understand the mechanisms that may underlie protective processes among children who have experienced early adversity and prioritize different factors for specific subgroups of children. She will also be working with Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer in the Developmental Processes track to examine children’s self-regulatory processes within their network of evolving and interacting factors that affect a child’s outcome cumulatively. With Dr. Christian Connell, Jane will receive training on the use of administrative datasets to assess the effects of services or treatments on system-involved children and their outcomes, and also understand how children in the welfare system may be fairing at the population level.
Charles Alvarado is a third-year Ph.D. student and former middle school teacher in the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education at Penn State. His current research centers on understanding the effects of adversity on students' attentional processing and learning outcomes from cognitive and neuroscience perspectives. As a predoctoral fellow, he is mentored by Carlomagno Panlilio and Koraly Perez-Edgar from the Developmental Processes Track, and Eric Claus from the Biology & Health Track.
With his primary mentor, Dr. Panlilio, Charles investigates the adverse effects of early childhood maltreatment on emerging and complex reading outcomes and cognitive processes over time, which has important implications to teacher practices, especially within a trauma-informed framework. Charles also works with his secondary mentor, Dr. Perez-Edgar, on her project that investigates parent-child dyads and anxiety transmission using methods in psychology and neuroscience. With their guidance, Charles aims to meaningfully engage in projects that utilize longitudinal designs to model developmental trajectories following exposure to maltreatment.
To explore the biological embedding of maltreatment on specific attentional processes, Charles is also training with Dr. Claus to understand complex neuroimaging methods and what they can reveal about neural structure, function, and connectivity differences related to childhood maltreatment.
Aishwarya Ganguli is currently a third-year graduate student in Biobehavioral Health (BBH). She received her B.A in Psychology with a minor in Public Health in 2019.
Her research interests include examining how early life adversities such as exposure to maltreatment, harsh parenting, or lower socio-economic status could impact life-long physiological outcomes such as inflammation or metabolic syndrome. Further, she is interested in understanding the psycho-social mechanisms, such as social support, that could explain the association between childhood maltreatment and health outcomes. Lastly, she is interested in translating her lab work (maltreatment, physiological measures, psycho-social mechanisms) to policies and community-based programs to improve the care and health outcomes for individuals exposed to childhood maltreatment. She is on the Biology and Health and Policy and Administrative Data Systems training tracks. Her primary mentor is Dr. Hannah Schreier, and her secondary mentor is Dr. Sheridan Miyamoto.
Through her T-32 training, she plans to process data looking at immune markers and metabolic markers for the Child Health Study and look at the role of social support in the association between child maltreatment and physical health outcomes. Simultaneously, she will be training in Dr. Miyamoto’s lab to learn about the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination- Telehealth (SAFE-T) program and its impact on improving care for individuals exposed to sexual assault in underserved communities.
Zhenyu (Zach) Zhang, M.S., M.A., is a fourth-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology program at Penn State. Zach’s research interests include : 1) examining multidimensionality of child maltreatment, including developmental timing, type, duration and severity, and their unique effects on adverse outcomes, including psychopathology, risky behaviors, and health outcomes; 2) elucidating biological mechanisms (e.g., neuroendocrine markers and biological aging) linking child maltreatment and adverse outcomes; 3) examining potential sex differences in the biological processes following child maltreatment; and 4) translating findings we learn from basic research to inform, develop, and evaluate timely, accessible and cost-effective prevention and treatment programs for maltreatment populations.
Zach is on the Prevention and Treatment and Developmental Processes training tracks. His primary mentor is Dr. Chad Shenk, and his secondary and tertiary mentors are Drs. Lorah Dorn, and Chris Engeland respectively. Under the mentorship of Dr. Shenk, Zach is working on the Child Health Study to identify the potential differential impact of those dimensions on later health outcomes. He is also working on Dr. Shenk’s, Life Events and Reactions Study (LEARS), and, Epigenetic and Cognitive Aging Project (eCAP), to examine genetic and epigenetic markers linking child maltreatment and later adverse health. Zach is working with Dr. Dorn to study how puberty as a sensitive period can shape developmental trajectories of children exposed to maltreatment. Additionally, Zach is working with Dr. Engeland to observe the assaying of various sex and stress-related hormones, participate in the handling of specimens, and study the links between various biomarkers.
Toria Herd received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from Virginia Tech in 2021. She received her M.S. in Developmental Psychology at Virginia Tech and her B.A. in Psychology from the State University of New York College at Geneseo.
Toria's research uses a developmental psychopathology framework and longitudinal modeling to understand how individual and environmental risk and protective factors coalesce to predict adolescent health risk behaviors and psychopathology. She has primarily focused on parenting factors, (e.g., maltreatment, parent-child relationship quality) and emotion regulation development.
As a postdoctoral research fellow at Pennsylvania State University, she will be continuing this line of research with Dr. Jennie Noll, focusing specifically on longitudinal sequelae of child sexual abuse as well working with Dr. Sarah Font to understand how treatment of youth mental health is associated with placement outcomes for youth involved in the child welfare system. Moreover, in her work with Drs. Taylor Scott and Max Crowley, she provides science communication training to researchers as well as non-partisan technical assistance to congressional offices on child welfare issues.
Lindsey Palmer graduated from the University of Southern California with an MSW and PhD in Social Work. She has previously worked as a licensed clinical social worker providing mental health services to adolescents involved with the child protection and juvenile justice systems.
Lindsey’s research agenda seeks to understand the nature, extent, and impact of Child Protective Service (CPS) involvement for the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children. Her work in this area uses linked administrative data and epidemiological methods with current projects largely falling into three interrelated areas: the nature and context of neglect allegations; emotional and behavioral health among children involved with CPS; and the strengths and limitations of administrative data for documenting the experiences, conditions and outcomes of children involved with CPS. Her research seeks to generate evidence to inform policies and practices that prevent child maltreatment and promote child wellbeing, both within and outside of the CPS system.
Lindsey will be working together with Dr. Sarah Font in the Policy and Administrative Data systems track to examine families reported to CPS due to allegations of neglect. In addition, Lindsey will be working with Dr. Jennie Noll to better understand how the use of longitudinal cohort studies can compliment administrative data in obtaining a more comprehensive picture of psychosocial outcomes related to child maltreatment.
Claire Selin received her Ph.D. in Child Language from the University of Kansas and her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Rush University. Her primary research focuses on the causal pathways and developmental trajectories linking child maltreatment to increased risk for language disorders.
Claire works primarily with Yo Jackson in the Developmental Processes Track where she investigates the longitudinal stability of language acquisition within an intergenerational context when children are exposed to maltreatment and trauma. Specifically, Claire examines how maltreatment exposure associates with 1) child and caregiver performance on a nonword repetition task--a classic indicator and clinical marker of language disorders, and 2) child-caregiver communicative interactions using observational methods.
Claire also works with Jennie Noll in the Biology & Health Track to explore how biological embedding of child maltreatment may disrupt developmental timing mechanisms underlying cognitive and linguistic trajectories. Working with Eric Claus, Claire is also training in neuroimaging methods to study how child maltreatment affects neural structure, function, and development as related to language acquisition.
Tenesha Littleton earned a BA in Psychology from Tulane University and a MSW and PhD in Social Work from the University of Georgia. Littleton previously worked as a Clinical Social Worker for 10 years providing services to children and families within the child welfare, mental health, and educational systems.
Littleton works with primary mentor Sarah Font in the Policy and Administrative Data Systems Track on research projects exploring disparities associated with child welfare system involvement. They are currently examining discipline disparities in school experiences among a cohort of children investigated for child maltreatment.
In addition, Littleton works with secondary mentor Yo Jackson in the Prevention and Treatment track exploring factors associated with resilience among youth in foster care, including spirituality and placement stability. She also works with Dawn Witherspoon in the Context Lab examining how neighborhood institutions, resources, and processes are implicated in patterns of child welfare system involvement among families.
Stacey Shipe received her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, her MSc in Evidence Based Social Work from University of Oxford, and her MSW in Social Work from New York University.
Stacey's interests are twofold – her first area focuses on the functioning of child welfare organizations. Her second area is related but broader in that she focuses on specific users of child serving systems. The first area centers specifically on organizational functioning (i.e., culture and climate) with an eye on caseworker decision making and how this affects family outcomes. Her second area targets single (custodial) fathers and their lived experiences managing child serving systems (i.e., child welfare, welfare, healthcare, education, and juvenile justice).
Stacey's primary mentor is Dr. Connell and Dr. Crowley is her secondary mentor. Both researchers have solid footing in the child welfare sector – Dr. Connell with a long history of work within child serving organizations as well as a focus on the policy-practice continuum and Dr. Crowley with policy and benefit-cost analyses. An additional secondary mentor is Dr. Noll. Her extensive background and knowledge in child sexual abuse, specifically with interventions to help understand and mitigate this hidden problem falls in line with my experiences in child welfare agencies and also a desire to equip families and communities to discuss this difficult subject matter.
Kayla Brown is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology program at Penn State working with Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer, Dr. Koraly Perez-Edgar, and Dr. Nilam Ram.
She received her B.S. in General Science from Penn State. She then spent two years studying temperament and attentional bias in children and adolescents with Dr. Koraly Perez-Edgar and Dr. Kristin Buss. Her research is focused on how individual differences in parents, children, and familial characteristics influence their dynamic interaction patterns and how these patterns shape child development, particularly in families at risk for child maltreatment.
Working closely with Dr. Lunkenheimer and Dr. Perez-Edgar, she aims to use novel dynamic modeling methods on micro longitudinal data to investigate vital influences and patterns and identify salient targets to intervene on maladaptive parent-child interactions in families at risk for child maltreatment.
Additionally, working with Dr. Ram, Kayla aims to investigate how we can use machine learning techniques to leverage large administrative data in order to better understand those at risk for severe trajectories of child maltreatment.
Catherine Diercks is a fourth-year doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at Penn State. She completed her undergraduate and post-baccalaureate work at the University of Oregon under the guidance of Drs. Philip Fisher and Caitlin Fausey.
Catherine works with her primary mentor, Dr. Erika Lunkenheimer, to better understand the role of parental cognitive factors (e.g., attributions, executive functions) in the etiology of harsh and neglectful parenting, especially in parents who experienced their own early life adversities.
Catherine also works Dr. Douglas Teti to learn more about supporting parents as these processes unfold across the transition to parenthood, and with Dr. Timothy Brick to learn more about improving the ecological validity of methods used to observe harsh and neglectful parenting.
Casey Mullins is a PhD student in Educational Psychology. Her research interests focus around exploring the effect experiencing maltreatment has on students’ academic outcomes and identifying academic mechanisms, which may be sources of intervention that mitigate some of the negative effects of maltreatment.
Specifically, her research focuses on academic engagement as potential mechanism. Mullins is on the Developmental Processes track with her primary mentor, Carlomagno Panlilio, and one of her secondary mentors, Jennie Noll. She is also on the Policy and Administrative Data track with her other secondary mentor, Sarah Font. As a fellow, Mullins is working with Dr. Noll to train to collect data for the Child Health Study and is working with Dr. Panlilio and Dr. Noll to conduct secondary data analyses of the Child Health Study data to examine the psychometric properties of the academic engagement measure used in the study.
Mullins is also working with Dr. Panlilio and Dr. Font to explore academic engagement as a mediator in the relationship between maltreatment and academic performance and to examine protective and risk factors, such as parent-child and teacher-student relationships, foster care placement, and trauma symptomology, that may affect this mediating relationship.
Anneke Olson is currently a third year graduate student in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). She received her B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Sociology from Tulane University in 2016.
Her research interests include elucidating the mechanisms underlying early child maltreatment and later outcomes, as well as the development and evaluation of programs for children and families impacted by maltreatment. Relatedly, she is on the Developmental Processes and Prevention and Treatment training tracks. Her primary mentor is Dr. Chad Shenk, and her secondary mentors are Drs. Erika Lunkenheimer, and Sy-Miin Chow.
Through the training of the T32 and the expertise of her mentors, she is specifically interested in learning about observational methodology as well as innovative dynamic systems methods to study familial relationships in the context of child maltreatment. She will begin this work by analyzing observational data of parent-child relationships collected in the ongoing Child Health Study.