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Child Health & Development Lab



Sarah E. Watamura, PhD

Principle Investigator

Sarah E. Watamura is the director of the CHaD lab. She is an Associate Professor at DU. After training with Dr. Megan Gunnar at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development she received her Ph.D. from the Department of Human Development at Cornell University. She has long-standing interests in children's physiologic regulation, their development within care giving contexts, and relations between physiologic regulation and developing physical and psychological stress. She has recently expanded her work to include the unique stressors and buffers that may be important for physiologic stress among families experiencing poverty and among newcomer Mexican-origin families.

*Dr. Watamura is planning on accepting a student for Fall 2018 admission (from either the developmental program or clinical child program).



Amy Dominguez


Amy Dominguez is a graduate student in the clinical child psychology PhD program. Her experience in previous labs has included work in early child development, clinical neuroscience, and translational clinical research. Most recently, she has worked as a therapist and assessor for children with developmental disorders in low-income areas of Los Angeles. Amy is primarily interested in studying the relationship between chronic stress and early social, emotional, and cognitive development. Ultimately, she aims to deliver interventions in a diverse, community-based setting that mitigate the developmental and biological effects of various risk factors.

ellyElly Miles

Developmental, DCN

Elly Miles is a graduate student in the developmental psychology PhD program. Prior to coming to graduate school, she worked as a program developer and administrator in a community mental health setting. Elly is interested in caregiving and early childhood mental and behavioral health in refugee and minority populations. She is investigating how the timing and severity of experiences in the context of war-exposure and displacement impact caregiver mental health and child outcomes, especially after resettlement. Currently, she is studying Syrian and Iraqi families to learn how culturally-specific risk and protective processes moderate associations between displacement and later family wellbeing.

postdoctoral students


Samantha M. Brown, PhD, MA, LPC


Samantha Brown is a postdoctoral fellow in the Stress, Early Experiences, and Development Research Center. Samantha is interested in translating knowledge regarding adverse childhood experiences, healthy development, and family functioning to inform the enhanced tailoring and development of childhood trauma prevention interventions. As a SEED postdoc, she will explore the intergenerational effects of adversity and buffering factors transmitted from parents to their children via physiological, neuropsychological, and social mechanisms. Samantha is also interested in the use of mindfulness-informed and trauma-focused approaches to promote the health and well-being of children and families affected by child maltreatment and parental substance misuse.

lab managers


Ariel Julian

Project Manager

Ariel Julian is a project manager for the lab. As an undergraduate, Ariel worked as a research assistant in Dr. Deak's stress lab at Binghamton University. The primary focus was to determine how organisms respond and adapt to psychologically stressful events. After graduation, Ariel was a research coordinator at Mount Siani Medical Center for a project examining the genetic factors of congenital heart defects. In the Watamura lab his main focus is managing and coordinating the Buffering Early Stress Together (B.E.S.T) Study.

alumni of the lab

eliana Eliana Hurwich-Reiss, M.A.


Eliana Hurwich-Reiss is a student in the clinical psychology PhD program. She is currently completing her predoctoral clinical internship at the UCSD/VA training program in San Diego. Eliana's primary interests involve research and clinical work with diverse populations, in particular Latino immigrant parents and children. One of her goals is to help fill the gap in mental health research and service delivery to low-income Latino families. For her master's thesis she worked on the cultural and language adaptation of a parenting, relationship, and stress and coping psycho-educational intervention designed for low-income Spanish speaking families. She then conducted a pilot study to assess the preliminary feasibility, acceptability and efficacy of the program with Spanish speaking Head Start families in the Denver area.


Natasha Link

Data Collection Team Leader

Tasha Link received her B.A. degree in American Studies in May 2013. In the CHAD lab, Tasha coordinated the data collection for the Buffering Early Stress Together (BEST) study, managed the lab's IRB protocols, and supervised a team of undergraduate RAs. Her research interests include examining and reducing the socioeconomic disparities in education, mental health, and public health resources. Currently, Tasha is a clinical-community psychology doctoral student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).


Marina Mendoza, Ph.D.


Marina M. Mendoza, PhD, worked in the Child Health and Development Lab from 2007-2015.  Prior to joining the lab she was a bilingual probation case manager. The transition to the CHaD lab illuminated the overlap between those involved in the criminal justice system and those experiencing adverse life experiences. Being a project manager and research assistant she learned valuable research, practice, and analytical skills. For example she provided input on research protocols, administered developmental assessments with children, and regularly conducted data analyses for conferences and papers. She was also trained in the collection and storage of psychobiological data, including salivary cortisol. Outside of the lab she built lasting partnerships with several preschool and Head Start centers around the Denver Metro area. Above all she found connecting with families and engaging with children the most rewarding.  She has since graduated from the University of Denver with a PhD in Developmental Psychology and a concentration in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.  She is currently a Society for Research in Child Development Policy Fellow which is part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology Fellowship program. In her placement she is expanding her training to include the application of developmental science to the criminal justice field, as well as, effective dissemination of scientific research to varied audiences. 

lisaLisa J. Schlueter, M.A.

Developmental, DCN

Lisa J. Schlueter (McFadyen-Ketchum) is a graduate student in the developmental psychology PhD program. She has 8 years combined research experience in molecular developmental neuroscience. Lisa is generally interested in risk and resilience in infants and toddlers with a particular emphasis on school readiness. In the Watamura lab she will explore the relationship between physiologic stress reactivity and developmental trajectories in early childhood. Currently she is assisting on an upcoming project examining the role of parents in buffering their children from stress, as well as, investigating the potential cognitive benefits of physical activity in preschoolers. While at DU she hopes to merge her previous work with animal models, and her current training with the goal of generating cross-disciplinary translational research.


Allison Stiles, M.A.


Allison is a 4th year doctoral student in the clinical child psychology program at the University of Denver. After receiving a B.A. from Bates College in 2010, Allison joined Teach for America and taught fifth grade in Gallup, New Mexico. Her experiences working with at-risk youth led her to begin working as a research assistant in the CHAD lab, exploring the function of parental support in safeguarding children from early environmental stress. Currently, Allison is a part of the Services for At-Risk Youth and Families lab at DU and her research interests involve understanding mental health treatment disparities for disadvantaged, ethnically diverse youth and families. She is interested in the development of culturally sensitive treatment interventions that can be implemented into realistic, challenging settings such as schools and community centers.


  • Philip Fisher, Ph.D.
  • Megan Gunnar, Ph.D.
  • Julia Dmitrieva, Ph.D.
  • Monique Lebourgeois, Ph.D.
  • Lisa Badanes, Ph.D.