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Child Health & Development Lab



Sarah E. Watamura, PhD

Principal Investigator
[email protected]

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

Email: [email protected]

Amy Dominguez is a 3rd year graduate student in the clinical child psychology PhD program. After graduating from Yale University with a B.S. in psychology, she worked as a therapist for children with developmental disorders. She recently completed her M.A. investigating patterns of cortisol reactivity to stress in preschoolers from low-income families. Amy is primarily interested in studying the relationship between early life stress, developmental trajectories, and physiological markers of stress, particularly among Latino and immigrant families. Ultimately, she aims to conduct comprehensive neuropsychological assessments in a diverse, community-based setting to inform interventions that empower parents to buffer effects of early life stress on their child's development.

drewDrew McGee

Email: [email protected]

Drew McGee is a 1st year graduate student in the clinical child psychology PhD program. Drew worked in a nonprofit preschool day treatment program while obtaining his B.S. in psychology from the University of Utah. Drew then obtained his M.A. from Teacher's College at Columbia University in Psychology, where he assisted in the pilot study of a group attachment-based intervention to improve parental sensitivity and child outcomes. Drew is specifically interested in developmental trajectories of stress responses and emotion regulation, and the physiological markers of these processes in young children. Additionally, Drew is interested in the development of resiliency through positive parenting practices and dyadic processes.

ellyElly Miles, M.A.

Developmental, DCN
Email: [email protected]

Elly Miles is a graduate student in the developmental psychology PhD program. Before beginning graduate school, Elly worked in community mental health where she organized and supported home-based programming for adult, parent, and child mental health. Elly is interested in caregiver wellbeing and early childhood biobehavioral health, especially in refugee and minority populations. She is investigating how the timing and severity of perimigration experiences impact caregiver and child outcomes, especially in post-resettlement contexts. Currently, she is co-investigator on a project examining how culturally-specific risk and protective processes in resettled Syrian and Iraqi families moderate associations between displacement and later family outcomes.

tiffanyTiffany Phu

Email: [email protected]

Tiffany Phu is a graduate student in the clinical child psychology Ph.D. program. Previous lab experiences include research in health psychology, social cognition, and dissemination and implementation science. Her primary research interests involve early biological embedding of risk and resilience factors within diverse cultural orientations, with attention to implications for public policy.

postdoctoral students

nedaNeda Senehi, PhD

Email: [email protected]

Neda Senehi is a postdoctoral fellow in the Developmental Psychobiology Research Group with a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from Michigan State University. Neda investigates the various ways in which parents socialize and promote the development of self-regulation in infants and toddlers living in poverty. As a DPRG postdoc, she will examine differences in young children's stress regulation and its link to maternal mentalization-related parenting behaviors (caregivers' behaviors that consider mental life of children). Neda is also interested in the association between parental socialization and mentalization-related behaviors with how parents manage their own stress and negative emotions. She will use this information to support interventions tailored to promote positive parenting behaviors for families living in stressful contexts such as poverty or with mental illness.

lab managers


Ariel Julian

Project Manager
Email: [email protected]

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


Samantha M. Brown, PhD, MA, LPC

Email: [email protected]

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.




Eliana Hurwich-Reiss, M.A.

Email: [email protected]

Eliana Hurwich-Reiss was a doctoral graduate student in the clinical psychology program. She completed her predoctoral clinical internship at the UCSD/VA training program in San Diego. She is now a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California San Diego and the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center. Eliana's primary interests involve research and clinical work with diverse populations, in particular Latino immigrant parents and children. Eliana's graduate research program was motivated by a desire to understand those family-level factors which serve to mitigate risk for low-income Latino youth and families, and translate this understanding into improved culturally sensitive intervention efforts. As part of her current postdoc she trains community-based therapists and school mental health providers in AIM HI (An Individualized Mental Health Intervention for Children with ASD), an intervention designed to reduce challenging behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder and comorbid diagnoses. Her postdoctoral research program focuses on identifying disparities in mental health care utilization and access for Latino families, and reducing disparities through community collaborations, provider training and the cultural adaptation of interventions.


Natasha Link

Data Collection Team Leader
Email: [email protected]

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.

Email: [email protected]

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
Email: [email protected]

Lisa J. Schlueter (McFadyen-Ketchum) was a graduate student in the developmental psychology PhD program. She had 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 explored the relationship between physiologic stress reactivity and developmental trajectories in early childhood. She assisted on a 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.


Allison Stiles, M.A.

Email: [email protected]

Allison is a 5th 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, as a 5th year graduate student, 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.