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GEM Lab

The GEM Lab

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Principal Investigator

Benjamin.Hankin@du.edu

Ben Hankin, Ph.D. Principal Investigator
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I am a developmental psychopathologist interested in understanding the etiology, ontogeny, trajectories and patterning of depression over the lifespan, especially in children and adolescents. In particular, I have sought to understand and advance knowledge in three fundamental areas: 1) accurate and appropriate description, structure and classification of depression and co-occurring disorders, 2) etiological vulnerabilities and mechanisms underlying the development of depression and the specificity of these risks for prediction of depression versus co-occurring disorders, and 3) the emergence of sex differences in depression and explanations for why more girls are depressed than boys.

More about Dr. Hankin

Much of my research is guided conceptually by a developmental psychopathology theory of depression (Hankin & Abramson, 2001; Hankin, 2012). In sum based on this theoretical framework, my research suggests that an integrated set of risk factors and processes across multiple levels of analysis may explain several of the big facts of depression, including the rise in depression rates throughout adolescence, the sex difference in depression, and comorbidity of depression.

My colleagues and I have examined these questions using multiple designs, methods and approaches. These include self-report questionnaires (e.g., cognitive, interpersonal, temperamental factors; negative life events), diagnostic interviews (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders, nonsuicidal self-injury, eating pathology) and contextual stress interviews, information processing biases (attention, memory), biological measures (e.g., cortisol reactivity to laboratory stressors; pubertal hormones; heart rate variability), observation (e.g., parent-child relationships, youth emotion), executive functioning tasks, fMRI, and genetics (e.g., candidate genes, telomerase length). We typically study these questions with intensive, prospective multi-wave designs that follow relatively large, unselected samples of youth and a caregiver from the general community over several years and across developmentally sensitive transitions. For example, our NIMH funded Gene Environment Mood (GEM) study, a 2-site study (University of Denver and Rutgers University), followed approximately 670 youth, who were originally in 3rd, 6th, or 9th grade, and a caregiver, every 3 months for 3 years to understand development of depression and anxiety trajectories from childhood into adolescence and early adulthood.

Most recently, we are translating the basic knowledge gained from these longitudinal risk studies into a currently funded NIMH study investigating personalized depression prevention (PDP study) among adolescents. Along with Jami Young, Ph.D., the co-Primary Investigator at Rutgers University, we are conducting a randomized clinical trial to examine the benefits of matching youth to a prevention program (cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal) that best fits their individual needs (i.e., cognitive risk or interpersonal risk) and evaluate whether these youth are less likely to develop depression during the high-risk adolescent period.

Overall, the big picture is that findings from my program of research on developmental psychopathology of risk factors and mechanisms can inform these novel personalized prevention programs for depression. I hope this future work advances basic developmental clinical science and practically reduces the scourge of depression as a high burden, prevalent mental health problem that adversely affects too many youth.

In recognition of his research, Dr. Hankin has been recognized with several awards, including the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychopathology in 2010, the Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award from the University of South Carolina in 2008, and the President's New Researcher Award from Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy in 2004.

Additionally, he is actively involved in professional activities and scientific service. He currently serves as the Associate Editor for Psychological Bulletin and was Associate Editor for Cognitive Therapy and Research (2008-2011); he is on the editorial board of several leading clinical and developmental psychopathology journals. He served as a standing member of NIH grant review panel (Psychosocial Development, Risk, and Prevention) from 2010-2014, and has reviewed for several international granting agencies. He is a Member at Large for the Society for Science of Clinical Psychology.

In addition to doing research, I teach several classes (e.g., undergraduate advanced seminar in Depression, Abnormal Psychology) and provide evidence-based clinical supervision to our child clinical psychology Ph.D. students.

The loves of my life are my wife, Michelle, and my identical twin boys, Noah and Jacob. I love living in Colorado and being able to take advantage of all Colorado has to offer, including hiking, skiing, biking, and running. I also enjoy international travel, cooking, reading, and British comedies and dramas.

Ben's Google Scholar link | Ben's CV

Post Doctoral Fellows

Hannah Snyder

Hannah Snyder, Ph.D.
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Hannah’s research investigates executive function (the cognitive processes that allow you to control your thoughts and behaviors), and how it is affected by (and affects) mental health. Her primary research focus is on how we make decisions when faced with multiple options. People constantly face the need to choose one option from among many, such as when selecting words to express a thought. Selecting between many options can be difficult for anyone and may be especially difficult for individuals with elevated anxiety or depression, potentially leading to decision-making problems, indecisiveness, and intolerance of uncertainty. What brain mechanisms enable selection among competing options, how are these mechanisms compromised in individuals with anxiety and depression?  Together with her collaborators, Hannah seeks to answer this question  using behavioral, neuroimaging, neural network modeling, and pharmacological methods, and across development from children to adolescents to adults.

Hannah received her PhD in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2012 and promptly made the short journey down to DU to join the GEM lab. When she’s not in the lab, Hannah enjoys hiking, skiing, knitting warm hats to wear hiking and skiing, cooking, and reading.

Hannah’s Google scholar link| Hannah’s CV

Graduate Students

Lauren Gulley

Lauren Gulley, M.A.
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My name is Lauren Gulley, and I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology. Broadly speaking, my research focuses on cognitive theories of depression and anxiety. These theories hypothesize that the way in which we think about a stressful life event might determine our emotional response to the event, for better or for worse. In addition, there may be cognitive processes occurring outside our awareness (i.e., paying attention to certain stimuli in our environment) that might also affect our emotional response. I’m interested in how these cognitive theories operate in children and adolescents who experience depression and anxiety.

I am originally from a small town in Connecticut about an hour outside of New York City. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame (Go Irish!) and completed a year of service with AmeriCorps in St. Louis, Missouri. I then came to the GEM Lab to work on staff as a Research Coordinator before beginning my graduate career with Dr. Hankin as my advisor.

My interests outside of research and clinical work are mostly centered on...food. I love reading about food and looking up recipes, I love shopping for food at the grocery store, I love cooking food, and I love going out to eat. I make the best homemade marinara sauce, if I do say so myself. I also love enjoying all of the great activities that Denver has to offer, especially in the summer! From outdoor festivals (which often feature food trucks) to City Park Jazz, as well as miles and miles of hiking trails in the mountains, there is always an excuse to go outside and enjoy the Colorado sunshine!

Jessica Technow

Jessica Technow, M.A. 
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Jessica Technow is a graduate student in the GEM lab. Her research interests include cognitive risk factors for depression, stress, and depression recurrence in adolescents. She received her Master's degree from University of Denver, and is pursuing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She graduated cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with Bachelor's degrees in psychology and German. Go Irish!

Jessica grew up in Cleveland, OH, but is picking up the classic Colorado hobbies of hiking and skiing. She has been working on conquering the blue runs at Breckenridge, and has just started to add 14ers to her resume, including Quandary Peak. She counteracts these healthy hobbies with baking, and is known to make a mean banana nut bread.

Tina Schweizer

Tina Schweizer, M.A.
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Tina began the Ph.D. program in Child Clinical Psychology at DU in 2014. Primarily, she is interested in the developmental origins of cognitive vulnerabilities to depression. Tina graduated Magna Cum Laude from New York University with a B.A. in Psychology in 2008. While at NYU, she examined the interplay of emotional/automatic and deliberative/cognitive processes on attitude change with Dr. John T. Jost. She has provided suicide intervention and sexual assault victim advocacy at the Crisis Call Center in Nevada, where she developed an interest in emotional, cognitive and environmental risk factors for depression, particularly among youth and girls. Thereafter, she assisted Dr. Adhip Rawal and Dr. Frances Rice at University College London with a study comparing the effectiveness of a CBT and CBT plus mindfulness school-based intervention targeting depression in adolescents. In 2014, she completed her M.A. in Psychology at Stony Brook University, where she worked with Dr. Daniel N. Klein to investigate the effects of early childhood temperament and parenting on rumination in middle childhood.

Tina is a Nevada native who loves sunshine and being outdoors. She also enjoys going to museums, travelling, photography and meditation.

Dustin Haraden

Dustin Haraden, B.A.
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Hello website viewer! My name is Dustin Haraden and I began the Child Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at DU in 2015. I graduated from the University of Denver with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Philosophy in March of 2013. Upon graduating, I began volunteering in the GEM Lab and eventually took on the position of Project Coordinator for the Personalized Depression Prevention Project. Primarily, I am interested in assessing the relationship between sleep habits and child/adolescent mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety.  

I was born in Massachusetts (Go Sox and B's!) and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I spent my childhood playing with tumbleweeds and prairie dogs. However, when the tumbleweeds failed to roam the streets, I enjoyed playing on my local hockey team (yes, there is ice in New Mexico) as well as being able to take any chance to get out on the golf course.

When I am not in the lab, I am either on the golf course, with my dogs and wife at home, or at a local comedy club. My wife and I have attended every Denver Comic Con and have hopes of one day going to Comic Con International in San Diego.

Staff

Alex Schwartz

Alex Schwartz, B.A., Project Coordinator
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Hi, I'm Alex and I graduated from the University of Denver in 2014 with majors in Psychology and Spanish and a minor in Political Science.  I began working in the GEM Lab as a Research Assistant during my senior year of college and discovered my passion for studying depression.  I recently transitioned from working in a residential treatment facility for adolescent girls to being one of the Project Coordinators of the GEM Lab! I am excited to work in research full time and begin pursuing my goal of receiving my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.  My research interests include depression and suicide risk and prevention, as well as trauma and its relation to depression.  I was born in Boulder, CO and grew up in Denver, CO.  In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family, friends, and rescue dog.  I also love live music, travel, and outdoor activities like hiking and snowboarding. 

Nick DeNapoli


Nick DeNapoli, B.S., Project Coordinator
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Hello! I'm Nick and I graduated in June 2015 with a major in cognitive neuroscience and minors in biology and chemistry here at DU. My main research interests lie in the biological and genetic components of psychology. I'm fascinated by the brain and know I would like to pursue further careers in neuroscience, but am not sure in what specifically yet. Apart from that I'm a Colorado native and I love being outdoors in the mountains- hiking, snowboarding, and off-roading. I also love downtown Denver and the surrounding suburbs just as much. I get out and explore as much as I can! I also have a dog named Champ who's at my side for all my adventures. He also joins me everyday in lab as well, getting his fair share of office work in.

Lauren Lyon

Lauren Lyon, B.A., Project Assistant
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I moved to Denver from NYC in August of 2013 to pursue an Education Specialist degree in Child, Family, and School Psychology at the Morgridge College of Education at DU. My research interests include prevention-focused, school-based mental health practices for children and adolescents. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, traveling, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.

Research Assistants

Alia Bargoot

Alia Bargoot

Hello! My name is Alia and I am a transfer student from the University of California, Santa Cruz. I am currently a sophomore here at DU, majoring in psychology with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience, and a minor in biology. I am very interested in psychopathologies such as schizophrenia and personality disorders such as depression and anxiety and how they can affect daily life if untreated. I plan to go to medical school to get my M.D. degree in clinical psychology to become a psychiatrist and perform intensive psychotherapy. Although I am a transfer student, I am a native Coloradan and when I am not studying, working or at school you’ll most likely find me with my camera either fishing, skiing, hiking, or riding dirt bikes.

Madeline Bodell

Madeline Bodell

Madeline is a junior at DU, and is majoring in psychology and biology. While interested in pursuing research, potentially on the cognitive or hormonal side of behavior, she is also interested in the clinical side of psychology, and is considering medical school in the future. She is originally from Chicago, but is loving Colorado, and enjoys skiing, hiking, and CO's sunny days and mountain views.

 

Hannah Dresdner

Hannah Dresdner

Hannah is a senior at DU majoring in both psychology and Spanish. She is specifically interested in the role of nutrients and the microbiome composition on attitudes and mental health. After graduation she hopes to pursue a masters degree in nutritional sciences and a Ph.D in health psychology. Her life goal is to one day use her studies to innovate the mental health field by shifting the focus from pharmacological treatment to nutrition based interventions. Other than spending much of her time thinking about food, she enjoys staying active, hiking, and riding her bike.

 

Hope Erdmann

Hope Erdmann

Hi! My name is Hope. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 with a degree in Linguistics. I currently work as a paraprofessional in a facility school for children with Autism. This job has inspired me to learn more about, and hopefully one day treat, disorders often seen in children on the spectrum, such as depression, ADHD, OCD, and affective disorders. I am very excited to be a part of the GEM study, and I look forward to gaining experience and knowledge about research in the field of psychology. I love Colorado and all it has to offer, especially the camping, hiking, and sunshine!

Khalid Mohammad

Khalid Mohammad

Khalid graduated from CU Denver in 2011 with a major in psychology and a minor in biology. Following graduation he worked in private practice for 3 years as part of the evaluation team to assess diverse clients. With an interest in executive functioning and neuropsychology Khalid is excited to be a part of the GEM lab as a research assistant! His research interests include using neuropsychological assessment to identify EF profiles and develop specific interventions for mental health populations. Khalid hopes in the near future to apply for graduate training in a clinical Ph.D. program. As a Colorado native he enjoys hiking and snowboarding and loves to travel whenever he can get away!

Gina Monheit

Gina Monheit

Gina is an undergraduate student at the University of Denver studying psychology with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience and biology. She is interested in research on depression. She is originally from Orange County, California. When she is not working in the lab or attending to her studies, she loves to be out in the sun reading a good book, playing volleyball, swimming, waterskiing, or just going for a walk with friends.

Alyssa Morgan

Alyssa Morgan

Hi there, my name is Alyssa Morgan and I am a senior at the University of Denver. I am pursuing a double major in psychology and philosophy; I enjoy the two degree’s because it allows me to explore both ethics and psychology. The focus of my interest is in cognitive neuroscience and I hope to continue pursuing this field of study in grad school. When I am not pursuing my psychology interests I love to cook, be outside, and spend time with my boyfriend, friends, and family!

Jenna Powell

Jenna Powell

Jenna is a sophomore here at DU, double majoring in Biology and Psychology with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience, and a minor in Chemistry. She is interested in the molecular and biological side of psychology, and wants to purse research of how genetics factor in to the development of psychological disorders. Outside of class, Jenna loves to competitively ride hunter/jumper horses, ski, and hike. She hopes to someday conquer all of Colorado's 14ers.

 

Maddie Schmidt

Maddie Schmidt

My name is Maddie  Schmidt  and I am an undergraduate psychology major at the University of Denver. I am from Philadelphia, PA where I worked previously as a research assistant and interviewer in a Mood and Cognition lab. I am interested in the research of mood disorders and adolescents. In my free time I like to be outdoors and go hiking and skiing.

Jen

Jen Wahleithner

Hi! My name is Jen Wahleithner and I am a senior at the University of Washington pursuing a B.S. in psychology with a minor in comparative religion. Although I attend school in Seattle, I grew up in Colorado and am excited to be home for the summer and to be an RA in the GEM lab! After finishing my undergraduate degree, I hope to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. Outside of class, I love being a part of the UW crew team (Go Dawgs!) and Athletes in Action, a Christian athletes organization on campus. I also enjoy hanging out with friends and family, being active, and exploring Washington and Colorado.