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People

PROTECT Lab

People

FACULTY DIRECTOR

Angela Narayan

Angela J. Narayan, Ph.D., L.P.

Dr. Angela Narayan is an assistant professor in the clinical child psychology Ph.D. program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver (DU). She received her PhD in clinical child psychology from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota and completed a predoctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Child Trauma Research Program at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Narayan has developed a program of research that examines how early childhood experiences have enduring effects on development across adolescence, adulthood, and parenthood. She is particularly interested in understanding intergenerational pathways of psychopathology and resilience in socioeconomically, ethnically, and culturally diverse populations. A current direction of her work is to study how early adverse and benevolent experiences of parents are carried forward to affect their transition to parenthood, romantic and co-parenting relationships, and infants' health and wellbeing.

Dr. Narayan's research focuses on uncovering resilience processes in development as they apply to theory, measurement, and translation of science to practice. An overarching goal of her work is to identify how basic research on family adversity may inform clinical practice with parents and children at risk for psychological trauma, emotional and behavioral difficulties, and relational problems. She is a licensed clinical psychologist in Colorado and a clinical supervisor in the Child and Family Clinic in the DU Department of Psychology.

Graduate Students

Vicky Atzl

Vicky Atzl, M.A.

Vicky is a third-year clinical child psychology doctoral student in the PROTECT lab. She received her BS in Human Development from Cornell University in 2014. After graduation, she worked as a Clinical Research Assistant at the University of Maryland Center for Mental Health Services Research. Her primary project was a multi-family intervention for families in Baltimore City who have experienced complex trauma and/or chronic stress. Vicky is interested in how trauma impacts development, especially in terms of intergenerational continuity. In her spare time, Vicky likes to hike, bake and explore Denver!

Jill Merrick

Jill Merrick, B.A.

Jill is a second-year clinical child psychology doctoral student in the PROTECT lab. She received her BA in psychology from Macalester College in 2016 and has spent the last year working as Project Coordinator for Project Competence Research on Risk and Resilience at the University of Minnesota under Dr. Ann Masten. There, she manages and helps lead studies on risk and resilience processes in high-risk populations. Jill is interested in malleable protective factors, such as parenting, and their role in promoting resilience for families experiencing adversity. In her free time, Jill likes to cook, spend time with friends, and explore new places.

Laura River

Laura River, M.A.

Laura is a second-year doctoral student in the clinical child psychology program at DU. She received a BA in Psychology from Pomona College in 2015. For two years following graduation, she coordinated a longitudinal study of perinatal emotion and relationships at the University of Colorado, Boulder under Dr. Sona Dimidjian. Laura’s research interests center on attachment and parenting in the context of stress, trauma, and psychopathology, as well as interventions to promote greater parent-child and romantic relationship quality during the transition to parenthood.

Rebecca Spear

Rebecca Spear, B.A.

Rebecca Spear is a second-year clinical psychology doctoral student in the University of Denver Graduate School of Professional Psychology. She received a B.A. in Psychology and Early Childhood Education from Tulane University in 2015. After graduating, Rebecca spent two years working at Tulane University School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. There, she worked with families referred by the Department of Children and Family Services who had validated abuse and neglect cases of children ages birth-18 years. More recently, Rebecca completed an externship at the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) with Child and Family Outpatient Services. Rebecca is specializing in infant and early childhood mental health and is interested in intergenerational trauma and the long-term effects of early childhood adversity. She is currently a clinical research interviewer/extern for the DU BE SAFE Pregnancy Study.

Undergraduate Students

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Miriam Castillo

Miriam is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Denver. She is pursuing a BA in Psychology and Spanish, and she is interested in Clinical Psychology. In Fall of 2017, Miriam will be studying abroad in Australia at the University of Tasmania. She enjoys watching and playing sports and spends most of her free time with friends and family. Currently, Miriam is helping to code the Angels in the Nursery Interviews from Spanish-speaking mothers who participated in the BE SAFE Pregnancy Study in San Francisco. She is also transcribing pregnant women's narratives for a graduate student-led project that aims to understand how mothers' and fathers' alignment about pregnancy wantedness affects the transition to parenthood and parental and infant wellbeing.

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Emma Cole

Emma Cole is currently a junior at the University of Denver, though she is a recent transfer student from the Claremont Colleges in Southern California. She is pursuing a degree in Psychology with a concentration in Cognitive Neuroscience. She hopes to become a psychiatrist one day, as she is fascinated by the brain processes involved in mental illness. In the PROTECT Lab, Emma helps with sibling childcare and the Strange Situation Procedure of infant attachment, and is currently training to conduct interviews. In her free time, Emma is an avid reader, loves to play with her dogs, and enjoys spending time with her friends.

nicole honnen

Nicole Honnen

Nicole finished her junior year at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and is currently a 2019 Summer Research Assistant (RA) in the PROTECT Lab. She is pursuing a BA in psychology with a minor in child and family studies. At Baylor, Nicole works on a research study investigating best treatment practices in adolescents who are court-mandated to treatment for substance use, with specific emphasis on maximizing parent involvement. She hopes to study clinical child and family psychology after graduation. As a Summer RA in the PROTECT lab she is coding the Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS), transcribing pregnancy wantedness narratives, providing sibling childcare, assisting in the Strange Situation Procedure of infant attachment, and training to administer the BE SAFE clinical research interviews. When Nicole is not in the lab, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends while she is home for the summer.

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Grace Meluso

Grace is a sophomore undergraduate student at the University of Denver. She is pursuing a BA in Psychology with minors in both Biology and Political Science. She has a strong interest in child development, and specifically in understanding the effects of trauma on psychopathology, and she loves working with kids. In the PROTECT lab, her current roles involve coding the Five-Minute Speech Sample for romantic relationship support and conflict, helping with the Strange Situation Procedure of infant attachment, and providing sibling childcare for families that participate in the BE SAFE Denver Pregnancy study. Grace enjoys sports and participates in two club sports, in addition to intramurals. She also has a passion for music; she plays two instruments and is in a singing group on campus. Grace’s main goal is to help people and make their lives better in whatever way she can.

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Kat Papa

Kat is a freshman undergraduate student at the University of Denver. She is pursuing a BS in Psychology with minors in Math and Wellness and hopes to study clinical psychology upon graduation. Through her own experience with mental illness and treatment, she has grown passionate about mental health and would love to be able to help people in the life-changing ways she experienced in her own recovery. In the PROTECT Lab, she provides sibling childcare, helps with the Strange Situation Procedure of infant attachment, observes interviews, and plans to be involved in a coding project. When she’s not in the lab you can find Kat in a yoga class, tutoring elementary school students, volunteering with her service fraternity, or on a hike with her service dog.

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Daniela Robles

Daniela is a first-generation college student in her third year at the University of Denver. She is from Denver, Colorado and is currently pursuing a BA in Psychology with minors in Criminology, Spanish and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies. She hopes to pursue a PhD in Forensic Psychology after graduating from the University of Denver. In the PROTECT lab, Daniela is helping with sibling childcare and training to code parent and infant emotions and behavior from the 3-month parent-infant interactions.

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Meghan Stone

Meghan is currently a third-year undergraduate at the University of Denver. She is working toward a BA in biology and psychology, as well as a minor in chemistry. She hopes to eventually join the medical field. She has always loved both psychology and working with kids, which is why she became involved with the PROTECT Lab! In the PROTECT lab, she currently provides sibling care, helps with the Strange Situation Procedure of infant attachment, and observes interviews. In her free time, Meghan loves to explore the outdoors and spend time with friends.

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Emma Walker

Emma Walker is a senior honors student pursuing a BA in Marketing with a minor in Psychology. Her interests in psychology include exploring how trauma affects the brain, both in terms of daily functioning and long-term development. In the PROTECT lab, she helps with sibling childcare for the pregnant women and fathers-to-be in the BE SAFE-Denver Pregnancy Study who already have children, and she also works on a Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS) coding project along with two other RAs in the lab. As a Colorado native, she loves to explore the city and the outdoors in her free time.

Staff & Consultants

Rachel Holm

Rachel Peña, M.S.

Rachel Peña is the OB/GYN Research Manager at Denver Health & Hospital. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and her Master’s of Science in Clinical Research Administration. She has been working for the OB/GYN department at Denver Health for over 5 years on multiple research studies under a wide variety of psychologists and physicians. These studies vary in type and focus including clinical trials for vaccines during pregnancy, observational studies on stress and anxiety during pregnancy, and service programs such as MotherWise and P3 (Pregnancy and Parenting Partners) group prenatal care. For the BE SAFE Denver Pregnancy study, she is the recruiter at Denver Health and at MotherWise. This includes approaching potential participants in their OB appointments, at the P3 group prenatal care classes, and at their MotherWise visits. Rachel and her fiancé live in downtown Denver and in their spare time enjoy sporting events, concerts, hiking and caring for their 2 kittens!

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Nina Lillehei, B.A.

Nina is a recent graduate of DU and currently a Professional Research Assistant for the Neurodevelopmental Research Program, directed by Dr. Elysia Davis in the DU Department of Psychology. Nina continues to collaborate with the PROTECT Lab and recruit for the DU Pregnancy Study (BE SAFE Denver) at Denver Health. She has interests in women’s reproductive health after spending many years as an intern and peer educator at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In addition, Nina has always been interested in women’s relationships following trauma as a result of her membership in the student government group, SCESA (Student Coalition to Eradicate Sexual Assault) while an undergrad at DU. In the PROTECT Lab, Nina is currently working on a methodology project that validates a five-words task with the Five-Minute Speech Samples (FMSS) of pregnant women speaking about the babies' fathers.

Maddie Sayyah

Maddie Sayyah, B.A. (Lab Manager)

Maddie recently received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder. While earning her degree, she worked in the Adolescent Development and Preventive Treatment (ADAPT) Lab under Dr. Vijay Mittal and studied youth at risk for developing psychotic disorders. Maddie's research interests focus on protective factors and risk markers during childhood and adolescence that buffer against or contribute to the development of various mental health disorders. Maddie is the PROTECT Lab's part-time lab manager. She is also a clinical research interviewer for the DU BE SAFE Pregnancy Study and is working on a second study in the PROTECT Lab that investigates the long-term effects of childhood adversity and benevolent childhood experiences (BCEs) on mental health problems, relationship dynamics, and risky behavior in young adulthood. In her free time, Maddie enjoys being outdoors with friends, watching football and soccer, and reading.

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Kisori Thomas, B.A.

Kisori Thomas is a proud first-generation college graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder, earning a B.A. in Psychology with magna cum laude honors and a minor in French in 2014. Her two life passions are working with diverse and marginalized populations and the French language. These led her to complete a summer internship at Children’s Hospital Colorado through the Psychiatry Education and Practicum (PREP) studying the prevalence of racially and ethnically diverse children with cyclic vomiting syndrome. Subsequently, she worked as a Youth Advocate for American Indian/Alaskan Native students, then moved to La Flèche, France to teach English to high school students. Currently, Kisori is a Projects Management Coordinator at the Latino Research and Policy Center (LRPC) through the University of Colorado Denver. In the PROTECT lab she is training to conduct clinical interviews and code parent-infant interactions. Kisori plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology with a focus on culturally adaptive clinical interventions and protective factors that buffer against effects of trauma in immigrants and refugees. She stays busy in her leadership roles in the Graduate, Alumnae and Professional (GAP) chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority Inc., on weekend hikes, and by volunteering, traveling, and spending time with her husband and two adorable dogs.

Jane West

Jane West, L.P.C.

Jane West is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed school counselor specializing in early childhood issues. She runs Heart of the West Counseling, LLC, a company that provides therapeutic services to families and consulting services to early childhood programs such as Early Head Start, Head Start, and private preschools. In 2005, she was chosen to be a Harris Fellow in Child Development and Infant Mental Health at the University of Colorado's Child Psychiatry Department. In 2006, Jane became a statewide trainer for Colorado's Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative. In 2007, Jane was chosen as a national fellow for the Leaders of the 21st Century program at the Zero to Three organization. Jane was responsible for shaping the early years of Early Childhood Partners’ coaching and consultation program and she remains an active consultant and speaker on such topics of early childhood toxic stress and resilience. Jane is also an internationally accomplished journalist and an Emmy-award winning producer of documentaries for PBS and the BBC. In addition, Jane serves as the executive director and founder of The Two Lilies Fund, a small foundation that gives grants in under-resourced parts of the world to support young children and their caregivers’ social and emotional development. She is delighted to be consulting on infant mental issues with the PROTECT lab.

PROTECT Lab Alum

- Maria Rodriguez, B.A. (2019, University of Denver), Current Position: Professional Research Assistant, Autoimmune Screening for Kids (ASK) Research Program, University of Colorado School of Medicine.

- Maddie Schmidt, B.A. (2018, University of Denver), Current Position: Clinical Research Coordinator, UCLA Depression Grand Challenge.

PROTECT Lab Collaborators

The PROTECT Lab collaborates with other faculty within the Department of Psychology and at the DU SEED Center (Stress, Early Experiences, and Development) and has collaborations with individuals at several other institutions, including the University of California-San Francisco/Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Emory University.