Skip to content

Research Labs

Mayra Bámaca-Colbert (Developmental Psychology)
Bámaca-Colbert Lab

Research: My lab conducts research focused on Latinx children and youth’s experiences within cultural, family, school, neighborhood contexts and pays attention to the mechanisms by which these multiple influences predict their adjustment. Most of the work in my lab has focused on Latinx youth residing in the U.S. (Arizona, Pennsylvania, and California) with some work with a colleague in Spain focused on Latinoamericanos residing in Spain. Future research in my lab will expand to include a more in depth understanding of school and peer experiences in Merced and surrounding communities with both adolescents and children in middle childhood. 

Heather Bortfeld (Developmental Psychology)
Bortfeld Lab

Professor Bortfeld's research examines language processing issues in typical language development and in atypical language development, specifically language learning under adverse listening conditions. Her first area of research concerns how typically developing infants come to recognize words in fluent speech and the extent to which the perceptual abilities underlying this learning process are specific to language. The second considers the influence of perceptual, cognitive, and social factors on language development in pediatric cochlear implant users.

Linda Cameron (Health Psychology)
Health Communications and Interventions Lab

Dr. Cameron conducts research guided by self-regulation theory to investigate cognitive and emotional processes influencing health behaviors and illness experiences. Her research has a strong translational focus, with an emphasis on developing health communications and interventions that promote healthy behaviors and improve physical and mental well-being. Much of this research focuses on mHealth or mobile health, which refers to the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices such as smartphones, tablet computers, and smartwatches.

Sarah Depaoli (Quantitative Methods, Measurement, and Statistics)
Depaoli Lab

Professor Depaoli’s research interests are largely focused on issues surrounding Bayesian estimation of latent variable models. She has particular interests in estimation issues arising from nonlinear growth patterns over time. Professor Depaoli is also interested in improving accuracy of uncovering unobserved (latent) groups of individuals. She is currently working with several students that are involved in research spanning a wide range of methodological topics (e.g., Bayesian estimation, latent class modeling, multilevel structural equation modeling, autocorrelation, nonlinear growth modeling, and class separation).

Anna Epperson (Health Psychology)
Assistant Professor
Epperson Lab

Dr. Epperson’s research focuses broadly on disparities in health risk behavior. She is interested in the psychosocial factors involved in adolescent and adult risk behavior and perceptions of health risk. Her current work investigates health risk behavior interventions aimed at reducing tobacco use, with a focus on vulnerable populations (American Indians/Alaska Natives and adolescents). Her work also examines tobacco and cannabis-related behaviors in rural populations and the impact of tobacco marketing.

Jeffrey Gilger (Developmental Psychology)
Consortium for Research on Atypical Development and Learning

Professor Gilger's work spans psychology, education, genetics, and neuroscience, with an emphasis on atypical development in the areas of learning and cognition. His major research projects have included the neurology/genetics of dyslexia, the gifted-learning disabled individual, and the etiology of perceptual mechanisms in young and atypically developing children. He also works with families under stress and who have children struggling in school, and he enjoys presenting information on atypical development to diverse audiences.

Martin Hagger (Health Psychology)

Professor Hagger applies psychological theory to predict, understand, and change health behaviors. His research seeks to identify effects of psychological determinants such as attitudes, intentions, self-efficacy, perceived control, self-control, planning, personality, and motives on health behavior, and how health professionals can use this information to promote health behavior change. He is also interested in advancing psychological theory through integration, particularly theory in social cognition, motivation, and self-control. He is also interested in research synthesis, particularly testing predictions of psychological theory across multiple populations, contexts, and behaviors.

Elif Isbell (Developmental Psychology)
Assistant Professor
Isbell lab

My research focuses on the development and neuroplasticity of cognitive control skills (also known as executive functions) in childhood. My research program aims to (1) characterize neurodevelopmental and behavioral changes in cognitive control in early childhood; (2) elucidate the mechanisms through which children’s early experiences at home and in schools contribute to cognitive control development; and (3) delineate the interplay between cognitive control skills and academic development.

Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook (Health Psychology)
Assistant Professor
Latch Lab

Dr. Hahn-Holbrook investigates the interplay between the psychological, biological and environmental processes that shape maternal-child health during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Her interdisciplinary background in evolutionary, biological, and health psychology informs her work in three research domains (1) the psychological impacts of biological changes surrounding pregnancy and breastfeeding, (2) the role of stress and maternal resources in bolstering or undermining maternal mental and health surrounding childbirth, and (3) the evolutionary origins of maternal behaviors and childbearing related health disorders. 

Jennifer Howell (Health Psychology)
Assistant Professor

Jennifer Howell’s research focuses on the intersection of social psychology and health. She is particularly interested in the psychosocial predictors of behavior, particularly health- and well-being-related behaviors. Much of her research examines how processes surrounding the self (e.g., defensiveness, social comparison) and identity (e.g., group membership, social identity) influence health decision-making and behavior.

Fan Jia  (Quantitative Methods, Measurement, and Statistics)
Assistant Professor
Jia Lab

Professor Jia’s research interests revolve around multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, longitudinal data analysis, latent variable mixture modeling, and mediation and moderation analysis, with an emphasis on methodological issues related to missing data and non-normal data. Her current research focuses on three topics: methods to handle missing non-normal data, planned missing data designs in longitudinal studies, and missing data problems in mediation analysis.

Ren Liu  (Quantitative Methods, Measurement, and Statistics)
Assistant Professor
Liu Lab

Professor Liu's research is focused on statistical and measurement methods as applied in psychology, education and social sciences. His methodological work is centered on advancing item response theory models and their applications, specifically in the area of diagnostic classification models and rating scale design and analysis. Dr. Liu teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses including Analysis of Psychological Data, Item Response Theory, and Measurement Theory and Psychometrics. 

Haiyan Liu  (Quantitative Methods, Measurement, and Statistics)
Assistant Professor
Haiyan Liu Lab

Professor Liu’s methodological research lies in the areas of structural equation modeling, categorical data analysis, and social network analysis. Specifically, She is interested in developing new models and estimation methods to analyze big data (large p, large N, or large t) and unfolding black box of psychological phenomena. Professor Liu has been exploring these areas from both Bayesian and frequentist perspectives.

Alexandra Main (Developmental Psychology)
Assistant Professor
Family Development Lab

Professor Main's research focuses on social and emotional development of children and adolescents within the family context. Specifically, she is interested in the development of empathy and emotion regulation and how these processes are shaped by temperament, family, and culture. She is currently working on projects investigating communication of empathy between parents and adolescents, how cultural orientations influence family emotional communication, and the implications of these processes for psychological and physical health.

Rose Scott (Developmental Psychology)
Associate Professor
Center for Early Cognition and Language

Professor Scott’s research focuses on social cognition and language acquisition in the first four years of life. She is interested in the development of the cognitive mechanisms that enable children to interpret, predict, and respond to the verbal and nonverbal behaviors of other individuals. Much of her work focuses on the nature of early false-belief understanding and how social and cultural factors influence that understanding.

Anna Song (Health Psychology)
Associate Professor
Health Behaviors Research Lab

The overarching aim of Dr. Song's research program is to identify psychosocial mechanisms that explain the onset of risk behaviors, with a special emphasis on ethnic differences in risk and health behavior prevalence and onset. Risk and health behaviors of interest include nicotine and marijuana use and weight loss behaviors. Much of her work involves longitudinal statistical modeling of large, epidemiological datasets and is often interdisciplinary. Her interests span from micro-level determinants (e.g., personality traits) to macro-level influences (e.g., health policy).  

Jan Wallander (Health Psychology)
Distinguished Professor
Wallander Lab

Professor Wallander's research is in Health psychology and focused on children and adolescents. Interactions between behavior and health in children and adolescents. Health disparities in children and adolescents. Quality of life in vulnerable groups of children due to chronic illness, poverty, and racial/ethnic minority status.

Eric Walle (Developmental Psychology)
Associate Professor
Interpersonal Development Lab

Professor Walle’s research focuses on the study of social and emotional processes in interpersonal contexts. His work explores the development of these capacities in infancy and early childhood, as well as how they operate in adulthood. This research examines (1) the functions of emotions in interpersonal contexts, (2) how infants and adults process and respond to discrete emotions, and (3) the influence of developmental transitions, particularly walking, on psychological processes (e.g., language, cognition, social interactions).

Deborah Wiebe (Health Psychology)
Wiebe Lab

Dr. Wiebe focuses on the central roles of self-regulation and social relationships (e.g., family, peers, health care providers) in preventing and managing chronic diseases, and how these processes change across important developmental transitions and sociocultural contexts. Much of her work has examined families managing type 1 diabetes during adolescence, a time when adherence and glycemic control deteriorate and skills for a lifetime of independent self-care are established. However, the concepts are general and she has studied them in other contexts such as couples coping with prostate cancer in later life, interpersonal processes in lung cancer decision-making among low income African Americans, and parental decisions regarding HPV vaccine.

Matthew Zawadzki (Health Psychology)
Associate Professor
Stress and Health Lab

Professor Zawadzki’s research examines what stress is, why is it bad for us, and what can we do about it. He approaches stress as a multidimensional construct, ranging from the negative events we experience to the ruminative thoughts we hold in our minds, and tests how these separate dimensions each may independently relate to health and well-being. This work informs psychosocial, non-pharmacological intervention to reduce stress that looks to tailor the content of the intervention both to individuals (e.g., is it culturally appropriate?) and moments (e.g., is the person experiencing vulnerability to stress right now?).

Updated 2023