Our Team

Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD., Director

Dr. Lopez-Duran is a clinical scientist interested in understanding the impact of stress on mental health and well-being. Dr. Lopez-Duran received his PhD from the University of Michigan where his work focused on behavioral endocrinology and developmental psychopathology. He then completed his clinical internship at the Division of Neuropsychology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit where he conducted neuropsychological evaluations of children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders. After completing his internship, he joined the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh (Western Psychiatry Institute and Clinic) where he completed a National Institute of Health Post-Doctoral Fellowship in mood disorder with child depression expert Dr. Maria Kovacs. He joined the University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Fall of 2009. Currently, at the University of Michigan, he leads the Michigan PAL and teaches graduate-level courses in clinical assessment.

Graduate Students:

Valerie Micol, Graduate Student

3/28/16 Neuropsych Dept. testing photos

Valerie Foster is a graduate student in the clinical science doctoral program in the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychology. She is interested in understanding sex differences in the etiology of depression in adolescents and in identifying psychosocial factors that might buffer the stress/depression relationship and therefore be protective against the development of such disorders. She hopes that a clearer understanding of both risk and protective factors will inform the development of early intervention programs for teens.

Val graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Community Action and Social Change from the University of Michigan in 2014 where she studied high-risk mothers and their children. Upon graduation, she spent two years in a research lab in U of M’s Department of Psychiatry working on multiple research studies focusing on bipolar disorder and depression.

Andrea Roberts, Graduate Student


Andrea is a graduate student in clinical psychology working with Dr. Nestor Lopez-Duran. Her research interests focus on stress physiology in psychopathology. She is particularly interested in studying variations in HPA-axis and neural reactivity to stress among adolescents at risk for and/or suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders. Prior to coming to Michigan, Andrea graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double major in psychology (honors in the major) and Spanish. After graduation, she spent three years living in Chicago and working in two neuroscience research labs at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.


Ellen Waxler McGinnis, Graduate Student

Ellen Waxler McGinnis is a Ph.D. candidate in the Clinical Science program at The University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the biological and behavioral development of internalizing psychopathology in young children and the inter-generational transmission of risk.  She also works at the Depression Center at the University of Michigan with Dr. Maria Muzik researching children of mothers with histories of trauma and psychopathology.  Clinically, she has worked with parents and their infants with behavior problems, children with autism, and/or emotional disorders and their families, and university students.  Ellen graduated in 2009 from Lafayette College with her B.S. in Psychology and a minor in French and received her M.S. in Psychology in 2013 from the University of Michigan.

Stefanie Mayer, Graduate Student

Stefanie Mayer is a Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Michigan. She graduated from the University of Würzburg (Germany) in 2009. Stefanie`s research interests focus on the role of stress in the development of depression. Specifically, she strives to identify psychological factors (e.g., perceived control, altruistic goals, resilience, and social support) that may buffer cortisol responses to acute and chronic stress. For example, in collaboration with James Abelson, MD, PhD, she recently investigated the stress modulating effects of brief cognitive interventions using a psychosocial stress paradigm. Ultimately, she hopes to bridge the gap between laboratory research and clinical practice in the prevention of and interventions for stress-related disorders.

Undergraduate Students:

Sahithi Akasapu, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Sahithi is a sophomore at the University of Michigan hoping to pursue a Neuroscience major and a minor in Computer Science.  She plans to go to medical school upon graduating from college.  Outside of the lab, Sahithi is involved with various cultural organizations including being a choreographer for the Indian American Student Association, a dancer for the Michigan Manzil Intercollegiate Dance Team, and a member of Michigan Sahana (Cultural Organization for Indian Classical Music and Dance).

Jonathan Martindale, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Jonathan Martindale is a senior at the University of Michigan studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and minoring in Applied Statistics. After graduation, he plans to take a gap year to work as a lab manager in the Psychology Department before returning to school to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology to research mood disorders. In addition to his love for research, Jonathan greatly enjoys rock climbing all things coffee and works at a local coffee shop. 

Anna Li Aguirre, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Anna Li Aguirre is a sophomore at the University of Michigan. She is particularly interested in mental health among adolescents and how it affects other aspects within their life, which along with the UROP, lead her to MPAL. Anna Li plans to double major in neuroscience and chemistry. After high school classes and multiple documentaries, she found her love for both fields. Outside of the lab, Anna Li is part of the Neuroscience Student Association, as well as WISE RP. She plans to pursue a PhD after graduating and continue on the path of research.

Michelle Shoshiev, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Michelle is a junior at the University of Michigan majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. After graduation, she plans on going to medical school or attending graduate school in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in working with women and girls to help them through the unique challenges and emotional struggles that they may experience. Outside of the lab, Michelle volunteers at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital through Project Teach, a program developed to bring a fun and exciting environment to those staying in the hospital for extended periods of time, as well as a trip leader for the Alternative Spring Break program through the Ginsburg center.

Maia Gersten, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant

Maia Gersten headshot

Maia Gersten is a senior at the University of Michigan, double majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, Neuroscience and Drama through the Residential College. She was a recipient of the William J. Branstrom Freshman prize and is a James B. Angell scholar. Maia is interested in the development and prevention of mood disorders. After graduation, she hopes to attend graduate school in clinical psychology. Outside of the lab, Maia can be found performing with the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society and the RC Players.

Alexandra Peirce, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant

APeirce Photo

Alexandra Peirce is currently a junior majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and also plans to minor in Spanish Literature and Culture. She wants to pursue a graduate degree in medicine after graduation. Outside of the lab, she is on the serve committee of the pre-health honor society Alpha Epsilon Delta and works as a certified nursing assistant.

Julia Snider, Undergraduate Student; Research Assist


Julia is a junior at the University of Michigan double-majoring in Psychology and Women’s Studies; she is particularly interested in the intersection of gender and mental health. Julia anticipates going to graduate school and is considering programs in clinical psychology, social work, and public health, among others. Outside of the lab, she is a volunteer with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), Michigan Active Citizens Alternative Spring Break, and America Reads Tutoring Corps.

Emily Stumpo, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant

PBS_5502 (3)

Emily is a sophomore majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish.

Armella Poggi, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant

Slack for iOS Upload

Armella (Mellie) Poggi is a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying neuroscience with a minor in creative writing. Mellie plans on going to medical or PA school after graduation. Outside of the lab, you can find Mellie working at a shop called Rock Paper Scissors on Main Street.

Lab Alumni:

Kate Ryan Kuhlman, PhD (Former Graduate Student)


Kate graduated from New York University in 2008 where she investigated the neural processes in emotion-related learning with Elizabeth Phelps, PhD. while also receiving training in child development and early childhood parenting interventions as a preschool teacher in Manhattan. Following graduation from NYU, Kate spent a year working with Marylene Cloitre, PhD at the NYU Child Study Center’s Institute for Trauma and Resilience. During this time, Kate coordinated a randomized controlled trial for the use of STAIR-NST as an effective treatment for PTSD. This study also included a pre and post fMRI to examine the structural and functional effects of STAIR-NST on fear learning and processing.

Kate graduated from the clinical Psychology program at The University of Michigan in 2014 where her program of research centered on the phenomenon of stress & trauma related depression across the lifespan. She is currently a fellow at UCLA.

Tonia Ballantyne, Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Tonia Ballantyne majored in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan. Additionally, she was a BookMARK coordinator for the student organization “KGrams”, allowing her to travel to an Ann Arbor/Detroit area school each week to work with students ages 5-10. Tonia is particularly interested in child and adolescent mental health, and how mental illness can increase social and academic stress in school-age children. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Denver.

Kathleen Duemling, BS. Former Research Assistant

Kathleen Duemling graduated in 2014.  She completed an Honors Thesis which examined the impact of anxiety, age, and sex on Cortisol Awakening Responses.

Sean Houchins, BA. Former Research Assistant

Sean Houchins graduated in 2013 with a BA in Psychology and Sociology. He completed an Honors thesis in our lab examining the mechanism of action of Metta meditation. He is currently a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at The Catholic University of America.

Katie Beck, BA. Former Research Assistant.

Katie Graduated in 2013 with a BA in Psychology. Her honor thesis examined the impact of a brief motivational interview on mental health services utilization in college students. She is currently a graduate student in Public Health at the University of Michigan.

Teague Simoncic, BA. Former Research Assistant and Lab Coordinator

Teague graduated in 2012 with a BA in Psychology. She completed an Honors thesis in our lab that examined the interaction between personality and facebook use predicting depressive symptoms in college students. She completed her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Michigan and is currently a project coordinator in the University of Michigan Department of Psychology.

Peter Kotvis, BS. Former Research Assistant

Peter Kotvis graduated in 2012 with a BA in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science. He completed a thesis in our lab title ” Effects of Acute Stress on Risk Propensity in Decision Making”. He is currently the IDEX Fellow at mDhil, a health information company in Bengaluru, India.

Andrew Garton, Former Research Assistant

Photo for MD Schools

Andrew Garton is a Senior in the LSA Honors Program.  He double majored in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience & Biomolecular Science, and minored in Applied Statistics.  His research interests, as they pertained to Clinical Psychology, included identifying causal factors (both biological and environmental) for the development of affective disorders in children.  He worked on an Honors Thesis that examined the effects of self-relevant failures on a domain of subsequent performance-related variables, and the possible effects of predisposing cognitive vulnerabilities for depression. Andrew currently attends Medical School in Colombia.

Jillian Bean, Former Research Assistant

Jillian Bean is a former research assistant. Her freshman year she was the recipient of the William J. Branstrom Freshman Prize. She majored in psychology and had a special interest in disorders in children, which lead her to get involved with MPAL. Jillian also worked with a group of social workers at an oncology hematology center.  Since graduating, she attends graduate school in clinical psychology at the University of Michigan.

Joel Adu-Brimpong, Post baccalaureate; Former Research Assistant


Joel Adu-Brimpong was in the LSA Honors Program majoring in Biopsychology Cognition & Neuroscience and minoring in International Studies – Global Environment & Health. He was a National Institute of Health Undergraduate Scholar and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Chapter at the University of Michigan. Ultimately he hopes to aid in the efforts to bridge the gap between research and implementation. He is especially interested in social and behavioral research leading to the development and evaluation of interventions and policies particularly in developing countries. Joel currently works for the NIH.

Alexa Shull, Former Research Assistant


Alexa recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology with honors and a Crime and Justice Minor.  Her Honors Thesis, completed in April 2014, focused on the mediation of rumination, when paired with different personality styles,on the development of depression during the transition to college. Alexa earned her Masters in Clinical Psychology through the University of Michigan’s Accelerated Degree Program.  Her study focused on examining induced rumination, HPA-axis regulation and their relationship to depression. Alexa’s research interests lie in the development of depression in adolescents and developing advancements for treatment options within the field of depression. She is currently a project coordinator at Henry Ford Health System.

Elisa Geiss, Former Ph.D. Graduate Student

Dr. Elisa Price Geiss is a former Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan. She is interested in studying the effects of social support and emotion regulation on the stress response system in children who are at-risk for and who have depression. Her long term plans are to translate these results into prevention and treatment for depressed youth.

In 2008 she completed her bachelors at the University of California, San Diego studying vision development in infants at risk for autism. After graduation, she further pursued this research interest and became a laboratory assistant under the guidance of Dr. Karen Dobkins, studying brainwave differences in this population.

Ivan Vargas, former Graduate Student

Ivan Vargas is a former Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Michigan. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2010 where he conducted research on cognitive theories of depression with Gerald Haeffel, Ph.D. Ivan’s research focused on understanding different factors that create risk and resilience to depression. Specifically, he examined the individual and combined impact of sleep, endocrine functioning, and cognitive processes on the development and maintenance of depression. Ivan coordinated our study examining the biopsychosocial consequences of sleep deprivation.

Cara Weiner, Former Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant

Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 4.09.52 PM
Cara Weiner graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in Psychology. After taking psychopathology her freshman year, she became interested in mood disorders and decided to get involved in MPAL. Cara has worked as a Research Assistant for the Adolescent Depression and Suicide Program at Montefiore Hospital in Bronx, NY, in addition to volunteering at four other hospitals in NYC over the years. She is now working on her Psy.D. and hopes to specifically work with suicidal adolescents in the future.

Lara Fawaz, Former Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Lara graduated from the University of Michigan as a neuroscience major with honors. She was a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars at the University of Michigan. Additionally, she was on the board of Big Brothers Big Sister Chapter, and the Arab Student Association. She worked as an Intramural Sports Supervisor at the University of Michigan. She plans to go to Medical school upon graduating from college. Lara found anxiety and depression to be extremely intriguing and hopes that she can learn and discover more about preventing the onset of these disorders from her research in the lab.

Olivia Smyth, Former Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Olivia Smyth graduated from UofM with a major in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. She is very interested in the onset of depression in adolescents and the future development of new treatment and prevention options. She is now attending graduate school in psychology.

Tonka Lulgjuraj, Former Undergraduate Student, Research Assistant


Tonka Lulgjuraj graduated from the University of Michigan and was a member of the International Honor Society in Psychology. She pursued a bachelors degree in psychology and plans to pursue a master’s degree and a PhD in clinical psychology. Her interest in psychology developed after taking a biopsychology course which fueled her hopes to treat mental illness and ease the difficulties of those who struggle with it. Her primary interests are childhood and adolescent mood disorders, suicidality, and autism spectrum disorders. Outside of the lab, Tonka was an intern at the University Center for the Child and Family in the autism spectrum disorder center.

Nadine Jawad, Former Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant


Nadine Jawad is a junior with an intended major of Public Policy. She plans to go to medical school and pursue an MD-MPH with a research interest in infectious disease. Nadine joined the lab to broaden her horizons of clinical research and psychopathology. Currently, Nadine is a co-president and co-founder of Books for a Benefit, a student organization on campus that works on the promotion of literacy and education in low SES communities.

Francesca Grindle, Former Undergraduate Student; Research Assistant

Photo on 9-20-15 at 1.19 PM

Francesca Grindle is a senior at the University of Michigan. She is currently majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology and minoring in Medical Anthropology. She plans on attending medical school after graduation and specializing in pediatrics. This lead her to wanting to better understand mental illness in children and adolescents through UROP and joining the MPAL lab.

Paige Galecki, Former Graduate Student, Lab Coordinator


Paige Galecki graduated in 2014 with a BS in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. She completed an Honors Thesis in our lab, which examined the predictive capacity of social reward learning during a video-chat on the onset of depression during the transition to college. Upon graduation, she took a position as a Research Assistant in a pharmacogenomics laboratory at the University of Chicago. Eventually she intends to pursue an MD or an MPH. She is currently attending graduate school at the University of Michigan.