Meet Our Team


Nicole professional headshotDr. Nicole Watkins is Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Behavioral Health Research. She earned her Ph.D and M.S. in Learning and Developmental Sciences from Indiana University, her B.S. in Psychology from Wright State University. Her research interests focus on adolescence, emerging adulthood, and family structure. A consistent theme in her research has been predictors of health and well-being of adolescents and emerging adults, specifically focusing on three related areas of study, including studies of: (a) differences in the associations between parental divorce and parental death on educational outcomes and risk behaviors, (b) timing of family transitions and associations with child and emerging adult health, and (c) romantic relationships during adolescence and emerging adulthood.

katie newkirk headshotDr. Katie Newkirk is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Center for Behavioral Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2018 from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, where she researched working parents’ mental health and relationships across the transition to parenthood, with attention to how employment factors and family processes during this life stage are related to parents’ mental health and children’s developmental outcomes. Her dissertation addressed how postpartum depression and comorbid anxiety are related to father involvement in childcare. Her research interests include parents’ mental health in the context of work and family life, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, family behavioral health integration with medical care, and trajectories of depression and anxiety at different points across the lifespan. Her current research focuses on parents’ work and adolescent mental health, and predictors of trajectories of depression and anxiety during adolescence and early adulthood. Katie is interested in longitudinal research methodology and statistics, including multilevel models, growth curve modeling, multilevel SEM, and conditional process analyses. She taught research methods to graduate students at the Smith School for Social work from 2013 – 2015, and worked as a statistical consultant for the Quality of Worklife Project at UMass and the University of Maryland College Park, and as a consultant and research assistant for the Psychotherapy Research Lab at UMass. She was awarded a Research Fellowship and Travel Award from the Center for Research on Families at UMass.

Gagnon headshotSonja Gagnon graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Eastern Connecticut State University. She currently works as an administrative assistant for the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She is also currently the coordinator for the PANDA project. Her research interests include examining predictors of adolescent psychopathology. More specifically, she is interested in disordered eating behaviors, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. She is also interested in the role mindfulness plays in influencing stress tolerance and negative affect.

Tess headshot.pngTessa Fagle graduated with a B.A. in both Psychology and Human Development from the University of Connecticut. She currently works as a research assistant in the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, engaged in work involving both adolescent adjustment and pediatric chronic pain. Tessa’s research interests involve examining the influence of technology and social media on adolescent psychopathology. Specifically, she is interested in studying the interaction of social influences, social media, and the development of anxiety disorders in adolescence.

RT_HeadshotRachel Taylor is a graduate research assistant with the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She is currently pursuing her Masters at the University of Connecticut, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, and previously earned a B.S. in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University. Her research involves peer relationships and the development of character strengths. She is also strongly interested in quantitative methodology, specifically in meta-analysis and the analysis of longitudinal data.


Salafia headshot.jpgCali Salafia graduated with a B.A in Psychology from the University at Albany, SUNY and is currently pursuing a Masters in Health Psychology from Central Connecticut State University. She is a graduate student intern for the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Cali’s research interests include health promotion, disease prevention, and how biopsychosocial processes impact health and illness. Cali is also interested in how social media use relates to psychological well-being in adolescents.



VannucciA-5454finalAnna Vannucci, MS was the project coordinator of the PANDA Project. She worked as a research associate in the Children’s Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She received her M.S. in Medical and Clinical Psychology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Anna’s research interests involve understanding how interactions among biology, behavior, and the environment influence the development of disordered eating and related psychiatric and medical comorbidities across childhood and adolescence. She is also interested in evaluating novel interventions that seek to reduce negative affect, disinhibited eating behaviors, and excessive weight gain. Anna has published empirical papers and chapters in the area of pediatric eating and weight disorders. She has received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Academy of Eating Disorders to support her research and been awarded several travel fellowships to present her research at scientific conferences.


Emily Simpson is a doctoral student in the Human Development and Family Studies program at the University of Connecticut. She graduated with her M.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University in 2014 and with her B.A. in Psychology from Sewanee: the University of the South in 2011. Her research interests are in adolescent risk and resilience within the context of the family, especially as it relates to emotion regulation. She worked as a research assistant collaborating on the Adolescent Adjustment Project and other behavioral health research endeavors.

Ainsley HeadshotAinsley Backman graduated from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in 2017 and is currently a graduate student pursuing a Masters in Public Health degree from George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She earned her undergraduate degree from Bryn Mawr College in Cultural and Medical Anthropology. She intends on pursuing a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Ainsley’s research interests focus on developmental psychopathology and social development in childhood and adolescence.

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Courtney Lincoln graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Worcester State University. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) from the University of Connecticut. She is currently a postdoctoral associate at the Child Study Center in the School of Medicine at Yale University.  Her research interests include social and emotional development, self-regulation across the lifespan, and parenting in times of stress.

kfKaitlin Flannery graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Delaware. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in Developmental Psychology. Kaitlin is currently an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Cortland. Kaitlin’s research interests focus on social development in adolescence, especially within friendships and sibling relationships.


KlinkM-5445finalMelanie Klinck graduated with a B.A. from the University of Connecticut’s Human Development and Family Studies program. She previously worked in behavioral research at UConn Health and at the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention and Policy (InCHIP) and as a research assistant in the Center for Behavioral Health Research at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Melanie’s research interests include substance use in adolescents, weight stigma, gender and sexual minority youth, and mind-body approaches to health problems.

vgVictoria Galica graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of New Haven. She received her M.A. at Central Connecticut State University. Victoria is currently a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Victoria’s research interests focus on factors that influence the development of internalizing behaviors in adolescents, including physical activity, technology use, and family/peer relationships.




Ana DiGiovanni graduated with a B.A. in psychology from NYU in 2018 and started her PhD in psychology at Columbia University in 2019. Her work focuses on how individuals provide effective (or ineffective) social support to close others during stressful times. This work spans age groups and relationship types, as she explores support processes in close friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships throughout the lifespan. Currently, Ana is focusing on co-rumination within friendships and romantic relationships, and the simultaneous costs and benefits of this interpersonal regulation strategy. She is especially interested in dyadic work, employing the use of daily diaries to investigate psychosocial processes, and capitalizing on longitudinal designs to explore within-person change.