Congratulations, Diane!

We’re so proud of Diane Dallal, one of our incredible DiSH Research Assistants, who just accepted an offer of admission to Drexel University’s Clinical Psychology program!

Find out what Diane had to say here:

“I feel so lucky to be pursuing graduate study in overeating and obesity at Drexel University’s clinical psychology program this fall. To me, the most exciting thing about the program is that I get to join an extremely passionate and productive research team, under Dr. Evan Forman’s mentorship, whose collective goal centers around developing and disseminating innovative treatments for unhealthy eating behaviors. Drexel is an amazing fit for me, and  I could not be more thrilled to undergo graduate training at such a powerhouse for eating-related research. I’m so thankful for all I learned in the DiSH Lab and at UCLA that led me here!”

We’re so happy for you, Diane, and we can’t wait to see how you’ll shine in graduate school!

Congratulations, Kristin!

One of our stellar DiSH Lab Research Assistants, Kristin Horrillo, just accepted an offer of admission to the Mills College School of Education!

Check out what Kristin has to say here:

“I’ll be taking part in a two-year Masters’ in Education with an emphasis in Child Life in Hospitals program at Mills that focuses on equipping students with specialized training to respond to the developmental, social, and emotional needs of hospitalized children and their families. I’ve always wanted to work with children and have been really interested in developmental psychology since High School, but after suffering the loss of a close family member I knew I wanted to help bring some normalcy to children in the hospital setting.  After working in the DiSH lab and learning how research is conducted and learning how to apply research through the Applied Developmental Psychology Minor program I knew I wanted to pursue a career that valued the power of research. As a Certified Child Life Specialist, I will be able to use research to mitigate the impact of medical trauma while preserving basic developmental pathways and family support systems in hospitals and medical communities. I’m so excited to take what I’ve learned at UCLA into this next step in my education!”

We’ll miss you around the lab, Kristin, but we’re so proud of you for following your passion!


RA Guest Blog: Review of “The Science and Politics of How Nutrition Got It Wrong on Fat and Cholesterol” with Nina Teicholz

Last week, DiSH RA Emma Schopp attended a talk called “The Science and Politics of How Nutrition Got It Wrong on Fat and Cholesterol” with investigative journalist Nina Teicholz and host Dr. Aaron Blaisdell of the UCLA Psychology Department. Here’s what Emma had to say about the talk:


Last Wednesday, investigative journalist Nina Teicholz visited UCLA to give a talk about the politics and science that led to the villainization of fat by public health officials, as discussed in her controversial book, The Big Fat Surprise. As I am very interested in public health and the multitude of effects that food can have, I was excited to hear directly from someone who had delved so deeply into the research, policy, and history of this field.

Teicholz did not disappoint, providing a fascinating history of the creation and implementation of national nutritional guidelines that entirely contradict current research. She described the actions of politicians and scientists, like Ancel Keyes, who, amidst panic over rising rates of heart disease in the 1950s, was able to convince leaders at the American Heart Association that saturated fats and cholesterol led to heart disease. Although his hypothesis was backed only by biased, correlational studies such as the Seven Countries Study, his conclusions led to the first ever dietary guidelines released by the USDA in 1980, which advised a diet low in fat and coincided with the beginning of a sharp increase in obesity rates in the US, which we are still experiencing today.

Teicholz explained that these guidelines had widespread effects, such as determining the food served in the military (an organization which today has an enormous obesity issue), changing the available food supply to comply with new “healthy” demands, and embedding into the minds of Americans that fat is unhealthy, despite experimental evidence to the contrary, such as the 1960s Minnesota Coronary Heart Study. This study, and others like it that showed that high fat diets had no detrimental effects, were ignored and buried by the scientists and leaders in nutrition policy, whose views these studies did not support.

Teicholz ended her discussion by sharing some of the information that has been supported by reliable, NIH-funded studies in the past decade, including that saturated fat and cholesterol don’t cause heart disease, low fat diets are ineffective, and that fat does not cause cancer. She discussed some preliminary research supporting the Carbohydrate-Insulin Hypothesis, which posits that increased carbohydrate consumption has led to obesity, possibly because of the way that carbohydrates are metabolized in the body.

Teicholz’s presentation emphasized the importance of ensuring that all fields remain transparent and open to contributors challenging and testing all findings. A strength of the scientific community is its ability to check itself, and to remain impartial and skeptical until enough supporting evidence has supported a hypothesis. By conducting research objectively in the DiSH Lab, we can be confident that our contributions to the field of health psychology are evidence based and will benefit society.


We’re glad to hear that you enjoyed the talk, Emma!

Congratulations, Isaac!

Isaac Mirzadegan, one of our recently-graduated DiSH RAs, just landed an awesome research job at the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic at UC Berkeley! Isaac has been a stellar research assistant in the DiSH Lab for over two years, and we are so proud of his accomplishments.

Here’s what Isaac has to say about his new position at UC Berkeley:

“I will be working as a project coordinator on a transdiagnostic sleep and circadian treatment to improve community Severe Mental Illness (SMI) outcomes, within the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic at UC Berkeley.

Working as a staff researcher in the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic with Dr. Allison Harvey is basically the dream job. The study that I’ll be working on in particular is a community treatment study, which targets sleep and circadian disruptions within people who meet criteria for SMI – community members with the greatest need for treatment.
I was fortunate enough to find this position by reaching out directly to Dr. Harvey at the right time. I had sent out quite a few email inquiries to professors whose research interests aligned with my own, and Dr. Harvey responded that her lab was actively accepting applications for a research associate! I plan to work in this fantastic lab for a year before applying to doctoral programs in clinical psychology.
I first became interested in research during my sophomore year as an R.A. in the DiSH Lab, gaining invaluable experience working on a multitude of DiSH studies. Additionally, I received an astounding amount of mentorship and support from Dr. T, Laura, Britt, and Angela. I also worked in the Anxiety and Depression Research Center, and completed an honors thesis through that lab. I believe it was a combination of my research experience at UCLA, the support of many awesome professors and grad students, and my persistence in looking for a position of the perfect fit that allowed me to land this stellar job. Huge thanks to everyone in the DiSH Lab!!!”
Congratulations, again, Isaac! We’ll miss seeing you around our lab, but we know that you’ll be an incredible project coordinator up at Cal!

Congratulations, Patricia!

One of our most dedicated research assistants, Patricia Natalie, just accepted an offer of admission to the Social Design Master’s program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland! We couldn’t be prouder of Patricia for following her two passions – design and studying body dissatisfaction. Check out what Patricia has to say here:

“Enraged by the statistics that 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies in some way and that 54% would rather hit by a truck than be fat, I knew that this global epidemic of body dissatisfaction is a huge social issue I’d put my heart into fighting for. The Social Design program at MICA is one that perfectly aligns with my aspiration as it will allow me to use design, the platform I take the most pride in, to make social changes in the field I am most passionate about. It’s been a journey of self-exploration since the day I set foot in UCLA, so I’m beyond grateful and thrilled to pursue what I have always wanted to do deep down. One my biggest thank-you-s definitely goes to DiSH Lab for helping me discover my passions as well as the advisors and RAs for their unending support! And like what Steve Jobs had always emphasized, ‘If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.’” 🙂

We’ll miss you around the lab, Patricia, but we can’t wait to see the designs you come up with!



Maryland Institute College of Art

Congratulations, Sophia!

Congratulations to one of our incredible past study coordinators, Sophia Krakowiak, for getting accepted into Loyola Marymount University’s School Psychology Program!

Here’s what she had to say about her time in the DiSH Lab:

“Joining the DiSH lab was one of the best decisions I made in my academic career at UCLA. Dr. Tomiyama and her great graduate students gave me experiences that I don’t believe I would have gotten in any other setting at UCLA.  Through working in the DiSH lab and taking courses with Dr. Tomiyama I was able to gain important skills and knowledge about the field of psychology and research. I loved the friendly, professional and caring environment provided by Dr. Tomiyama and her graduate students. Dr. Tomiyama is an amazing mentor and professor and I suggest that anyone who has a chance to work with her or take her classes jump at that opportunity. Dr. Tomiyama and the DiSH lab showed me that research is really fun and exciting! If I hadn’t gone into an applied career path in school psychology, health psychology research would have definitely been my route! A big thank you to Dr. Tomiyama, her team and to the members of the DiSH lab!”

We’ll miss seeing you around UCLA, Sophia, but we’re so proud of all you’ve accomplished! Best of luck as you begin your next chapter!


DiSH RAs representing at UCLA’s Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference!

This past Friday, UCLA hosted its 25th annual Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, and three of our DiSH Lab Research Assistants – Cristina, Brandon, and Kevin – presented posters!

Check out what they had to say about their experience here:

Cristina González
Poster Title: Are Food Addiction and Alcohol Abuse Two Branches of Pathology from the Same Vulnerable Tree?

“This year was my first time participating at PURC. It was nice to what other students are interested in and the work that they are involved with. The environment was really supportive and overall a great first experience presenting a poster!”

Here's Cristina presenting her poster!

Here’s Cristina presenting her poster!

Brandon Chao & Kevin Dong 
Poster Title: The Effects of Healthy and Unhealthy Comfort Eating on Self-Efficacy


“I had a lot of fun at PURC, what more can I say? 🙂 With our study “The Effects of Comfort Eating on Self-Efficacy,” Kevin Dong and I had the opportunity to share our findings (with the help of our amazing graduate student Laura Finch) to others and discuss its implications. It was really cool to come across fellow researchers who were studying the same questions as we were and just talk about our studies. This collaborative element was certainly one of my favorite parts of the entire event; we were so into discussing our conclusions that we didn’t notice our one-hour slot was already almost over. By its end, PURC really made me realize and appreciate all of the work that others put into their own projects and the exciting prospect that comes with sharing whatever we may find with like-minded individuals. For those interested in participating in another event like this, I would highly recommend it!”

Brandon presenting his poster.

Brandon presenting his poster.


“I really enjoyed my time at PURC. It was great being in an environment where everyone was excited about research. I shared our findings with many undergraduates and graduate students from different fields of psychology as well as with members from another food lab that came up from UCSD! The process of preparing for PURC was eye-opening as it brought what we do in the lab everyday into perspective. I highly recommend presenting at these conferences as it really makes you think and analyze the research on a much deeper level. Shoutout to Laura for helping us and guiding us along the way!”

Kevin presenting his poster.

 Kevin presenting his poster.
We’re so proud of you all for participating in PURC – the applicant pool was competitive this year, and you all represented us so well!


kev group
Kevin explaining his poster to an interested group of PURC attendees!

Congratulations to Peter, for accepting an offer to UCLA’s Health Psychology Program!

For the past few months, DiSH Lab RA Peter Nooteboom has been applying to various Ph.D. programs in health and clinical psychology. We could not be more pleased to report that he has accepted an offer to UCLA’s Health Psychology program to work with Dr. Ted Robles!

Here’s what Peter had to say:

“Through my journey as an undergraduate at UCLA, I was exposed to a wide range of fields in psychology. I had the opportunity to explore research in behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, social psychology, and health psychology. UCLA has been the perfect place to explore my research ideas and refine my interests. My time working in the DiSH Lab has ultimately been the most formative in establishing Health Psychology as my primary interest moving forward. Having seen first hand what the program has to offer, I am excited to begin pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Psychology at UCLA.”

Peter has been an excellent RA and study coordinator for the DiSH Lab for the past two years, and we’re glad we’ll still get to see him around Franz Hall!


Gut Feelings: Erin’s Experience at #SSEW2015

SSEW flyer_cropped

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the COAST/SSEW (Sugar, Stress, Environment, and Weight) Annual Symposium at UCSF with Dr. T. The theme of the symposium was “Gut Feelings: The microbiome, the mind, and metabolic health”, so all of the speakers were leading researchers and policymakers in the field of microbiome research. Before attending the symposium, all that I knew about the microbiome (basically, the array of bacteria that live in your intestines) was that certain profiles of microbiota have been linked to obesity.

The speakers at the symposium touched on the microbiome-obesity connection, but they also spoke about aspects of the microbiome that I had never thought about, such as the connection between the microbiome, the brain, and the immune system, as well as the relationship between nutrition and the microbiome. Before hearing the talks, I didn’t fully appreciate how influential to our health the microbiome can be. However, I quickly learned that the human body contains approximately 10 trillion human cells, and about 100 trillion microbial cells – meaning that technically, we are only 10% human. Pretty shocking. I also learned about some fascinating new techniques for evaluating the microbiome, as well as about strategies to cultivate the healthiest microbiome possible (hint, hint: eat lots of fish and vegetables). I was even surprised to learn that seemingly small aspects of early childhood development – such as being born vaginally vs. via C-section, or having a dog in your home as a child – can have major implications for one’s microbiome health and allergen sensitivity later in life! All in all, the symposium left me in awe of the power that our gut microbiome can have on our health, as well as on our emotional responses and brain development.

At the end of the day, Dr. T moderated a panel of all of the speakers, which allowed attendees to ask any burning questions and to get a few final take-home messages. Essentially, we learned that small changes to our environments in early childhood and in our diets throughout life can have large implications for the makeup of our microbiome, and that our microbiome can affect a wide range of human functions, such as immune responses, brain development, pain sensitivity, emotional responses, and weight regulation.


Dr. T. moderating the panel of speakers at the end of the day.

After the panel, the symposium allowed time for a poster session, during which time I presented a poster called “Debunking the Buddy System: Evidence that dieting with a friend may exacerbate negative consequences”. The poster was based on the findings from DiSH Lab grad student Angela Incollingo Rodriguez’s “Roommate Dieting Study”, which I worked as an RA on for over a year. It was really exciting to get to share our findings with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members at the symposium, especially because lots of people expressed interest in the study. Though I was nervous at first to discuss the poster (as one of the only undergraduates at the symposium), it ended up going quite well!


Here’s a photo of me presenting my poster after the symposium.

I’m so grateful that I was able to attend the COAST/SSEW Symposium with Dr. T., and that I was able to present at the poster session – getting to speak with so many successful researchers in the field of health psychology and the microbiome made me even more driven to continue working to answer my own research questions!

Patricia RA Blogs: My Summer at the Cornell Food & Brand Lab

My summer internship at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab was definitely one of a kind. Dr. Brian Wansink has been my favorite researcher since the day I read his study on the Bottomless Soup Bowls (which, of course, was introduced by Dr. T in her Fiat Lux class!). With enough stalking, I found out that he’s the director of one of the most renowned food psychology labs in the states, and that the lab offers summer internships. I really wanted to do the internship so I was very, very excited when I got it, even if it meant that I had to take my finals during week 10 or at Cornell, and fly back and forth for commencement.

When I got to Cornell, I was very impressed with the campus. It’s huge and really, really pretty. There were gorges, waterfalls, hiking trails, and a botanical garden – all within the campus! When the interns got to meet each other, I was surprised to see that all of us were girls. We were from all walks of life; we represented a wide range of universities (Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Culinary Institute of America), places (London, Canada, MAURITIUS (like wow)), and fields of study (clinical psychologists, dietitians, nutritionists, etc.). Dr. Wansink came to our first meeting and he greeted us one by one very genuinely. We spent the entire day talking about our interests and goals, and it touched me how such a distinguished (and busy; he gets around 50 calls and 600 emails every day) professor took the time to really get to know his interns. He made a point to make sure that the internship would be beneficial for us in the future.

The thing I liked most about the internship was that it was catered to our own interests. Each of us had the freedom to pick three projects from a long list of things going on in the lab at the time. We got to pick one data project (collecting data from online surveys or national databases), one demonstration project (literature review), and one experimental project (designing and conducting experiments in lab or out in the field). We ranked our preferences and they assigned us to the projects tied to specific graduate students. If we were interested in other projects that we weren’t assigned to and felt like we had the time to do it, we were free to jump in and help out. There were also other projects offered to us along the way that we could take up. Here were the projects I worked on:

  1. Kitchen Habits: Can our kitchen environment and habits predict our BMIs?
  2. Taste Expectations: What goes into our minds that make us expect how something will taste like before we actually taste it?
  3. Viral Foods: What makes certain foods (think: cronuts, kale, bubble tea) go viral?
  4. Identity/Ideology Psychological Hedonics: When one has a certain identity or ideology they uphold, will they choose their foods differently from those who don’t?

I’ll elaborate on the Kitchen Habits project because it was the one I spent most of my time on. The question was whether the items and habits we have and do in our kitchen have anything to do with how much we weigh. I worked closely with Dr. Wansink, and we wanted to look at seemingly random or subtle items and habits, such as the number of ice cube trays in people’s freezers, number of take-out menus on fridge doors, presence of a working dishwasher, use of music during meal preparation, etc. We designed an Mturk survey and ran it with 300 participants. Simple correlation and regression analyses were performed, and we found some pretty interesting results. People who had take-out food delivery menus on their fridge door and did not have a working dishwasher were more likely to have higher BMIs. A less obvious one was that people who had less than four burners on their stove tended to weigh more (we thought that it had something to do with low income and poverty level). Random ones were that those who used white lighting and had a pet dish in their kitchen had higher BMIs. Dr. Wansink is still in the process of reviewing the paper I wrote up (he’s on sabbatical), but he had mentioned the possibility of a publication, which is very exciting!

I’m still in touch with Dr. Wansink as I’m now creating infographics for some of his previous studies. We were once assigned to design conference posters for the lab, and my designs received positive feedback from him and the team, so he asked if I was willing to do some graphics for their newly published paper (50 Years of Fat, Wansink & Davis, 2015). It got a lot of media attention, and he asked if I’d be willing to continue making infographics for the lab. How could I say no – it’s the perfect combination of my interests in psychology and design. And I think that’s one of the biggest take-home points from this internship – to discover what I really enjoy doing.

To end, this internship was not just about academia. We usually only had meetings three times a week, so we had quite a bit of free time. We went for hikes, gorge-jumps, farm-stays, and hayrides, played golf (or more precisely, golf-cart rides), went to a drive-in movie, took a contra dance lesson, and attended pottery-making class, just to name a few things. We once went to NYC for a food waste field examination, and we had a lot of fun enjoying the city at night over pizza. We also got to know Dr. Wansink personally as he frequently invited us to his house for dinner, barbeques, and for the Fourth of July. We made friends and connections from all over the world and from various fields of study, and we gained memorable experiences we wouldn’t have traded for anything else.

At the end of the day, I am really glad to have applied for the internship because I gained so much experience and knowledge both in the field of study and about myself. I think what we can all learn from this is to keep looking for and taking up opportunities to challenge yourself: you’ll never know what those opportunities have in store for you.


This is a long read but if you got to this point and are interested in reading more about it, check out our intern website with all our experiences and pictures!