Meet the Interns

Did you know that the DiSH Lab family got a little bigger? This summer, we were happy to welcome 3 wonderful interns from YULA High School. Currently enrolled in a two-year STEM program, the students were required to have volunteer experience working in a lab, and the DiSH Lab is honored that they chose us! Every Monday, the interns join us to get a glimpse of working in a lab. From running statistics to discussing articles to doing prep work for our studies, the interns are doing it all. So who exactly are these interns? Let’s meet them!



Aliza Amsellem

Aliza is going into her junior year at YULA High School and found Dr. Tomiyama’s DiSH Lab through her school STEM club. Since she was very young, the sciences intrigued her, but she has always felt a deep interest in human psychobiology. Because the DiSH Lab deals mainly with the effects of dieting on the brain, it was the perfect opportunity for her to truly experience the field in a college environment. She has already learned so much through exploring DiSH Lab articles and statistical data and has come to appreciate this subject on a completely different level. In her free time, she enjoys singing, drawing and painting, and, of course, eating all kinds of foods.


Picture of Ariel

Ariel Amsellem

Ariel is going into his final year at YULA High School where he participates in the STEM program, which put him in touch with the DiSH Lab.  As someone who loves to eat almost anything, the chance to intensely analyze food has kindled a new interest in the subject.  Ariel cherishes this opportunity to learn more about the lab environment while providing as much help to the senior lab members as possible.  Aside from his unquenchable zeal for scientific inquiry, Ariel enjoys to kick back by playing his saxophone and tennis.


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Michael Shadpour

Going into his senior year of high school, Michael is both Student Council President and a dedicated member of the newly created STEM program at his high school, YULA. During his time at the DiSH Lab, Michael has reviewed several interesting papers about the psychology of eating and has learned a great about the use and value of statistical analysis in research. Michael has also made full use of valuable time appropriated to discussing college-life with several u ndergraduates working in the DiSH Lab. 

Already Missing Our 2014 Graduates

Wow, how time flies! We can’t believe it’s already been one month since our amazing DiSH Labbers graduated from UCLA. It seems like just yesterday that Megan, Rishi, Victor, and Ryan walked the stage and received their diplomas from the UCLA Department of Psychology–and took beautiful pictures with Dr. T (see below). But since we didn’t get a chance to make it blog official before, we just wanted to give them another big congratulations!

Over the past few years, these four intelligent research assistants have ran hundreds of participants and assisted in numerous studies. They have been a tremendous help and a true pleasure to work with. The DiSH Lab honestly wouldn’t have been the same without them, and although it was hard to say goodbye, we are super excited to see where they will go next. Good luck in all your future endeavors graduates and make sure to stay in touch!

Victor Shiau


Rishi Menon


Ryan Hamilton

Megan Connolly

Dr. T on Comfort Eating

We are all guilty of using food for comfort at one time or another. But does comfort eating actually work? Amazingly, it really does!

In the words of Dr. T:

“Comfort-eating rats showed dampened biological stress reactivity in a stress system called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. Sustained over-activity of the HPA axis is associated with poor health, and these studies suggest that comfort eating is playing an important role in managing an organism’s stress levels.

The implications of this are enormous. If comfort eating functions in the same way in humans (the human literature is in its infancy, but my research and that of others offers preliminary evidence that comfort eating is associated with dampened HPA activity), then we need to substantially shift the way we think about stress eating.

Stress eating is currently treated like a villain, a negative health behavior that we should intervene to eradicate at all costs. The science of comfort eating, however, indicates that we may be engaging in this behavior for very good reasons, and that eating that brownie might mitigate the negative health effects of stress hormones—which may be even more harmful in the long-term than a few extra calories.”

Click here to check out what else Dr. T has to say on comfort eating! It’s highly relatable and also at the top of the RWJF Human Capital Blog today! Go Dr. T!!

Special Shoutout to Kate Sweeny!

Kate has made unique and important contributions to the theoretical and scientific merging of social personality psychology and health psychology.  Her research focuses on threat management – that is, how people give news of, prepare for, and respond to negative life events.  Her research on uncertainty navigation processes has produced critical theoretical and empirical insights into the understudied experience of awaiting uncertain news; addressing important questions such as how do people manage their anxiety and what strategies do they employ as they await uncertain news regarding their own or their loved ones’ health.  Her work melds together the study of health, risk judgments, coping, decision-making, emotion, and communication.  Kate’s ability to seamlessly fuse the core theoretical and methodological elements of social, personality and health psychology towards a pressing and vexing health problem make Kate the ideal recipient of this inaugural award.


NYC Campaign to Increase Girls’ Self-Esteem: The Jury is Out

NYC campaignNew York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been involved in numerous efforts to make New Yorkers healthier, some of which have been criticized as disgusting (including an ad showing a man gulping fat ) and invasive (attempting – but failing – to put limits on the size of sugary drinks).

However, Bloomberg’s new initiative has a more positive slogan: “I’m a Girl: I’m Beautiful the Way I Am.” The New York City Girls Project will display girls laughing and playing around, with captions emphasizing ways that girls can be beautiful, such as by being curious, smart, and hardworking. The campaign also adds a girls’ self-esteem curriculum to 200 after-school programs.

As Amelia Thomson-Deveaux noted, It’s not a perfect campaign – some people have criticized the campaign for continuing to put too much emphasis on “beauty,” (Katy Waldman, Slate). The campaign also doesn’t incorporate the use of Facebook, where many girls receive messages about body image and the “thin ideal.” Social media is where campaigns could truly make an impact. Even psychologists understand the importance of Facebook – this blog post will be going up on Facebook today.

So, the Girls Project isn’t a perfect campaign, but it’s a start. A badly needed one.

-This post comes from Britt Ahlstrom, a first-year DiSH Lab grad student.