DiSH Lab at SPSP 2017!

This past weekend, the DiSH lab attended the 18th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Convention in San Antonio, TX. We also attended the Social, Personality and Health (SPH) Preconference, and we were one of the best-represented labs in attendance – our undergraduate research assistants, graduate students, lab manager, post-doc, and DiSH alums all came out to enjoy a weekend full of social psychological research and networking!

At the SPH Preconference, we learned about neural mechanisms linking social threat and inflammation, emotion and health-related decision making, potential unintended consequences of genetic testing, and much more!

DiSH Grad Student Laura Finch and Lab Manager Erin Standen also presented posters at the SPH preconference!


Laura Finch presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Laura Finch presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Erin Standen presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Erin Standen presenting her poster at the SPH Preconference.

Also on Thursday, DiSH Graduate student Jenna Cummings presented a poster as a part of the SPSP Graduate Student Poster Competition, and was named a Runner-up for the Award! We are so proud, especially because there were over two hundred posters in the competition! Congratulations, Jenna!

Jenna Cummings presenting her poster at SPSP for the Graduate Student Poster Competition.

On Friday and Saturday, DiSH Research Assistants Gracie Nguyen and Melissa Walman each presented a poster at the main SPSP Convention!

Gracie Nguyen and Laura Finch presenting a poster at the SPSP Convention.

Melissa Walman presenting research at the SPSP Convention.

Overall, it was a great weekend in San Antonio, full of fascinating research, delicious food, and lots of DiSH Lab bonding! We can’t wait to head to Atlanta, GA for next year’s SPSP Convention!

From left to right: Gracie Nguyen, Erin Standen, Dr. Mary Himmelstein, Jenna Cummings, Laura Finch, and Bernice Cheung at SPSP 2017.


Dr. T won APA’s Outstanding Contributions to Health Psychology by an Early Career Professional Award!

This past weekend, Dr. T traveled to Denver, CO to accept the Outstanding Contributions to Health Psychology by an Early Career Professional Award from the American Psychological Association!

The award recognizes an individual whose contributions to the fields of science and psychology have been innovative, courageous, and distinctive, and whose contributions have supported efforts to find new solutions to social issues, to make the practice and science of psychology more accessible to broad populations, and/or to integrate science and psychology in a way that advances social justice and human welfare. Dr. T also gave an invited address at the APA Convention, after being presented her award by UCLA Health Psychology’s very own Professor Annette Stanton.

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Dr. T and her award at the 2016 APA Annual Convention.

Big congratulations to Dr. T – we are so proud and grateful to conduct research with you!

Janet Speakinng

Dr. T giving her invited address at the 2016 APA Annual Convention.

Jenna’s Visit to Capitol Hill

DiSH Grad Student Jenna Cummings just got back from a trip to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., where she got to speak with congressional representatives and staff about the importance of funding for social & behavioral research! She went on the trip with the American Psychological Association’s Science Student Council, and we’re ecstatic that she was able to represent the DiSH lab & psychological research as a whole so well!


Check out what Jenna had to say about her experience:


“I’ve been a part of the American Psychological Association’s Science Student Council for about two years now. One of the missions of this student council is to advocate for psychological science. This past week I had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. and have one-on-one visits with congressional representatives and staff. I met with Tyler Lorig – staff in California Senator Diane Feinstein’s office, Kentucky Representative Andy Barr, and Megan Price – staff in California Representative Ted Lieu’s office (the Representative for UCLA’s district).

I described to them my research on alcohol use and eating behavior, and how my National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship critically supports me in carrying out that research. I explained how Dr. T , Laura, and I are writing a grant proposal to receive funds for development of a new intervention for stress eating, and how without those funds, potential new solutions for problematic eating can’t be tested. I asked for these members of congress to strongly and persistently support federal funding for the social and behavioral sciences. I also asked for these members of congress to oppose cuts to this federal funding, and to oppose the social and behavioral sciences being singled out from other sciences. Responses were positive, with most offices explicitly stating their support for NIH and NSF!


Here's Jenna, along with Jenna, along with Representative Andy Barr and fellow SSC member Justin Strickland.

I am extremely grateful for these visits. It brought me insight to how psychological researchers can have effects beyond the lab, classroom, or an academic journal. I urge other psychological scientists to get involved in advocacy, this way our science can continue to flourish.”

It sounds like a really eye-opening and valuable weekend; we’re so proud that Jenna has made such important strides toward progressing our science!

Jenna and   Jenna, along with Megan Price and fellow SSC member Justin Strickland.

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 Jenna with Tyler Lorig.

Jolene’s Experience at the American Psychosomatic Society’s 74th Annual Scientific Meeting!

This past weekend, Dr. T. & DiSH Lab Manager Jolene headed off to Denver, CO to attend the American Psychosomatic Society’s 74th Annual Scientific Meeting. The American Psychosomatic Society (APS) aims to “to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease”, which makes it a perfect fit with DiSH research.

Here’s what Jolene had to say:

“This past weekend, I flew to Denver for APS’s 74th Annual Scientific Meeting. This was my first time attending APS’s conference, but I can definitely understand why so many people rave about it being their favorite.

First off, this conference brought together hundreds of researchers and clinicians to present their latest research in multiple scientific disciplines. It took place over the course of 3 days, and each day, the schedule was filled with plenary addresses, multiple symposiums, and a one and a half hour poster session. The topics were all so interesting and diverse that I often found myself having a hard time deciding which talks to attend. By the end, I was able to broaden my knowledge of such a wide variety of topics, including — but definitely not limited to — sleep, diabetes, dieting, stress, oncology, and even cannabis!
In addition, at this conference, I had the opportunity to present the abstract, Second-Hand Stress: Psychological and Psychosocial Consequences Associated with Dieting in Pairs, and to say that it was rewarding is an understatement. This was the very first study that I worked on in the DiSH Lab, and after two and a half years of working intimately on this project, I was thrilled and grateful to help disseminate our findings. It was also great to see how much interest our study garnered.
Overall, I had an amazing time at the APS conference and I would highly recommend this conference to everyone!”


 Here’s Jolene, presenting her poster!


 Jolene even got to discuss her poster with Lorenzo Cohen (on the right), chair of the entire conference!

Overall, it sounds like a was a great weekend!

DiSH Lab at SPSP 2016!

This past weekend, the DiSH lab attended the 17th Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Convention in San Diego, CA. We’re extremely proud of how well we were represented at this conference – we had undergraduates, lab managers, graduate students, DiSH Collaborators, and of course, Dr. T. all in attendance!

On Thursday, Jan. 28th, we attended the Social Personality Health Network (SPHN) Preconference, where we learned about weight stigma, mobile health tracking, personality traits tied to health behaviors, and big data. DiSH Grad Student Laura Finch also presented a poster at SPHN!

Laura presenting her poster at SPHN!

Check out what some of our undergraduate research assistants and lab manager Jolene had to say:

“Attending SPHN opened my eyes to just how intimate health and social psychologists are getting with their participants to attain the most salient data for their research, and how our very own DiSH lab is following suit. Psychologists from all over the nation explained how they are utilizing participants’ personal mobile devices to collect self-report and physiological data in response to weight stigmatizing events – something that the DiSH lab has already started utilizing in its Texting and Hashtag studies. Yesterday’s conference revealed to me just how much technology is allowing current research to delve into the depths of the human experience at levels that past instrumentation could not dare reach, and it excites me to know that the DiSH lab is contributing to the forefront of what seems to be the most promising findings health and social research have ever uncovered.” – Megan White

“SPHN was a great experience because we had the opportunity to interact with so many individuals who are professionals in the field of Health Psychology. In addition, the experience provided us insight on new upcoming research conducted by graduate students and faculty from various universities across the United States.” – Grace Nguyen

“SPHN is always a great opportunity to hear about the latest studies on social psychology and health, make connections with some of the field’s leading researchers, and support fellow DiSH Labbers. This year, I particularly loved Brenda Major’s talk on weight stigma, and I was fascinated by how gratitude and mindfulness can have such a significant impact on one’s physiology. I also really enjoyed seeing Traci and her students again and was very proud that we were the one of the only labs–if not the only lab–that had our undergraduate RAs attend. Laura’s poster was great too!” – Jolene Nguyen-Cuu

Towards the middle of the afternoon, Dr. T even led all the SPHN attendees in an energizing group-stretch:

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Dr. T. leading an energizing mid-conference stretch!

The following day, Dr. T. chaired a symposium on “Diet and Exercise in a Social World”. At the symposium, DiSH Graduate Student Angela Incollingo Rodriguez and DiSH Collaborator Dr. Andrew Ward both gave great talks, covered in more detail here. DiSH Collaborator Jeff Hunger also gave a talk over the weekend!

Jeff Hunger giving a talk at SPSP!


Dr. Andrew Ward giving his SPSP talk!


Angela Incollingo Rodriguez giving a talk at SPSP!

At the end of the weekend, the DiSH Lab shared a meal with Dr. Andrew Ward’s students from Swarthmore College. What a nice way to end a weekend of great research and great collaborators!

The DiSH Lab & Dr. Andrew Ward and his students from Swarthmore College.

Stories from Sao Paolo

In late May, I went to Sao Paolo, Brazil, to learn about nutrition in Brazil. Sao Paolo, or Sampa as Brazilians call it, is a giant city rampant with crime and poverty – a city where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is very large. The wealthy travel in helicopters to avoid crime and Sampa’s hellish traffic. The poor, as I witnessed, lived in shantytowns throughout the city, where going hungry was commonplace.

In this environment, a miracle of a program called CREN (Centro de Recuperacao e Educacao Nutricional) works to help the poor become healthy and educated. It is a nutrition center that works to eradicate malnutrition among the poor. Psychologists, physicians, social workers, and teachers work together to bring malnourished children up to weight (and, ideally, height), and also work in concert with the Universidade de Federales de Sao Paolo to conduct research.

This is where Daniel Hoffman, current Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, brought me and eight undergraduate Nutrition students to experience and understand undernutrition. Dr. Hoffman conducted his dissertation at CREN and has been collaborating with them ever since.

The research at CREN is vitally important because the children at CREN are unique. Throughout the developed (and much of the developing) world, poverty usually leads to obesity. That is the case here, in the United States, where the poorest children are also the ones who weigh the most. However, the children at CREN experience the kind of devastating poverty that in fact leads to hunger, stunting, and malnutrition.

At CREN, the children are fed five times a day and are given an education. Social workers visit their homes to understand the family environment. In fact, much of the work that CREN does happens beyond its colorful gates. Several nutrition interventions have been successfully carried out in the poorest of the poor in the shantytowns. When I asked how they find and recruit their target participants, I learned that the staff work with the drug dealers to identify those most at-risk. In fact, the crack dealers filled the role of benevolent community leaders that provided structure and stability. With their relative wealth, they are often the ones who supply luxury goods like TVs and clothes to the citizens of the shantytowns. This uneasy partnership is one example of the difficulty of conducting work in a poor community.

I was so impressed and humbled by the people at CREN and their important work with these children. And, as you’ll see below, the kids are extremely cute. I will never forget this special trip to Brazil.

Below, see some pictures and descriptions of my experience.

Just like universities in the States, every single spare bit of space is used. This area under the stairs is where the children are measured. Note the scale on the left which is used to weigh infants.


The kids were very welcoming when we barged into their classrooms!

It was very strange to see such teeny children walking. It was because they look small because they are stunted, but are in fact old enough to walk.

The staff prepare one of the many meals that the kids get to eat.

To accurately assess how much the children eat, the researchers take photographs of the food before and after they eat.

They went around and each told us their names. Our names sounded very funny to them!

One of the CREN centers has a computer center thanks to a government grant. This space has become a hotspot in the community.

This teacher is a well-known producer who works with Brazilian pop stars – when he’s not leading these kids in song.

Three girls dance while the others sing and play instruments.

We observed a class for mothers of the children, where they learned to embroider bags and purses that they could later sell for additional income.

Nutrition education is a big part of the overall education that the children get. As you can see, this week they learned about arugula.

This little friend was over two years old, but due to malnutrition was still unable to walk and used this tricycle to scoot around. He came to CREN with a broken arm and injuries on his face because his mother had thrown him into his crib – one of many sad stories that the children carried with them.

Nutritious and beyond delicious, as we found out when we sat down to eat with the children.

The kids who are able to feed themselves do, even if they’re using the wrong end of the spoon!

One of the nicer, more developed shantytowns.

This clinic has four teams of four (physician, nurse, physician’s assistant, and social worker). With just these 16 people, the clinic manages to visit every single home in the shantytown to take care of medical needs. When babies are born, they get home visits from the team once a week. It’s hard to imagine that kind of medical coordination and infrastructure existing here in the United States, a first world country. The social workers are people who live in the community.

Neighborhood kids play with a kitten.

A community garden, newly built at the edge of the shantytown.

The vegetable garden is empty because a storm blew everything away, including the entire net structure in the picture above this one.

Despite the efforts of the government, community clinic, and CREN, homeless kids dot the streets.

The kids have a cooking lesson. On today’s menu – salad. First step: Hairnets and mugging for the camera.

Next: Strip the leaves off of the stems.

Then: Grate the radish. I could see U.S. parents making a fuss about the dangerousness of this. Compared to what these kids experience every day, the risk of a scraped finger seems minute.

A beautiful view of Sampa that conceals all of the poverty it contains.