Lab Members

Aaron J. Blashill, Ph.D.

Director

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Dr. Blashill is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at San Diego State University, and core faculty member of the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology.

Associated Faculty

Tiffany Brown, Ph.D.

Co-Investigator on the Pride Body Project

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Dr. Brown is a Research Scientist at the San Diego State University Research Foundation and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UC San Diego Eating Disorders Center. Her research interests include psychosocial risk factors for eating disorders in male and sexual minority populations, how gastric interoception relates to eating disorder symptoms in anorexia nervosa, and the prevention and treatment of eating disorders and body image disturbance in diverse populations.

Post-Doctoral Researchers

Arjan van der Star, Ph.D.

Project Director for the Suicide Prevention Project

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Dr. Arjan van der Star is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar with the San Diego State Research Foundation. Arjan van der Star completed his PhD (Public Health) at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, studying stigma-related factors driving sexual orientation-based and gender identity-based disparities in mental health. Arjan’s research focuses on the mechanisms underlying these mental health disparities, informing both preventive measures and clinical interventions.

Jaclyn Siegel, Ph.D.

Project Director for the Pride Body Project

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Dr. Jaclyn Siegel is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar with the San Diego State Research Foundation. Jaclyn completed her PhD (Social Psychology) at Western University, where her research focused on feminist identity ambivalence and body image disturbance. Jaclyn’s primary research interests include the disruption of gendered body attitudes and ideals, and the promotion of positive body image and sexual subjectivity.

Research Coordinators

Juliana Tesselaar, B.A.

Research Coordinator for the Pride Body Project

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Juliana is a full-time research coordinator for the Pride Body Project. She graduated from San Diego State University with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Communication. Juliana’s research interests lie broadly in examining body image concerns and mental health disparities in athletes and minority populations. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Sport Psychology in the future.

Group Facilitators for the Pride Body Project

Anthony DeBenedetto, M.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Anthony is a group facilitator for the Pride Body Project. He graduated from Tufts University with his bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology and Child Development, and his master’s degree in Clinical Developmental Health and Psychology. Anthony’s research interests broadly include sexual and gender minority mental health and identity development, protective factors of mental health, and health behaviors. Anthony hopes to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

Michael Edzant, B.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Michael is a group facilitator in the BISH lab who’s role includes co-leading group sessions for the Pride Body Project. He graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Psychology and minor in Counseling & Social Change. His research interests include sexual minority mental health, childhood trauma, chronic stress, the prevention and treatment of mood disorders, and reducing health disparities in underserved communities. Michael hopes to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

PhD Students

Patrycja Klimek, M.S.

6th Year Ph.D. Student (On Internship)

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Patrycja is a graduate student in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Her research interests include cognitive and affective mechanisms underlying body image concerns in eating disorders and steroid misuse, and the characterization of heterogeneity within these populations. Further, Patrycja would like to apply findings in these topics to develop effective intervention and prevention programs.

Jack Brady, M.S.

5th Year Ph.D. Student

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Jack is a graduate student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. His research interests include sexual minority mental and physical health disparities, psychosocial associations of HIV prevention and treatment among sexual minority men, the PrEP continuum of care, and associations between gender expression and health outcomes among sexual minority men.

Lexie Convertino, M.S.

4th Year Ph.D. Student

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Lexie is a graduate student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Prior to moving to San Diego, she completed her bachelor’s degree at Northeastern University in Psychology and a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research interests focus broadly on the effect of stress on the development and maintenance of disordered eating and body image concerns. Particularly, Lexie focuses on traumatic stress and sexual trauma in the development of disordered eating. She also has a line of research in the interaction of minority group stressors on the development of body image.

Christopher Albright, B.S.

3rd Year Ph.D. Student

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Chris is a graduate student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in clinical psychology. His research interests broadly include sexual minority mental health, reducing health disparities in minority and other vulnerable populations, HIV prevention and treatment, addressing minority stress within the context of mental health, and global mental health. He hopes to one day develop and implement culturally-tailored interventions through community-based research.

Autumn Askew, B.S.

1st Year Ph.D. Student

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Autumn is a graduate student in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Her research interests broadly include sociocultural factors that influence disordered eating and body image disturbance, as well as translating mechanistic research into novel treatments for eating disorders. She is especially interested in examining these topics within LGBTQ+ groups.

Master’s Students

Connor Elbe, B.S.

1st Year M.A. Student

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Connor is a graduate student in the M.A. in Psychology program at SDSU. He is originally from Ontario, Canada, where he earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Western Ontario in Psychology, with a minor in Medical Cell Biology. His research interests include weight stigma, body (dis)satisfaction, disordered eating behaviours, sexual dysfunction, and sexual & gender minority health.

Urooma Ali

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Urooma is a third year undergraduate at SDSU majoring in Biology. Her research interests include eating pathology, PTSD among adolescents and their transition into adulthood, as well as neuropsychology, and the ways in which it shapes our development. After graduation, she plans on pursuing an M.D. or a Ph.D.

Eduardo Hernandez

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Eduardo is a first-generation undergraduate student majoring in Microbiology and Psychology at SDSU and an Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Scholar. His research interests include studying STI/HIV prevention, eating disorders, substance-abuse disorder and suicidality among sexual and ethnic minorities, specifically in the Latino/Hispanic community. After graduating SDSU, he intends to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. 

Justice Herrera

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Justice is a second-year undergraduate at SDSU majoring in psychology and has minors in sociology as well as counseling and social change. Her research interest includes exploring underrepresented communities’ various mental and physical health disparities; more specifically trauma, depression, and anxiety. She plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in either clinical or social psychology.

Presley Horton

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Presley is a second-year undergraduate student at SDSU majoring in Psychology. Her research interests include psychedelic therapy, specifically for treatment of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. After graduation, she plans on attending graduate school to engage in research, as well as obtain her MFT.

Rebecca Mendoza

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Rebecca is a third-year undergraduate at SDSU majoring in psychology and minoring in Dance Studies, Honors Interdisciplinary Studies, and Statistics. She is a Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) scholar. Her research interests broadly include sociocultural factors that influence eating disorder development and maintenance of disordered eating and body image concerns, especially in child and adolescent populations. After graduation, she intends to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Jenna Mootchnik

Jenna Mootchnik

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Jenna is a third-year undergraduate student at San Diego State University with a major in Psychology and minor in Sociology. Her research interests include interventions and treatments for anxiety disorders and substance use disorders, as well as suicide prevention within sexual minority groups. After graduation, she intends to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Katie Risher

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Katie is in her third and final year as an undergraduate student at San Diego State University. She is pursing her B.A. in Psychology with the hopes of obtaining her PsyD in Clinical Psychology in the future. Her research interests include investigating the nature, causes, and treatments of different mental disorders and how one’s growth, upbringing, and development may predict different disorders.

Lynae Troy

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Lynae is a third year undergraduate student at San Diego State University majoring in Psychology and minoring in Business Marketing. Her research interests include developmental disorders, anxiety disorders in relation to body image, and suicidality concerns in adolescence. After graduation, Lynae plans to attend a graduate school pursuing clinical psychology.

Brianna Victoria

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Brianna is a first year undergraduate student at San Diego State University with prospects of going into clinical or industrial/organizational psychology. Her research interests include understanding underrepresented individuals on an ergonomic and clinical level, as well as distress affecting depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Post-Doctoral Researchers

Valerie Douglas, Ph.D.

Clinical Assessor for the Pride Body Project

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers, They/Them/Theirs

Dr. Valerie Douglas was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar and clinical assessor for the Pride Body Project from 2020-2022. They are now a content policy analyst for eating disorders at TikTok to create policies to protect users from disordered eating and other potentially harmful content.

Jamie-Lee Pennesi, Ph.D.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Dr. Jamie-Lee Pennesi was the project director for the Pride Body Project from 2018-2021. She is now a post-doctoral research scholar at the University of Louisville under the mentorship of Dr. Cheri Levinson.

Graduate Students

William Grunewald, M.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

William was a master’s student from 2018-2020 in the BISH Lab. He is now a graduate student at the University of Miami Ohio in their Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. April Smith.

Kalina Lamb, M.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Kalina was a master’s student from 2016-2018 in the BISH Lab. She is now a graduate student at Oregon State University in their Health Psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Sarah Dermody.

Kelsey Nogg, M.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Kelsey was a master’s student from 2016-2018 and a research coordinator on the PrEP and ACS studies from 2018-2019 in the BISH Lab. She is now a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Denver in their Clinical Health Psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Krista Ranby.

Benjamin Rooney, M.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Ben was a master’s student from 2015-2017 in the BISH Lab. He is now working at San Diego Veteran’s Affairs as a Research Health Science Specialist.

Katie Rozzell, M.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Katie was a master’s student from 2017-2019 in the BISH Lab. She is now a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in their Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Janet Latner.

Research Coordinators

Devon Kimball, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Devon was a research coordinator on the Pride Body Project from 2017-2020 in the BISH Lab. She is now a graduate student at the Michigan State University in their Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Jae Puckett.

Justino Flores, B.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Justino was a research coordinator on the Pride Body Project from 2020-2022 in the BISH Lab. He is now a graduate student at the George Washington University in their Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Sarah Calabrese.

Jessica Alexander, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Jess was a Research Coordinator working on the Pride Body Project and the Queer Care Suicide Prevention Project. She is now working as an Operations Coordinator at Art of Problem Solving in San Diego.

Undergraduate Students

Arianna Alvarado, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Arianna was an undergraduate student from 2020-2021 in the BISH Lab. She graduated from SDSU with a degree in Psychology and minors in Statistics and Public Health and is now working at JBL International as a research data analyst. Her research interests include health disparities and chronic illness, particularly among Latinx populations. Arianna plans to apply to PhD programs in Clinical/Health Psychology in the future. 

Elena Arnold Perea

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Elena is a third year undergraduate at SDSU majoring in Psychology. Her research interests include exploring intersectionality in the field of psychology, traumatic stress, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders. After graduation, she plans to continue working on becoming a Mental Health professional by pursuing a graduate degree.

Mary Clukey

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Mary is a 2nd year undergraduate student at San Diego State University majoring in Psychology with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies. Her research interests broadly include personality, anxiety, and eating disorders, as well as traumatic stress. After graduation, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology. 

Marlene Crespo

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Marlene is a first generation undergraduate student that has graduated from San Diego Mesa College with an Associate’s Degree. She will be attending SDSU to complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She was an SDSU/UCSD Creating Scientists to Address Cancer Disparities program scholar. Her research interests broadly involve racial minorities disparities, sexual minority health, eating disorders, body image, cancer disparities, mood and anxiety disorders. Marlene wishes to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology in the near future.

Stephanie Dutra, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Stephanie was an undergraduate student from 2019-2021 in the BISH Lab. She graduated from SDSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Counseling and Social Change. Her research interests broadly include traumatic stress and sexual trauma as well as racial minority health issues. She is now pursuing a career in mental health in the greater Boston area.

Manuel Gonzales, B.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Manuel was an undergraduate student from 2016-2019 in the BISH Lab. He is now a graduate student at the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology under the mentorship of Kristen Wells, Ph.D.

Makena Gordon

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Makena is a recent graduate from SDSU who majored in Psychology and minoring in Interdisciplinary Studies through the Weber’s Honors College. Her research interests include body image, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders in adolescents. She is currently working full-time as a recruiter assistant for Aya Healthcare.

Sonia Gusiff

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Sonia is a 2nd-year undergraduate student at San Diego State University majoring in Psychology with a minor in Counseling and Social Change. Her research interests broadly include PTSD, sexual trauma, and EMDR therapy. After graduation, she plans to pursue a P.h.D in clinical psychology. 

Isaiah Jones, B.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Isaiah was an undergraduate student from 2018-2021 in the BISH Lab. He is now a graduate student at the University of California Santa Barbara’s clinical, counseling, and school psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Alison Cerezo.

Sabrina Le, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Sabrina is a first-generation college student. She just finished her degree in psychology at San Diego State University. She has a strong interest in neuroscience as well as how culture and ethnicity, particularly within minority populations, influences cognition and behavior. She hopes to pursue a career in the medical field.

Elena Lents

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Elena was an undergraduate student from 2020-2021 in the BISH Lab. Elena is a SDSU student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Counseling and Social Change. Her research interests broadly include anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and body image concerns. After graduating in December 2021, she plans on attending a master’s program the following year in hopes to eventually become a licensed therapist.

Liana Manriquez, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Liana is a recent graduate from San Diego State University with a major in Interdisciplinary Studies in Psychology, Political Science, and Spanish. Her research interests include anxiety disorders and body image concerns, as well as health disparities within the latino and disabled communities. After gaining more research experience, Liana plans to attend graduate school and pursue clinical psychology.

Nicole Garcia Martinez, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Nicole was a research assistant at the BISH Lab from 2019-2020. She graduated from SDSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial & Organizational Psychology and a minor in Cultural Proficiency. She is currently providing ABA therapy to children ages 0-7.

Bethany Mendenhall, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Bethany was an undergraduate student from 2017-2019 in the BISH Lab. She is now working in the San Diego area as a group fitness instructor.

Adoril Oshana, B.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Adoril was an undergraduate student from 2016-2019 in the BISH Lab. He is now a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in their Organizational Science Ph.D. program.

David Rivera, B.A.

Pronouns: He/Him/His

David was an undergraduate student from 2018-2020 in the BISH Lab. He is now a graduate student at the University of California Santa Barbara’s clinical, counseling, and school psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Alison Cerezo.

Olivia Salita

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Olivia is a second year undergraduate at student at San Diego State University majoring in Psychology and minoring in Business. Her research interests include examining developmental disorders, anxiety disorders, and body image concerns in adolescence. After graduation, Olivia plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.

Boyu Wei, B.A.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Boyu was an undergraduate student from 2017-2020 in the BISH Lab. She is now a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in their Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program under the mentorship of Dr. Janet Latner.

Rilo Blashill

Rilo is Aaron’s pride and joy. He enjoys lying in the sun on the deck, wearing rainbow gear, getting belly rubs, and being the subject of Aaron’s many, many pictures. In the future, he hopes to be babysat by members of the lab and continue to be spoiled, as he deserves.

Charles “Charlie” Douglas

Charlie is Valerie’s right hand pup. He enjoys pretending to be a cat and standing in front of Valerie’s webcam during meetings, repeatedly pawing at Valerie’s leg during assessments, and stealing the cat’s wet food. In the future, Charlie hopes to receive the adoration of every human he sees on his daily walks.

Baby Convertino

Baby is Lexie’s direct supervisor. She enjoys sitting in laps while purring loudly during meetings, walking across keyboards while analyses are running, and batting at the door while Lexie’s seeing patients. In the future, Baby hopes to pursue long naps and catnip toys.

Chocolate Bar Jones

Chocolate is Isaiah’s neediest distractor. Her research interests include shamelessly stalking you for food, being included on the couch, and barking at strangers for walking outside. Chocolate hopes to receive more attention and human food in the near future.

Loki

Loki is Jess’s foster coworker. His current research interests include determining the secrets of the laser pointer, getting belly rubs, and training the humans to feed him treats all the time. In the future, Loki hopes to obtain more cuddles, go on more walks outside, and finally catch the red dot.

Hammy Arnold Perea

Hammy is Elena’s dedicated coworker. He is passionate about sleeping all day, and running all night. He also enjoys waking up in the middle of his naps for snacks. In the future, Hammy hopes to discover new fingers to bite.