People

Lab Directors

Photo of Ryan Watson

Ryan Watson, PhD (he/him)

ryan.j.watson@uconn.edu | Google Scholar Profile | Curriculum Vitae

I am an Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut. My program of research is focused on reducing health disparities among sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth and young adults. Motivated by the urgent need to reduce the inequities in health for vulnerable populations, I have focused my scholarship on SGM youth and young adults, their relationships within family and school contexts, and their health experiences. I currently focus on the health (in particular, substance use and disordered eating) among SGM adolescents (funded by NIH, R03DA046827) and emerging adults. My research utilizes data from my LGBTQ+ National Teen Survey, a dataset of 17,000+ SGM youth aged 13-17 from across the United States. My research has been featured on CNN, NPR, Washington Post, Live Science, USA Today, and several other media outlets. My current program of research (funded by NIH, K01DA047918) focuses on preventing health disparities (e.g., HIV) through prevention and intervention strategies (e.g., PrEP) attune to intersectionality.

Photo of Lisa Eaton

Lisa Eaton, PhD (she/her)

lisa.eaton@uconn.edu | Google Scholar Profile | Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Lisa Eaton is a social and behavioral health scholar who is primarily interested in social determinants of disease. Her work focuses on the multi-level impact of stigma on linkage, access, and retention to healthcare among diverse populations. Her most recent work has focused on how systematic changes in providing health care can impact and improve health and well-being. She is mainly interested in how one’s environment creates barriers or facilitators to accessing health care and how these factors impact overall health outcomes.  Her work is primarily focused on bridging the divide between medical advances and actual access to these medical advances. This work has included a considerable emphasis on the role of social and structural stigmas as barriers to care. The National Institutes of Health have funded Dr. Eaton’s work in these areas.

Faculty Investigators

Photo of Valerie Earnshaw

Valerie Earnshaw, PhD (she/her)

earnshaw@udel.edu | Google Scholar Profile

I am an Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. My research focuses on understanding and addressing associations between stigma and health inequities across the lifespan. I aim to contribute to knowledge of the mechanisms whereby stigma undermines health outcomes and what moderates these relationships in protective ways, as well as stigma interventions to improve the wellbeing of stigmatized populations. Much of my work focuses on HIV and substance use disorder stigma.

Photo of Jolaade Kalinowski

Jolaade Kalinowski, EdD (she/her)

jolaade.kalinowski@uconn.edu

Dr. Jolaade Kalinowski is an Assistant Professor in the Human Development and Family Sciences department at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Kalinowski is a behavioral cardiovascular researcher. Her research pertains to the role of chronic stress in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction in Black women. She is particularly interested in the unique role that stress plays in elderly Black women’s cardiovascular health, and how stressors may contribute to health disparities. She is interested in: (1) advance understanding of the complex interactions between psychosocial, behavioral and community-level factors contributing to CVD disparities in Black women; and (2) developing, testing and implementing innovative, scalable interventions to mitigate the adverse health effects of stress in Black women.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Natalie Brousseau, PhD (she/her)

Natalie is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Connecticut working with Dr. Seth Kalichman and Dr. Lisa Eaton. She previously received her PhD from the University of Delaware in Human Development and Family Science. Her research aims to understand and intervene in the association between stigma and health inequities among people living with substance use disorders and HIV. 

Photo of Esa Burson

Esa Burson, PhD (she/they)

eburson@nyu.edu

Esther is a doctoral candidate in NYU Steinhardt’s Psychology and Social Intervention program. Esther researches sociopolitical development and relations among marginalized groups, exploring issues of intersectionality and solidarity. Other work examines critical consciousness among sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth and juvenile justice system-involved adolescents. Before coming to NYU, Esther graduated phi beta kappa from Swarthmore College and worked for humanitarian and educational organizations in Estonia, Greece, and New York City.

Photo of Eric Layland

Eric Layland, PhD (he/him)

eric.layland@yale.eduGoogle Scholar Profile

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS in the Yale School of Public Health. My research focuses on identifying sexual identity disparities in mental health and substance use during the transition to adulthood. My primary goal is to use evidence to evaluate and optimize interventions for LGBTQ young people to address co-occuring health disparities and interrupt the pathway from stigma to health. I am also interested in examining how subgroups of LGBTQ people differentially experience stigma over time, including multiple intersecting sources of stigma.

Photo of Kay Simon

Kay Simon, PhD (they/them)

kay.simon@uconn.edu | Google Scholar Profile

I am a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Connecticut and work under Dr. Ryan Watson and Dr. Lisa Eaton. My research background focuses on the experiences of SGM parent families and SGM youth as well as those from underrepresented racial-ethnic groups (e.g., Black or Asian American SGM adults) as they relate to identity development, parenthood and family life, experiences of prejudice, and health disparities.

Shay Shuler, PhD (she/her)

ss3468@nau.edu 

I am a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Connecticut working under Dr. Lisa Eaton and Dr. Ryan Watson. My research examines social sources of health inequity and the relationship between individual health and larger political-economic systems. My research aims to address how broader systems and policies affect individual risk, resiliency, and health for LGBTQIA+ populations. Other work examines the relationship between religion, religiosity, and mental health for LGBTQIA+ populations.

Graduate Students

Photo of Antonia Caba

Antonia Caba (she/her)

antonia.caba@uconn.eduGoogle Scholar Profile

I am a second-year PhD student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut. My research is focused on sexual and gender identity development in adolescence and emerging adulthood. I am interested in understanding how these identity development processes shape health and wellbeing across different developmental contexts, such as in schools and families.

Alexander Del Farno (he/him)

ajdelfarno@gmail.com

I am an incoming first-year PhD student in the Human Development and Family Services department. I am interested in furthering my understanding of sexuality in relation to sexual and gender minorities (SGM), primarily involving trans-identifying individuals. In particular, I am curious in how SGM embrace sexuality, including sex positivity, sexual safety and health, and the role these factors play in their identity. I also aim to research how SGM identity and expression changes over the lifespan.

Photo of Veronica Hanna-Walker

Veronica Hanna-Walker (she/her)

veronica.hanna-walker@uconn.eduGoogle Scholar Profile

I am a second-year PhD student in the Human Development and Family Sciences department at the University of Connecticut. My research interests include broad sexual identity development across the lifespan with an emphasis on SGM individuals. I am also interested in the intersection between race/ethnic and SGM identities and how this relates to their romantic relationships, health outcomes, and broad sexual identity development. 

Peter McCauley (he/him)

psmc227@uky.edu

I am an incoming first-year PhD student at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences. Broadly, I am interested in researching sexual and gender identity development and intervention methods that promote positive adjustment in adolescence. I am particularly interested in the emotional experiences that come from experiencing bias-based harassment and how these shape the development of SGM youth.

Photo of Timothy McKay

Timothy McKay (he/him)

timothy.mckay@uconn.edu

I am a graduate student in the Human Development and Family Sciences department. General research topics that I am interested include: Working memory as it relates to sexual minority stress; learning potential and academic achievement in underserved minority populations; and mental health behaviors and outcomes in stigmatized populations.

Photo of Taylor Rathus

Taylor Rathus (she/her)

taylor.rathus@uconn.edu

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences with expertise in the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth. My research focuses on better understanding sexual orientation and gender identity-based disparities among subgroups of SGM youth, particularly psychological and public health outcomes such as HIV. I am focused on protective factors and systems level changes that will support safer environments and positive development of SGM youth.

Photo of Benton Renley

Benton Renley (he/him)

ben.renley@uconn.edu | Google Scholar Profile

I am a first-year PhD student at the University of Connecticut in the Human Development and Family Sciences department. My research interests center around health disparities driven by social determinants at multiple levels of the environment (e.g., policy, schools, families). I am particularly interested in the intersections between SGM identities and disability and how these identities relate to social and health related outcomes. 

Cali Salafia (she/her)

cali.salafia@uconn.edu

I am a third-year PhD student in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut. My research interests relate to psychosocial factors in chronic illness (predominantly cancer) for both patients and their families. I am particularly interested in medical-decision making and communication surrounding treatment and risk. 

Alumni

Photo of Casey Cunningham

Casey Cunningham (she/her)

casey.cunningham@uconn.edu

Casey was the SHINE lab coordinator from 2019-2021. Beginning in the fall of 2021, she began a PhD program in the Human Development and Family Studies department at Penn State University.

Photo of Malcolm Patel

Malcolm Patel (he/him)

malcolm.patel@uconn.edu

Malcolm is an alum of UConn and was part of the SHINE lab between 2020-2022; he majored in Physiology and Neurobiology and minoring in Psychological Sciences. With SHINE, he researched mental health outcomes among sexual and gender minority youth, including the physiological processes behind mental health. 

SHINE Lab Logo

Ethan Wang (he/him)

yifeng.wang@uconn.edu

Ethan is an alum of UConn and was part of the SHINE lab between 2020-2021; his research interests included antibiotic stewardship, health outcomes in SGM individuals, and educational assistance in higher education. During his time at the SHINE Lab, he worked on a project examining school safety and negative weight control behaviors, and published a peer-reviewed paper from his project.