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.

Raymond L. Moody, PhD (he/him)

raymond.moody@uconn.edu | Google Scholar Profile

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Connecticut. My research examines the impact of social and psychological stress on substance use and sexual behavior among sexual and gender minorities. My current projects examine the impacts of substance use on sexual behavior and adherence to HIV prevention strategies in the context of intersecting stressors. I earned my Ph.D. in Health Psychology and Clinical Science from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. My dissertation was funded by an R36 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and focused on executive attention and emotion regulation as mediating mechanisms linking syndemic conditions and HIV transmission risk behavior among sexual minority men. I completed my postdoctoral fellowship in the NIDA-funded T32 Substance Abuse Epidemiology Training Program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

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.

Emeka Okafor, PhD, MPH (he/him)

Emeka_Okafor@baylor.edu | Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Emeka Okafor is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Department of Public Health, Baylor University, Waco TX. Dr. Okafor is a Behavioral Epidemiologist, whose program of research focuses on understanding the behavioral and biological pathways whereby substance use impacts health outcomes for patients with HIV and increases HIV risk among persons without HIV. His research involves bridging behavioral measures (particularly substance use) with biological markers of clinical outcomes. His work is currently funded by the NIH (K01DA047912).

Graduate Students

Nikole Babcock (she/her)

nikole.babcock@uconn.edu 

I am a first-year PhD student in the Human Development and Family Sciences department. My research interests broadly include SGM health disparities, sexual authenticity and intimacy, and research that promotes positive sexuality and relationships. I am also interested in exploring how health care accessibility impacts physical and mental wellbeing in SGM adolescents and emerging adults. 

Photo of Antonia Caba

Antonia Caba (she/her)

antonia.caba@uconn.eduGoogle Scholar Profile

I am a fourth-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 a second-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 fourth-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)

peter.mccauley@uconn.edu

I am a second-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 Benton Renley

Benton Renley (he/him)

ben.renley@uconn.edu | Google Scholar Profile

I am a fourth-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) for gender diverse youth. I am also interested in the intersections between SGD identities and disability and how these multiple identities relate to social and health related outcomes. 

Cali Salafia (she/her)

cali.salafia@uconn.edu

I am a fourth-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. 

Undergraduate Students

Nora Sun (she/her)

I am an undergraduate student at Harvard University studying neuroscience and psychology. I am broadly interested in determinants of SGM health outcomes. Currently, I am researching moderating factors for depressive/anxiety symptoms in LGBTQ Asian-American youth.

Alumni

Photo of Taylor Rathus

Taylor Rathus (she/her)

taylor.rathus@uconn.edu

Taylor received her PhD in Human Development and Family Sciences 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. Her 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. She is focused on protective factors and systems level changes that will support safer environments and positive development of SGM youth.

Natalie Brousseau, PhD (she/her)

Natalie was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Connecticut working with Dr. Seth Kalichman and Dr. Lisa Eaton. She 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

Esa is a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University. She 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, Esa 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

Eric is now an assistant professor at the University of Delaware. He was also a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS in the Yale School of Public Health and worked with Drs. Watson and Eaton at the SHINE lab. His research focuses on identifying sexual identity disparities in mental health and substance use during the transition to adulthood. His 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. 

Photo of Kay Simon

Kay Simon, PhD (they/them)

kay.simon@uconn.edu | Google Scholar Profile

Kay is now an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. They were a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Connecticut working under Dr. Ryan Watson and Dr. Lisa Eaton. Their 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.

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. 

Photo of Timothy McKay

Timothy McKay (he/him)

timothy.mckay@uconn.edu

Tim was a graduate student in the Human Development and Family Sciences department interested in 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. He is currently a practicing Marriage Family Therapist in Connecticut.