Fall 2017 Newsletter


welcome from the chair

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our Fall 2017 Newsletter, we have so much good news to share with you! We’ve hired new faculty and staff, and we’re hiring again this year. Our wonderful faculty and students continue to win awards and grants, and to share the results of their research through community events and the media. We are hard at work developing a new undergraduate curriculum, and we’re expanding our offerings to include a Summer in Oxford course for the first time. In early October, we’re excited to host a colloquium by Emeritus Professor Ervin Staub on “The Power of Active Bystanders.” We hope you’ll explore our Newsletter to learn more.

We also want to hear your news!  Alumni, I hope you’ll #MeetMeInTobin to tell us what you’re up to, or stop by our Alumni pages to tell us your stories and share your favorite UMass memories.


Caren Rotello



award highlights

​Hal Grotevant honored for mentoring, inspiring student to create positive change for families

Hal Grotevant, Professor and Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at UMass, has received the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award of 2017. This award identifies educators who have encouraged former students to “create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large.”

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Rosie Cowell and David Huber receive $2.36 million grant to develop a new brain research tool

Rosie Cowell and David Huber, neuroscientists in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, recently received a four-year, $2.36 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a new computational tool that will help researchers in interpreting functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) of the brain and improve accuracy in relating fMRI data to neural responses in the brain.

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Alice Coyne receives the Second Annual Keith Rayner Memorial Graduate Student Research Award

Data from Alice's project, Explaining the “Therapist Effect:” Determinants of Between-Therapist Differences in Alliance Quality and the Alliance-Outcome Association, will be used to develop an empirically-supported therapist training manual. Such work is likely to reflect an improvement on current training practices, as there is currently no evidence that therapist effectiveness improves with experience or following traditional “top-down” theoretical trainings.

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Kirby Deater-Deckard member of several international research teams, receives US-Israel Binational Science Foundation grant

The US-Israel Binational Science Foundation has just awarded a grant to Dr. Naama Atzaba-Poria of Ben-Gurion University in Israel and Deater-Deckard, to study parenting and sibling relationships following low- and high-risk births of a second child.

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​Nilanjana Dasgupta receives UMass Public Service Endowment Grant to work with Girls Inc. of Holyoke

Nilanjana Dasgupta’s new project with Girls Inc. of Holyoke will study whether participation in a summer program has the potential to boost young female student engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

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View All Awards and Honors




The Healthy Development Initiative holds Open House events at the UMass Center at Springfield

On June 23, The Healthy Development Initiative offered opportunities to learn about their research and outreach in Springfield. Watch Kirby Deater-Deckard and Charisse Pickron on Western Mass News!

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The College Matters for U Program

The College Matters for U Program at the UMass Center at Springfield allows students from area schools to visit the Center and participate in a full-day of engaging activities. The goal of the series is to educate students in grades K-12 about S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) career options and expose them to opportunities available after high school graduation. This experience also exposes students to the college environment.

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new faces

Adam Grabell

Assistant Professor, Clinical Psychology

Grabell’s current expertise includes differentiating the normal:abnormal spectrum of emergent psychopathology, with a focus on early disruptive behavior, multivariate statistics, and basic skills in acquiring and analyzing EEG and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) data.

Read more about Adam

Sandy Kalmus

Compliance Administrator

PBS welcomes Sandy Kalmus as our new Compliance Administrator. Sandy will manage the records and procedures for Department Human Subjects and undergraduate research participants recruited through the SONA system. She will also track the requirements of labs and their personnel, update the internal departmental database, and handle key requests. Additionally, Sandy will assist Laura Wildman-Hanlon with faculty searches, also serving as a typist and producer of departmental documents such as letters of recommendation, syllabi and exams.

Read more about Sandy

Marcela Fernandez-Peters

Visiting Assistant Professor, Behavioral Neuroscience

Fernandez-Peters specializes in multi-modal communication and behavior in animals. Her past experience includes researching the neural mechanisms of chemical communication and ultra-sonic vocalizations in rodents. During her position at UMass, she will be studying both the production and perception of vocalizations in the zebra finch. She will explore the neural basis of communication and how social context modulates communication signals.

Read more about Marcela

Holly Laws

Lecturer, Clinical Psychology, Center for Research on Families

Family methodology is Laws' area of expertise, involving the study of dynamics between people over time. Areas that Laws has researched include close relationships between parents and children, coregulation of cortisol (a stress hormone) in newlywed couples, and patient therapist dyads in chronic depression treatment. As the Co-Director of the Methodology Consulting Program at the Center for Research on Families (CRF), she will be supporting the faculty members taking part in their Family Research Scholars program (FRS) by providing methodological consultation.

Read more about Holly

Jessica Matthews

Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Rudd Adoption Research Program

The Rudd Adoption Research Program is excited to welcome Jessica Matthews as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar! Jessica recently completed her Ph.D. in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts where she worked with Dr. Ellen Pinderhughes. 

Read more about Jessica

View All New Faces



in the media

Nilanjana Dasgupta

A new study by social psychologist Nilanjana Dasgupta and her Ph.D. student Tara C. Dennehy found that early in college young women in engineering majors felt more confident about their ability, a greater sense of belonging in engineering, more motivated and less anxious if they had a female, but not male, peer mentor. Inc.comCNN Tech, The Philadelphia Tribune

Robert Feldman

Feldman is quoted in a story about how you can tell if people are lying to you. During short conversations, many people don't realize how many lies they have told. Science Times


Kirby Deater-Deckard

Deater-Deckard and Wayne Feiden, a lecturer in regional planning, are among a panel of experts who discuss how families should evaluate prospective places to live in Massachusetts. Wallethub


Ervin Staub

Ervin Staub, professor emeritus of psychological and brain sciences, comments in an article about the factors that lead children to hold racist attitudes. Staub is cited as saying that children can pick up racist tendencies from books, television or things they hear from adults at home or in the community. Lafayette Daily Advertiser


Rebecca Spencer

Rebecca Spencer quoted in an article about napping and how its effects can vary between individulals. TONIC by Vice

Spencer recently received a five-year, $2.64 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore, in a series of laboratory and preschool-based studies, whether mid-day napping benefits learning in young children and helps them cope with emotions. Globe



upcoming events

Cognitive Brown Bag | David Kellen PhD

Wednesday, October 18, 2017
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Clinical Psychology Colloquium | Michael Stevens PhD

Thursday, October 19, 2017 
1:00pm to 2:15pm
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Social Brown Bag | Bo Kyung Park PhD

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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2018 Rudd Adoption Research New Worlds of Adoption Conference

The Future of Adoption: Beyond Safety to Well-Being

Friday, April 13, 2018
Read more



summer programs

Rudd Summer Adoption Research Institute

The Rudd Summer Adoption Research Institute hosted an incredible group of 24 graduate students, postdocs, and recent faculty for a week-long intensive journey into adoption research issues and techniques. At the end of the workshop, everyone was named Rudd Adoption Research Scholars; we hope that their cohort will continue to network beyond their week together.

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International Perspectives on Disability

Students attended a two-week study abroad trip to Ireland led by Ashley Woodman and Christina Metevier (Faculty in PBS) titled "International Perspectives on Disability". Students met with researchers, educators and advocates at the University College Dublin Centre for Disability Studies, Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disability, and Inclusion Ireland.

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ERP Boot Camp

Assistant Professor Dr. Katie Dixon-Gordon (Clinical) and second year graduate students Miriam Munoz (NSB) and Sarah McCormick (Developmental) attended the 10th annual ERP Boot Camp at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain in Davis, CA this summer.



Kavli Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience

Adaeze Egwuatu, a Neurosceince and Behavior (NSB) graduate student working in the Learning Lab was selected to participate in the Kavli Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience held in Santa Barbara, California. The Institute is sponsored by NIMH, NIDA & the Kavli Foundation. Topics for the 2017 session were Computational Perspectives on Language Prediction in the Brain and Computational Perspectives on the Brain in Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders.


Coming in 2018! Oxford Summer Seminar

Now entering its fifty-first year, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Summer Seminar at Trinity College, Oxford is one of the oldest American summer programs at Oxford University. It is still guided by its original intention: to introduce a wide range of students to the best of Oxford University's academic and social traditions. Participants also have the opportunity to explore England and Europe, both on their own and on Friday field trips.

2018 Seminar Dates: Saturday, June 30 through Friday, August 10

New Course: The Psychology of Sherlock Holmes

Instructor: Tamara Rahhal

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​Stockbridge School Interns Improve Tobin Terrace Planters

Stockbridge School Horticultural student interns working with Landscape Services this year have chosen the Tobin Terrace Planters as the location for their latest project. Recognizing that the planters are giant, rectangular concrete boxes the interns have proposed a cascading/waterfall greenscape. The design is to create a waterfall effect with the plant material that will cover and soften the concrete. The plant material chosen with support our pollinator initiative and provide four season interest. There is a second phase which proposes the planting of dwarf trees in the upper planters and either painting and/or covering the upper high wall (at top of stairs) with hanging (attachments) flower pots. These improvements will tremendously benefit staff in Tobin, fans at Garber Field, and students moving through campus. The students have provided a planting plan, site design, and budget for this project. View Image 

View All Summer Programs



publication highlights

Ashley Woodman

Trajectories of externalizing and internalizing behaviors in preterm children admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit

Objective: To examine the trajectories of internalizing and externalizing behavior problems of preterm children between 16 months and 6 years of age and predictors of trajectories, including gestational age, child dysregulation, maternal depression, socioeconomic status, and parenting.

Study Design: This longitudinal study followed 148 children and their mothers from neonatal intensive care unit discharge until 6 years of age. Gestational ages ranged from 23 to 36 weeks. The study included assessment of maternal-reported behavior problems, maternal depression, neonatal and socioeconomic characteristics, and observations of dysregulated behavior and parenting. Trajectories were identified with a semiparametric group-based analytic method, and multinomial logistic regression was used to identify significant risk factors.

Gerstein, E. D., Woodman, A. C., Burnson, C., Cheng, E. R. & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2017). Trajectories of externalizing and internalizing behaviors in preterm children admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit. Journal of Pediatrics, 187, 111-118. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.04.047
PubMed, Science Direct (full paper)

Erik Cheries and Hernando Taborda-Osorio

Developmental Origins of Biological Explanations: The case of infants’ internal property bias

When it comes to thinking about others, even babies might appreciate that it is what you are like 'deep down' that matters most. This new paper presents evidence from the UMass’ Infant Cognition Lab and elsewhere arguing that infants' judgments about others are biased towards internal properties and away from superficial surface appearances in several different contexts. It proposes a novel theory describing how such early intuitions about internal properties might shape and support children’s biological knowledge later in life. 

Taborda-Osorio, H. & Cheries, E. W. (in press). Developmental Origins of Biological Explanations: The case of infants’ internal property bias. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

The Psychotherapy Research Lab

Professor Michael Constantino and graduate students Samantha Bernecker, Alice Coyne, Juan Martin Gomez Penedo (visiting student), Brien Goodwin, Nicholas Morrison, Katie Newkirk, Felicia Romano (project coordinator), and Gennarina Santorelli were co-authors on publications and presented papers at summer conferences including the 48th annual meeting of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, Toronto, Canada and the 125th annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

View recent publications from the Psychotherapy Research Lab

Christopher Martell

The 2010 book "Behavioral Activation for Depression: A Clinicians Guide" written by PSC Clinic Director, Christopher Martell (with  S. Dimidjian and R Herman-Dunn) has been translated into Common Chinese. It had previously been translated in Spanish, Korean and Swedish.

Jeffrey Blaustein

About one of every eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Approximately a quarter of a million new cancer cases are expected in 2017. Of those breast cancers, 60% to 75% will have characteristics suggesting that estrogens are likely to promote growth of those tumors. Consequently, inhibiting estrogen synthesis is one of the main treatments of choice. Therefore, women must understand the potential adverse effects of those treatments on quality of life. This review discusses (a) the role of estrogens locally synthesized in the brain in laboratory animals and women, (b) the effects of estrogens and blockers of estrogen synthesis on cognitive function, and (c) the limitations in experiments on women taking inhibitors. This article aims to provide women and oncologists with information that will encourage them to consider side effects of aromatase inhibitors (AIs) treatment on the brain.

Treatments for Breast Cancer That Affect Cognitive Function in Postmenopausal Women. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2017.
Current Issue

Jerry Meyer

Jerry Meyer gave an invited symposium presentation on September 7 at the annual meeting of the International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology in Zurich, Switzerland. The title of the presentation was "Application of Hair Cortisol Methodology to Animal Models of Chronic Stress". The presentation was co-authored with Melinda Novak.



pbs remembers

George Levinger, Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Levinger did pioneering research on interpersonal attraction and close relationships, publishing dozens of scholarly articles and co-editing or co-authoring three influential books: “Close Relationships: Perspectives on the Meaning of Intimacy,” “Divorce and Separation: Context, Causes, and Consequences,” and “Close Relationships.” He also served as editor of The Journal of Social Issues from 1984 to 1987. He retired in 1992.

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Morton G. Harmatz, Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Mort was one of the founding faculty members of the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For more than four decades, Mort was greatly respected by his colleagues in the Psychology Department, as he was known to be a man of kindness, fairness, and good humor regardless of the challenges at hand.  During his many years as the Director of Clinical Training, Mort helped lead the doctoral program to a level at which it gained national recognition as a model of clinical psychology training.

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we're hiring

Assistant Professor in Multicultural Clinical Psychology (TT)

Assistant Professor in Social Psychology (TT)

Lecturers (3)