Carnegie Mellon University

Laboratory Members



Brian Chin is a fifth year graduate student in the lab. He received a B.S. in Psychology from Stony Brook University in 2015. His research primarily focuses on understanding the mediating mechanisms through which social factors influence physical health and well-being across the lifespan.

Melissa Zajdel is a fifth year graduate student in our lab. She graduated from Princeton University in 2013 with a B.A. in psychology and completed an M.S. in Global Health from Syracuse University in 2015. Her research interests focus primarily on the effects of stress and social support on chronic disease and immune function.

These are the Fur Girls. Dr. Cohen shared a house with them. All three had PhDs from MIT where they majored in nuclear engineering. They were helpful in writing (or at least sitting on) papers being prepared in our laboratory and have rubbed against many famous psychologists. They are best known for their classic paper on mousing and chipmunking techniques. The Fur Girls were drawn by their grandmother, Eleanora Miller. (We have received multiple emails suggesting that we shouldn't have drugged Ypssi to get her to pose. The truth is it was us who needed the drugs.)

Lab Alumni

Dr. Ian Brissette completed his PhD in our lab. He is a research scientist at the New York State Department of Health, where he directs the Bureau of Chronic Disease Evaluation and Research. His bureau is responsible for overseeing public health surveillance, performance measurement, and evaluation programs that support chronic disease prevention programs the department administers. He is also director of the New York State Coverdell Stroke Program. Dr. Brissette has worked in the New York State Department of Health as a research scientist and program evaluator for 14 years. He specializes in applying social science theories and research methods to the practice of public health.

Ellen Conser was a research associate in the lab and assistant to Dr. Cohen for 15 years (2000-2014).  She worked on the Pittsburgh Cold & Flu Studies and others. In 2000, she received an MA in medical ethics from Michigan State University after working as a graduate research assistant at MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry.  Ellen also served as a CMU Staff Council representative from 2006-2014.  She enjoys bicycling, swimming, gardening, showering affection on canine passersby, and kayaking with her dad in the Everglades in close proximity to alligators. Ellen recently accepted a position with Carnegie Mellon University, Office of Research Integrity and Compliance (ORIC), and can be e-mailed at

Dr. Crista Crittenden, formerly a doctoral student in our lab, is now teaching faculty at Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests are related to pediatric chronic illness, particularly asthma, and associated biopsychosocial factors. She received her undergraduate degree in brain and cognitive science, as well as her Masters in Public Health, at the University of Rochester. When she is not thinking of, entering data on, or analyzing cortisol samples, she enjoys kayaking, reading, sleeping, and watching copious amounts of television.

Dr. Pam Feldman, a former post-doctoral fellow in our lab, is currently a fundraiser for a non-profit called Peace Brigades International (PBI), UK Section, which offers non-violent protection to human rights defenders in Latin America and Asia . She can be reached at the following address: Dr. Pamela Feldman, PBI UK, 1B Waterlow Road, London UK N19 5NJ. Her e-mail address is

Dr. Natalie Hamrick, a former graduate student in our lab, is the founder of, and life coach, author, and speaker with Healing Journey Ministries, a Christian approach to partnering with God to get through life's hardships. Dr. Hamrick's initial research in stress, coping and health led to the development of a faith-based support program for cancer survivors entitled Cope by Faith, and she has expanded this approach to chronic pain and chronic fatigue syndrome. You may e-mail her at

Dr. Denise Janicki-Deverts is a Research Psychologist who joined the lab (originally as a post-doctoral fellow) in January, 2006. She currently holds the position of Research Facilitator at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. You can email her at

Dr. Gregory Miller is a former post-doctoral fellow in our lab. Dr. Miller is now the co-director of the Foundations of Health Research Center and the Louis W. Menk Professor at Northwestern University, where he has appointments in the Department of Psychology, Institute for Policy Research, and Department of Medical Social Sciences. Dr. Miller's research examines the behavioral and biological mechanisms through which stress affects health.

Dr. Michael Murphy joined the lab as a post-doctoral research associate in 2016. He completed his Ph.D. in psychology at Northwestern University under the supervision of Dr. Greg Miller (who happens to also be an alumni of our lab). He is trained as a health psychologist, and his research interests lie at the intersection of health, personality, and social psychology. His work is motivated by the concept that humans are fundamentally social beings, and connections with others can both provide opportunities for support and nurturance as well as be potent sources of stress and pain. Broadly speaking, he studies the psychological and biological mechanisms through which interpersonal relationships affect health, with a focus on the role of psychological stress-related processes. He is particularly interested in understanding the role of the immune system as a mediator linking interpersonal stress to health. In 2019, Dr. Murphy moved to Lubbock, Texas, where he took a position as a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Texas Tech University. For more information on Dr. Murphy's work, visit his website.

Dr. Deb Polk, a former post-doctoral fellow in our lab, is currently Assistant Professor of Dental Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine. In her current work, she is modeling the underlying causal structure of health behaviors. She may be e-mailed at

Dr. Sarah Pressman, a former graduate student in the Cohen lab, is currently an Associate Professor at University of California, Irvine. Dr. Pressman's work focuses on understanding the connections between positive psychosocial factors and physical health, with the specific goal of disentangling the physiological and behavioral pathways that allow these connections to occur.

Dr. Rodlescia Sneed is a lab alumni who completed her PhD in 2014. She is now a Research Associate in the Division of Public Health, College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a social and health psychologist interested in the interactions between the social environment, stress, and physical health outcomes across the lifespan. She has a particular interest in vulnerable populations, including older adults, racial/ethnic minorities and the economically disadvantaged. She is a skilled quantitative researcher who utilizes both experimental and observational research methods to evaluate the effects of stress, social support and social relationships on psychological well-being and objective indicators of health.