Research Team

The UBC Sexual Health Lab collaborates with physicians at the BC Centre for Sexual Medicine (Rosemary Basson, Miriam Driscoll, Shauna Correia), the Department of Psychiatry (Andrea Grabovac), the Department of Anatomy (Joanne Weinberg) as well as researchers on other university campuses.

Lori A. Brotto, PhD

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Director, UBC Sexual Health Laboratory, Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health
Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, UBC
Executive Director, Women's Health Research Institute
Dr. Brotto completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where her research focused primarily on psychophysiological aspects of sexual arousal in women diagnosed with sexual dysfunctions. Her psychology internship at the University of Washington (UW) specialized in the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for mood, anxiety, substance abuse and psychotic disorders. Following her internship, Dr. Brotto’s Fellowship in Reproductive and Sexual Medicine at UW was mentored by Dr. Julia Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute. As a registered psychologist, Dr. Brotto offers psychological therapy to patients referred from both UBC Departments of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Psychiatry, as well as the BC Cancer Agency. Dr. Brotto also sees private patients. Dr. Brotto has been awarded many scholarships, fellowships and research grants. For a complete list of Dr. Brotto’s credentials, research and funding records, please view her CV below.

Bozena Zdaniuk, PhD

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Research Associate
Bozena has a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh (1999), a postdoc from Carnegie Mellon university, and she has held multiple roles as a data analyst, methodologist, research associate, and writer. She is particularly strong at aggregating complex sets of data into usable units for analysis, and she has ushered several projects through to completion and knowledge translation. Working on this team gives her opportunity to pursue her ongoing interest in female sexuality research. 

Kira McNamee

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Lab Manager
Kira has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University and 10 years of experience in project and team management working on multidisciplinary projects. She has held roles in project management, change management, project coordination, and organizational development. Working on this team gives her opportunity to pursue her interest in women’s health.

Cara Dunkley, MA

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Graduate Student
Cara completed her B.A in Honours Psychology at the University of Victoria in 2009. After graduating she worked as a study coordinator in two University- and Hospital-based sexual research laboratories. Cara received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2015. She is currently in her third year of the Ph.D. Clinical Psychology Program at UBC, working under the supervision of Dr. Lori Brotto. Her doctoral program of research examines the association between disordered eating and sexual dysfunction among clinical samples of women with an eating disorder and women with provoked vestibulodynia – a chronic and distressing vulvar pain condition. Additional ongoing research projects focus on the role of attachment style in relation to adult sexuality, as well as mindfulness and alternative sexual practices.   Clinically, Cara works as a group facilitator for the DESIRE program at the UBC Sexual Health Lab. 

Silvain Dang, MA

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Graduate Student
Silvain completed his BSc in Psychology in 2011 and his MA in Clinical Psychology in 2014. He is currently working towards his PhD in Clinical Psychology. His research interests include sexual attitudes, paraphilias, attachment style, perfectionism, culture/ethnicity, and the neurobiology of sexual behaviours.

Natalie Brown, BA

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Graduate Student
Natalie is a second-year MA student in the UBC Clinical Psychology program, working under the supervision of Drs. Lori Brotto and Alan Kingstone. She completed her BA in Psychology at Queen’s University in 2017. Natalie's MA thesis explores the cognitive mechanisms underlying sexual attraction and desire, with a specific focus on asexuality and Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder. She is also involved with IMMERSIVE, a study investigating women's subjective sexual responses to virtual reality erotica, and she plans to evaluate virtual reality as a clinical tool for women with genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD) in her PhD. Natalie is involved with the COVERS study, which investigates the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 related social changes on sexual and reproductive health. Overall, her research program aims to improve our understanding of sexual difficulties and develop evidence-based interventions for individuals with distressing sexual concerns.

Faith Jabs, BA

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Graduate Student
Faith is a MA student in the Clinical Psychology program at UBC. She completed her BA in Anthropology in 2014 and a BA in Psychology in 2017. Her master’s research, the APPROACH study examines how sexual motivation influences sexual wellbeing and attentional processes to sexual stimuli. She is a co-investigator on the IMMERSIVE study, which examines women’s subjective sexual response and user experience with virtual reality erotica, which may help inform future treatment for women’s sexual concerns. Faith is also a co-investigator on the COVERS study, which examines the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 social distancing measures on sexual health, motivations for sex, and sexual coercion. She also works as a study coordinator on the DESIRE study that examines the efficacy of two kinds of group therapy for women with Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder.

Bibiana Kemerer

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Graduate Student
Bibiana is a first-year MSc student in the Department of Reproductive and Developmental Sciences at UBC. She completed her BSc in Biological Sciences with a minor Psychology: Brain and Cognition at the University of Guelph in 2019. Bibiana’s interest in sexual health began in Guelph, where she presented research examining the impact of health on the sexual functioning of midlife Canadians. Currently, she is involved in the INTROSPPECT study, which examines the use of mindfulness and CBT interventions for prostate cancer survivors and their partners who are experiencing sexual dysfunction. The goal of the study is to translate the research into a useful format for prostate cancer survivors, their partners, and the medical professionals who treat them.

Claire Lawrence

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Graduate Student
Claire is a first-year MSc student in the Reproductive and Developmental Sciences program at UBC. She previously completed her BHSc at McMaster University in the Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) program. At McMaster, Claire was involved in several clinical research projects in the field of perinatal mental health. As an MSc Student at UBC she will continue to apply her interest in this field by working on the SUPPORT study, which seeks to develop and evaluate a safe and effective web-based resource for postpartum depression and anxiety. As part of the Sexual Health Laboratory, Claire looks forward to contributing to research projects that have real-life impacts on women in their everyday lives.

Elizabeth Mahar

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Postdoctoral Fellow
Liz completed her PhD in social psychology at the University of Florida in 2021. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2013 with her BSc, double majoring in neuroscience and psychology. She received her MSc in experimental psychology at Villanova University in 2016. Her research focuses on romantic and sexual relationships, human sexuality, and well-being. Liz is a postdoctoral fellow, under the supervision of Drs. Lori Brotto and Kyle Stephenson. She is a co-lead on the eSense study; this project aims to improve access to treatment options for female sexual dysfunction.

Kelly Smith, PhD

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Collaborator
Dr. Kelly Smith completed fellowship training with Dr. Brotto from 2011-15, during which her research focused primarly on the pregnancy and post-partum experiences of women with chronic vulvar pain. Dr. Smith has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Queen’s University and completed fellowship training at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School prior to joining our lab. Her accomplishments to date include receipt of awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Canadian Pain Society during her fellowship training, and receiving the 2016 Nelly Auersperg Award from the Women's Health Research Institute to study the impact of vulvar skin diseases on women's quality of life. Dr. Smith currently works as a Psychologist in the BC Centre for Vulvar Health (BCCVH) and in private practice. She also continues to faciliate therapy groups for studies in our lab. 

Paul Yong, MD, PhD, FRCSC

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Collaborator
Dr. Paul Yong is Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Division of Gynaecologic Specialties, and is actively involved in clinical and translational research in endometriosis, pelvic pain, and vulvodynia.  Dr. Yong completed a MD/PhD degree in Experimental Medicine in 2006, followed by a Residency in Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Fellowship in Endometriosis, Pelvic Pain & Advanced Laparoscopy in 2012 at the University of British Columbia. His clinical practice is focused on pelvic pain, with particular interest in endometriosis, vulvodynia, sexual pain, painful periods, co-existing bladder and bowel problems, and pain related to the musculoskeletal system. His surgical interests include laparoscopic excision of endometriosis and prevention of adhesions in women with pelvic pain (+/- infertility).

Morag Yule, PhD

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Collaborator
Morag completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia in 2016. Her research interests lie largely in investigating the many different aspects of asexuality, including patterns of sexual attraction and sexual arousal, mental health correlates of asexuality, and factors differentiating asexuality from a sexual dysfunction. Through this research, we hope to better understand the experiences of those who lack sexual attraction in the hopes that this will reduce any stigma that might be associated with asexuality. Clinically, Morag works to help individuals dealing with issues related to sexuality and gender, sexual dysfunction, and a range of anxiety disorders.

Laurel Paterson, PhD, R. Psych.

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Collaborator
Dr. Laurel Paterson completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Brotto from 2013-2016, during which they developed and tested two types of group therapy for low sexual desire in women.  This research was supported by fellowship awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.  She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from McGill University and has completed extensive training in sex and couple therapy, as well as cognitive-behavioural and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.  She currently works as a registered psychologist in private practice in Vancouver, focusing on individual and couple therapy for sexual difficulties.  She also continues to facilitate therapy groups for the DESIRE Study and regularly presents workshops in the community on the impact of mental and physical health on sexuality.   

Sonia Milani, BA

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Study Coordinator
Sonia is a MA student in the Clinical Psychology program. She joined our lab in 2015 and has been the coordinator for the EYES, TRACE, and JUNIPER studies. She is currently working on the BRACE study which is a large-scale, online study examining sexual identity. She is a co-investigator on the IMMERSIVE study investigating women’s subjective sexual response and user experience with virtual reality erotica. She is also a co-investigator on the COVERS study which examines the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and relationship well-being

Julia O'Loughlin, MA, RCC

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Graduate Student
Julia received her BA (Hons) in Women's Studies from the University of Victoria in 2006 and her MA in Counselling Psychology from the University of British Columbia in 2016. She is currently in the PhD Counselling Psychology program at UBC. Julia coordinated the study “Mood, Stress, and Sexual Desire in Women” (MODEST) and contributes to the DESIRE study as a clinical interviewer and group facilitator. She is also a co-investigator and group facilitator on the INTROSSPECT study. Julia's research projects focus on identifying physiological and psychosocial contributors to women's sexual interest and arousal difficulties and improving intimacy between couples post-prostate cancer treatment.

Shannon Woo

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Study Coordinator
Shannon recently moved from London, England after completing a MSc Health Psychology at City University of London. She completed a research study on how people evaluate the acceptability of a treatment. She also worked as a researcher and clinic manager of an osteopathic clinic and research centre which reported on various patient reported outcome measures including psychosocial measures of wellbeing. She plans to continue training in clinical and counselling psychology. Shannon joined the team in January 2020 as a Research Coordinator for the BREAST study, a randomized clinical trial assessing psychosocial interventions for survivors of breast cancer who experience sexual difficulties following cancer treatment. This project is a collaboration between the UBC Sexual Health Lab (UBCSHL) and the Tom Baker Cancer Agency (Calgary).

Kiarah O'Kane

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Study Coordinator
Kiarah completed her Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy at the University of British Columbia in 2020. She is the research coordinator of the eSense study, a randomized clinical trial assessing two online psychological interventions for treating sexual difficulties amongst women. Her research interests include gender, sexual orientation, factors promoting LGBTQ+ individuals’ and couples’ sexual well-being, and the impact of online interventions’ properties on patient engagement. Kiarah intends to pursue graduate studies in clinical psychology to further study these areas of interest.

Brynn Lavery, BA

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Communications Assistant
Brynn is a 2017 BA Psychology graduate from UBC with a minor in Critical Studies in Sexuality. Passionate about the field of sexual health, she volunteers with Options for Sexual Health on their Community Relations team, with BLUSH (Bold Learning for Understanding Sexual Health) as a Youth Educator, and in the past as a research assistant in the UBC Sexuality Lab. Brynn is the Social Media and Participant Recruitment Coordinator for the lab and runs their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages and is also a research assistant on the DESIRE and SUPPORT studies. Her research interests include sexual education, women's sexual disorders, and paraphilias.

Natasha Zippan

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Research Assistant
Natasha is an undergraduate psychology major at the University of British Columbia. She is working toward a PhD in psychology with the view to becoming a clinical and research psychologist in the area of sexology. Her clinical interests are sexual and developmental psychopathology, including hypersexuality, disordered attachment, childhood sexual abuse, paraphilias, and sexual orientation. She is the coordinator of the EXCITE study, researching the usability of taking mindfulness and CBT-based treatments for female sexual dysfunction online.

Alyssa Greco

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Volunteer
Alyssa is currently a student at SFU studying psychology.  She very much enjoys stepping into new environments and learning new things, which is why she is very appreciative of her time at the UBC sexual health laboratory, where she can learn and explore something new every time she comes in.  In the future, Alyssa is interested in perusing a career in the field of psychology.     

Brett Makarenko, BSc

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Research Assistant
Brett recently completed her BSc in Biology with a minor in Psychology at the University of British Columbia in 2017. She is a Crisis Line and Educational Outreach Volunteer for WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women), where she provides anti-oppressive emotional support to survivors of sexualized violence. Her research interests include psychophysiological manifestations of sexual dysfunctions, long-term effects of sexualized violence against women, and improving sex education. She is working towards being accepted into a Clinical Psychology graduate program in order to pursue her interests of human sexuality. 

Smruthi Ramachandran, Bsc

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Volunteer
Smruthi is a 2019 graduate from the University of British Columbia with a BSc in Biology and a minor in Psychology. She is currently involved with the data cleaning and analysis of the PRECIOUS study. Her interests include using a comprehensive approach to consider the relationship between physiological and psychological factors in healthcare such as women’s sexual health and mental wellbeing. She is also very interested in nutrition and fitness and plans to continue exploring these themes in graduate school. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career as a clinician scientist where these topics can be further applied. 

Jennifer Zhang

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Study Coordinator
Jennifer is a third year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia studying kinesiology. She is the research coordinator for the JUNIPER study investigating early neurocorrelates of sexual response in women with and without sexual interest/arousal disorder. She is also a volunteer on the COVERS study. Her research interests include the evaluating the intersections of women's health with sexuality, rural location, and harm reduction. She is hoping to pursue a career as a clinician-investigator in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology.

Niki Oveisi

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Practicum Student
Niki completed her BSc in Biology in 2019 and is currently a Master of Public Health student at UBC. With a strong background in advocacy for women's health, Niki is researching the effects of sexual quality of life on the mental well-being of undergraduate cis-gendered women at UBC. The goal is to use the results from this research to advocate for policy change to integrate sexual health as part of mental health services at UBC.

Yana Svatko

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Volunteer
Yana completed her BA (Hons) Psychology degree in 2019 at the University of British Columbia. For her honours research project at the lab, she investigated the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Sexuality in undergraduate students. Over the last three years, she has been a research assistant for studies examining disordered eating and sexual dysfunction in clinical and non-clinical samples. Currently, Yana is investigating cultural differences in disordered eating and sexual function.    

Alexandra Yam

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Student
Alexandra is a fourth year undergraduate student in Honours Psychology at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests are centered around dyadic linkages in health and wellbeing. She is currently writing her honours thesis at the SHR Lab.

Raveena Gowda

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Volunteer
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Biology and Psychology (B.Sc). I am passionate about sexual health research because it provides knowledge that significantly impacts mental and physical wellbeing. My research interests include understanding how biological and sociocultural factors impact development of sexuality and sexual dysfunction. Currently, I am a volunteer for the INTROSPPECT study. In the future, I want to pursue a career in clinical psychology with a focus on women’s health and sexuality.

Denise Zhu

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Volunteer
Denise is an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia. As a volunteer for the BRACE study, she is extremely excited to contribute to stimulating and fascinating work, while learning and developing research skills. She hopes to spend her time at the UBCSHR Lab delving deeper into the world of sexual health and to explore varying topics of research.

Kirkland Halliday

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Volunteer
Kirkland is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia majoring in Kinesiology and minoring in Psychology. Her involvement in the lab has to do with the EXCITE study. Once completing her degree, Kirkland hopes to pursue a career in health sciences, where her knowledge about the human body and inner workings of the brain will compliment one another. 

Wyatt Fitzgerald

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Volunteer
Wyatt is currently an undergraduate student at UBC majoring in Behavioural Neuroscience. Passionate about sexual and mental well-being, Wyatt also volunteers with the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation. Wyatt is beyond excited to be a part of the UBC sexual health laboratory team as he is particularly motivated to help bridge the gap between healthcare, sexual healthcare, and mental healthcare.

Micah Hall

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Volunteer
Micah is in her final year of study at the University of British Columbia majoring in Kinesiology and minoring in Psychology. She is interested in de-stigmatizing sex and sexuality, and improving access to fun and comprehensive sex education. Her research interests include pelvic floor pain and dysfunction and how this might contribute to individuals' sexual experiences. Micah is passionate about women’s empowerment initiatives and hopes to pursue a career in medicine or physiotherapy. She is excited to develop her research skills by volunteering at the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory.

Lakshmi Menon

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Volunteer
Lakshmi is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Food, Nutrition and Health. She is currently involved in the BREAST study at the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory. Hoping to pursue a career in the medical field in the future, her research interests include psychiatry, identifying effective methods to de-stigmatize members pertaining to sexual health and ways to improve access to unbiased sexual health information across various cultural communities.

Britney Ha

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Volunteer
Britney completed her Bachelor in Kinesiology, with a minor in Psychology at the University of British Columbia in 2021. Her current research interests include the psychophysiological manifestations of sexual dysfunctions, relationship between biopsychosocial factors within the healthcare setting, and de-stigmatization of sexual disorders. Passionate about physical and mental health, she is excited to explore the field of clinical psychology as part of the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory Team. In the future, she plans to pursue a career in medicine.

Elsie Wang

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WorkLearn student
Elsie is in year 4 of her BSc in the Integrated Sciences program, focusing on Microbiology and Genomics at University of British Columbia. For her summer project, she is supporting the eSense platform to improve access to treatment options for female sexual dysfunction. Over the last two years, she has worked closely with various digital health technologies to support populations across BC with various cultural, socioeconomic, and health backgrounds. These projects aimed to support patients to manage chronic disease, access culturally sensitive and timely care, and also advanced telemedicine for healthcare providers in rural, remote locations. Elsie is extremely passionate to continue to support development of digital health solutions for Canadians and aspire to become a clinician-scientist in the future.

Patricia Melgar

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Volunteer
Patricia is an undergraduate kinesiology student at the University of British Columbia. Driven by her passion for sexual healthcare and education, she is ecstatic to be volunteering with the SEQUOIA-PC study. Patricia's research interests include sexual quality of life, physiology, and LGBTQIA+ representation in research.

Lena Deschner

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Volunteer
Lena is an undergraduate psychology major, critical studies minor interested in addressing sexual shame and guilt, social barriers to pleasurable experiences and alternative methods of embracing sexuality such as through sensual dance. In 2019, after 2 gap years, she transferred from the UVIC Philosophy and Applied Ethics program to continue her studies in psychology and sexuality here at UBC. Lena plans to apply for a graduate program in clinical psychology in the hopes to combine education and clinical work in her future. 

Shahrazad Amin

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Volunteer
Shahrazad is a third year Integrated Science student majoring in Neuroscience and Physiology. She is currently working on VIVID, investigating the use of VR exposure therapy as a potential treatment for vaginismus. She is also a research assistant with the Psychopathology Lifespan and Neuropsychology (PLAN) Lab at UBCO, investigating body image dissatisfaction in Asian individuals. Her research interests include neuropsychology, virtual reality, eating disorders, and the physical manifestations of psychological disorders. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career as a clinician. Shahrazad is excited to develop her research skills with the UBC SHR team.

Judy Song

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Volunteer
Judy graduated from UBC with a BSc in Nutritional Sciences and is currently studying medicine at UBC. She is involved in the lab as a patient navigator for the eSense study. In the future, Judy hopes to go into family medicine with a focus on women's health. 

Elena Zettelmeyer

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Volunteer
I'm a third year undergraduate psychology major. I am particularly interested in understanding how the mind and body interact in order to create holistic treatment options that integrate both physical and mental wellbeing. I'm excited to work on the eSense project at the Sexual Health lab, because it investigates how mindfulness and CBT methods may improve people's sexual health difficulties which involve both physical and mental aspects. Some of my other research interests are in social psychology, like investigating the social determinants of sexual health.