Artistic image of telomeresAME Laboratory: Aging, Metabolism and Emotion

Navigation bar with links to pages



Center Director
Core Faculty
Postdoctoral Scholars
Core Collaborators
Past Trainees/Collaborators

The AME Laboratory has many wonderful collaborations, including the collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Jue Lin, of the Blackburn Laboratory.

Center Director

Photograph of Elissa Epel, PhD

Elissa Epel, PhD

Elissa Epel, Ph.D is a health psychologist focusing on stress pathways. For the past 15 years, she has studied stress in the lab and in the field, using common naturalistic stressors, and associations with an early aging syndrome. She examines how stress processes lead to early disease precursors, focusing on overeating, abdominal obesity, and immune cell aging. She has found that people’s propensity to be stress reactive, psychologically or in terms of cortisol reactivity, is associated with overeating, abdominal obesity, and accelerated cell aging. 


Core Faculty

Photograph of Kirstin Aschbacher

Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD

Dr. Kirstin Aschbacher has joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco in the Spring of 2012. She has been awarded a Patient-Oriented Career Development Award through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and she is a fellow with The Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore, MD.  Her research focuses on mapping the direct physiological pathways from interpersonal and social stressors to cardiovascular disease, in order to develop interventions more specifically tailored to targeting these pathways. 

Photograph of Aoife O'Donovan, PhD

Aoife O'Donovan, PhD

Dr. O'Donovan is currently a Society in Science: Branco Weiss Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco Veteran's Affairs Medical Center. Her research is focused on uncovering the mechanisms by which psychological experiences influence the development of age-related diseases. She is particularly interested in how psychosocial stress influences the biological aging process.


Photograph of Aric A. Prather

Aric A. Prather, PhD

Dr. Prather is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF. His research focuses on complex interactions between psychological processes and sleep as they relate to physical and mental illness. With expertise in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), much of his research involves understanding how psychosocial factors affect the immune system, with emphasis on inflammatory pathways as a key biological mechanism.


Photograph of Eli Puterman, PhD

Eli Puterman, PhD

Eli's research highlights the benefits of regular physical activity and social connections of those experiencing chronic stress in their lives. His work suggests that the stress-disease link can possibly be broken when people maintain a healthy physical activity regimen and close connections with others. Eli's current research, supported by a K99/R00 award from The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, will examine (1) the dynamic interplay between lifestyle factors and accumulation of life stress across adulthood to predict risk for cardiovascular disease and associated physiological weathering and (2) the cellular effects of an exercise intervention in chronically stressed individuals. Read more...


Postdoctoral Scholars

Photograph of Lahnna Catalino, PhD

Lahnna Catalino, PhD

Lahnna Catalino, Ph.D., is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Health Psychology at UCSF. Generally speaking, she is interested in the study of emotions, well-being, and health. She investigates the role of positive emotions and emotion regulation in the promotion of well-being and physical health. In addition, she examines how emotion regulation operates in contexts of chronic stress.

Lahnna received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC-Chapel Hill, she was awared a pre-doctoral NRSA from the NIA for her research on the emotion regulation strategy prioritizing positivity. Prior to her Ph.D. she received a Master of Arts in General Experimental Psychology from Wake Forest University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from McDaniel College.

Photograph of Cindy Leung, PhD

Cindy Leung, ScD

Dr. Cindy Leung is a postdoctoral scholar in the Center for Health and Community in the Schol of Medicine at UCSF. She received her MPH from UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and her ScD in Nutrition and Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, with concentrations in public health nutrition and cardiovascular epidemiology. Her previous research has examined the relations of household food securtiy and participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to dietary intake and obesity-related health outcomes of low-income Americans. Currently, she is investigating the associations between dietary patterns and cellular aging, the effects of household food security on stress and diet-related chornic disease, and the interactions between the neighborhood food environment and household food security on predicting dietary intake. More generally, Dr. Leung is interested in examining social and environmental determinants of dietary intake and diet-related health outcomes, and using scientific evidence to influence public policy to create healther environments, particularly for vulnerable populations.

Photograph of Ashley Mason, PhD

Ashley Mason, PhD

Ashley Mason joined UCSF as a T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Training in Research in Integrative Medicine (TRIM) program at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine in the Fall of 2013. She is working with Elissa Epel, PhD, and Rick Hecht, MD.

Her primary research interests rest at the intersection of psychological stress, self-regulatory capacity, palatability and craving, and the food reward process. Her research interests also include (1) associations among psychological stress, disease progression, inflammation, and cellular aging, and (2) for whom, and through what mechanisms, interventions with divergent theoretical underpinnings bolster self-regulation, health behavior, and health outcomes.

She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Arizona (UA), where she studied associations between social connectedness and health as well as interpersonal perceptions of psychological distress in the context of stressful social events. She completed graduate clinical work in Behavioral Medicine at the Family and Community Medical Center at the UA Center for Integrative Medicine. She completed a Behavioral Medicine Clinical Internship at the VA Palo Alto Medical Health Care System.



Photograph of Justine Arenander

Justine Arenander
SAGE, Project Director

Justine Arenander is the Project Director for the Stress, Aging, and Emotions (SAGE) Study for Parents. Prior to joining the Epel Lab, she coordinated pharmacokinetic interaction studies of opiate replacement therapies and HIV/TB medications at San Francisco General Hospital. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UC Berkeley and is very interested in the intersection of mind and biology.

Rashida Brown photograph

Rashida Brown, MPH

Rashida Brown is a statistician with the Center for Health and Community. She manages databases and performs sophisticated statistical analyses for a wide array of studies on obesity, stress, and biomarkers. Rashida completed an MPH in Epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health and is completing her PhD in Epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the independent and joint effects of social, biological, and psychosocial risk factors on cardio-metabolic outcomes.

Photograph of Kim Coleman-Phox

Kim Coleman-Phox, MPH
MAMAS, Project Director

Kim Coleman-Phox is the project director of Dr. Epel's U01 grant, Novel Interventions to Reduce Non-homeostatic Eating, which includes the Maternal Adiposity, Metabolism and Stress (MAMAS) and Stress, Eating, and Hormones (SHE) Studies. She completed her MPH in Maternal Child Health at UC Berkeley. Her research interests include pregnancy, birth outcomes, and health disparities.

Photograph of Amanda Gilbert

Amanda Gilbert
HEART & Mr. SAGE, Study Coordinator
SAGE and Meditation Retreat Study, Co-Coordinator

Amanda Gilbert is the Study Coordinator for the HEART and Mr. SAGE Studies, and also a Co-Coordinator for the SAGE and Meditation Retreat Studies. She worked in Integrative Medical Clinics in the Bay Area prior to joining the AME Center. She received her bachelor's degree in Sustainable Community Development from Prescott College with focused studies in Holistic Health and Sustainable Practices. Her research interests are in cellular-aging, psychoneuroimmunology, gene expression, mindfulness, meditation, and health lifestyle interventions.

Photograph of Stephanie Stoner

Stephanie L. Chernitskiy
Assistant to Elissa, Web Designer

Stephanie is an Analyst in the Center for Health and Community and helps when and where she can with Elissa's research projects, particularly on the SHE and MAMAS Studies. She is also responsible for web maintenance. She received her bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley in Marine Science, with a minor in Geography.


Core Collaborators

Photograph of Nancy Adler, PhD

Nancy Adler, PhD
University of California, San Francisco
Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics
Director, Center for Health and Community

Photograph of Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD

Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD
Morris Herzstein Endowed Chair in Biology & Physiology University of California, San Francisco
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Photograph of Nicki Bush, PhD Nicki Bush, PhD
University of California, San Francisco
Department of Psychiatry
Photograph of David Chae, ScD, MA David H. Chae, ScD, MA
Emory University
Rollins School of Public Health
Photograph of Firdhaus Dhabhar Firdhaus Dhabhar, PhD
Stanford University School of Medicine
Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
Photograph of Rick Hecht, MD

Frederick (Rick) Hecht, MD
University of California, San Francisco
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

Photograph of Eve Kupferman

Eve Kupferman, PhD
University of California, San Francisco
Department of Psychiatry
More Info...

Photograph of Barbara Laraia, MPH, RD, PhD

Barbara Laraia, MPH, RD, PhD
University of California, Berkeley
School of Public Health
University of California, San Francisco
Center for Health and Community


Jue Lin, PhD

Photograph of Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD

Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD
Sarlo/Ekman Associate Professor of Emotion
University of California, San Francisco
Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute

Photograph of Cliff Saron

Cliff Saron, PhD
University of California, Davis
Center for Mind and Brain
MIND Institute
Website: UC Davis MIND Institute

Photograph of Owen Wolkowitz, MD

Owen M. Wolkowitz, MD
University of California, San Francisco
Department of Psychiatry


Past Trainees/Collaborators


Tanja Adam, PhD

Annaliese Beery, PhD

Annaliese Beery, PhD
Smith College
Departments of Psychology and Biology

Photograph of Jennifer Daubenmier

Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD
University of California, San Francisco
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine
Department of Medicine

Photograph of Lisa Groesz

Lisa Groesz, PhD
Private Practice

Photograph of Emily Jacobs, PhD

Emily Goard Jacobs, PhD
University of California, San Francisco/University of California Berkeley
Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars Program

Photograph of Candyce Kroenke, PhD

Candyce Kroenke, PhD


Shannon McCoy, PhD

Photograph of Belinda Needham, PhD

Belinda Needham, PhD
University of Alabama
Department of Sociology

Photograph of George M. Slavich, PhD George M. Slavich, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles
Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research
Photograph of Janet Tomiyama, PhD

Janet Tomiyama, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles
Departments of Psychology




Jenna Carl

Photograph of Jessica Chan

Jessica Chan

Photograph of Katrina Koslov

Katrina Koslov, PhD

Photograph of Alanie Lazaro

Alanie Lazaro

Photograph of Melanie Sun

Melanie Sun

Photograph of Hana Tylova-Stein

Hana Tylova-Stein


Wendy Wolfson

Back to Top

UCSF home page UCSF home page About UCSF Search UCSF UCSF Medical Center Link to the AME Home Page Link to the AME News Page Link to the AME People Page Link to a page with Elissa Epel's publications Link to the AME Research Page Link to the AME Media and Resources Page Link to the AME Contact Page Link to the AME Opportunities Page