Search Cornell

Student Profiles: Spring 2012



0089_12_136.jpgEmily Kahoe Chen
Graduate Student
Human Development

Emily Kahoe Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in Human Development and a research assistant with Karl Pillemer, with whom she works on two primary projects. The Resident-to-Resident Elder Mistreatment project is an ongoing investigation of resident-to-resident aggression (RRA) in nursing homes. The second project, recently completed, was focused on the dissemination of the Method for Program Adaptation through Community Engagement (M-PACE). M-PACE, part of TRIPLL,  is an innovative method for the adaptation of evidence-based programs that uses systematic and detailed feedback from program participants to guide adaptation.

After completing her undergraduate degree (Growth and Structure of Cities, Bryn Mawr College, 2003) and before coming to Cornell, Emily worked in two different organizations that used geographically-tied information to answer policy-relevant research questions about community development and neighborhood revitalization. She encountered how policy-makers are often compelled to make decisions without the best or sometimes any data or research at their disposal. Looking toward graduate school, Emily wanted to work in an area that would address the issue of getting good research into the hands of people who can make decisions or implement policies. Emily is specifically interested in issues related to health and chronic disease of older adults in the United States because she believes that understanding how to improve quality of life for this population, even in small or incremental ways, has the potential to help many people. She received her MA in Developmental Psychology from Cornell in Jan., 2012.

In addition to the above research projects, Emily recently completed her qualifying (“A”) exams, which addressed quality of life measurement and experimental and quasi-experimental design. She links her academic interests to practical considerations. Just as improving quality of life requires knowing how to define and measure it, being able to answer questions depends on knowing the best way to ask them. Emily hopes to use her background in these areas in her dissertation research, which will likely focus on intervention evaluation design for community-based health promotion programs. After receiving her degree, Emily would like to work in applied research, either for a governmental agency, foundation, or think-tank. She hopes that the methodological training she receives at Cornell can be applied to a wide variety of settings and research questions.

She enjoys gardening and assorted yard work during the short but glorious Ithaca summers. Emily and her husband have spent the last two years working on their fixer-upper house. Their latest project is painting the nursery: they are expecting their first child in June!


0163_12_053.jpgStephanie Shea
Undergraduate Student
Biology and Society

Stephanie Shea is a senior Biology and Society major in the College of Human Ecology. The first-born child of a psychologist and a social worker, Stephanie has had a great interest in and appreciation for mental health even from a young age. Her research in this field began in high school when she participated in St. Francis Preparatory School’s esteemed Science Research Program. After one of her best friend’s came out to her as a “cutter” around this time, it was easy for Stephanie to take a personal interest in self-injurious behaviors. Under the mentorship of Dr. E. David Klonsky, she investigated the roles of loneliness and emptiness in self-injury and presented her findings for multiple research competitions and at her senior year symposium. It was through her high school research that Stephanie first became familiarized with the work of Janis Whitlock and other members of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior (CRPSIB) team.

Stephanie joined the CRPSIB team as a research assistant in the spring of 2010, and she is excited to be involved in this project for a fifth and final semester. Stephanie has been fortunate enough to get involved in multiple projects during her time on the research team. She has had a particularly prominent role in a project addressing at what point peers will intervene and seek help for other peers who appear to be in distress. She helped to oversee and participate in all aspects of this project, from organization to final presentations of results. The overarching finding of this study was that students reported they were more likely, when providing assistance for peers, to intervene themselves than to seek outside sources of help and support. It was only after the appearance of clear, physical evidence of a problem that students would seek out counselors, police, or other resources. Stephanie is currently most involved in conducting literature reviews in order to provide an up-to-date, broad summary of what the field has learned about non-suicidal self-injury across the lifespan.

Stephanie is very grateful for the experiences she has had while on the CRPSIB team. She has enjoyed working with and collaborating with dedicated and insightful team members. She has also relished the opportunity to engage in projects independently and to delve into understanding self-injury and mental health topics on a deeper level. Stephanie has particularly fond memories of the multiple opportunities she has had to present findings of her work through poster board and PowerPoint presentations. Starting dialogues with other people about mental health issues and receiving positive feedback about how much they value the importance of improving mental health is by far the most rewarding part of this work. This research is not just theoretical. It has practical implications for making a positive impact upon the greater community.

Outside of her commitments to research and academics, Stephanie is involved on campus as a member and concert manager for the Cornell University Chorus and Jazz Voices. She is also an active sister of Sigma Chi Delta fraternity. Stephanie will graduate in May and is looking forward to beginning medical school in the fall of 2102. Stephanie expects that her experiences as an undergraduate researcher will add sensitivity and appreciation for mental health to her medical practice.

0089_12_066.jpgMichael Smith
Undergraduate Student
Biological Sciences and Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies

Michael Smith has been a research assistant in the BCTR for the past two years, working on several projects for ACT for Youth. The project that drew Michael to the center was the Talking with Kids about HIV and AIDS curriculum. This project was Michael’s first exposure to qualitative data coding—a skill he has gotten to master with his continued involvement here at the center. Michael along with four other students conducted data analysis for both the parent and adolescent focus groups for this project and later translated their findings along with recommendations into a paper for the New York State Department of Health. Michael has also contributed to the Lifelong Health focus group project, where he helped to decode what teenagers considered health; PhotoVoice, a project where photography is used to provide agency for those whose voices are often not heard; and the HIV Complementary Strengths Project. The project that has most piqued Michael’s interest has been the Independent Living Survey, a project that analyzed the living circumstances of adolescents without stable housing. After completion of the data analysis, Michael and the team had the opportunity to discuss their findings with some of the participants that this data represented. This real life engagement with the data has been an experience Michael regards as priceless.

Michael is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He will be graduating this semester with a BA in Biological Sciences and a BA in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies (FGSS). Upon entry into Cornell, Michael was determined to get into medical school and become a surgeon, but as he explored more FGSS courses, underwent three semesters of Empathy Assistance & Referral Services training (EARS), participated in diversity-increasing activities such as perspective student hosting with CU Image, and took interest in the projects he has assisted on at the BCTR, he has determined that law and policy may be his calling. He wishes to combine his field interest in health care and social inequalities to pursue medical law.

Currently, Michael is working on the CAPP Evaluation project. He is also deciding between different non-profit/governmental fellowships for his gap year between graduating and law school. He wishes to spend his year out of school teaching for underfunded urban schools to help bridge the education gap or working for a governmental agency where he can have a hands-on experience with the law-producing process.


studentprofile-exnersmallDeinera Exner-Cortens
Graduate Student
Human Development

Deinera has assisted with several projects at the BCTR, including the Nurse Family Partnership study (PI: John Eckenrode) and a project investigating the use of orders of protection by teens in New York State. Deinera's primary project for the past two years has been the Complementary Strengths study (PI: Jennifer Tiffany), where she has assisted with the development of a new measure for assessing youth program participation, and investigated cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between program participation and adolescent sexual and reproductive health. In the spring of 2012, Deinera will be transitioning to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior (PI: Janis Whitlock). During her time at the BCTR, Deinera also helped create a translational research database for use by center staff and research associates.

Deinera is a third year doctoral candidate in Human Development. Prior to coming to Cornell, she completed an MPH in Social and Behavioral Science at Boston University (2009), and her BSc in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology at the University of Calgary (2007). Though initially interested in pursuing a career in the biological sciences, while on a research seminar to Botswana in 2006, Deinera became aware of the role non-microbial factors played in a person’s risk for acquiring HIV/AIDS, which abruptly changed her career goals. She was especially interested in the intersection of domestic violence and HIV, and upon her return from Botswana, Deinera began work with Dr. Wilfreda Thurston in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary, researching media framing of domestic homicides in Botswana, and assisting with a longitudinal study on intimate partner violence in the lives of Canadian Aboriginal women. Since the completion of her undergraduate degree, Deinera has remained in the field of interpersonal violence, and expanded her areas of interest to include teen dating violence and sexual assault.

Currently, Deinera is starting work on her doctoral dissertation, which will focus on teen dating violence. The goal of this project is to provide practitioners with an improved understanding of how psychological aggression is used in teen dating relationships, as well as to highlight how depression and substance use may contribute to risk for re-victimization. She is also working on a program evaluation with Gannett Health Services, which will provided needed information to program providers and campus administration on the efficacy of a campus-based sexual assault prevention program.

Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Deinera plans to return to her home country of Canada, where she hopes to work in the public sector as an applied researcher. When she is not working on her degree, Deinera enjoys reading non-school books and exploring Ithaca!