IDEA Team Research Assistants

Brandie_Bentley_imageBrandie Bentley

Brandie Bentley earned her BSW from Eastern Michigan University in 2017 and has been a member of the team since September 2017. She is currently a student in the Advanced Standing MSW Program, with a focus in Mental Health. Her research interests center on topics that impact mental health education, quality care, and access in racial-ethnic minority populations. Specifically, she is interested in working with adolescents and transition-aged youth of color who have mental health concerns and involvement with the criminal justice system. Ultimately, Brandie would like to obtain her Ph.D. in Social Work and have influence in both her local community and the world of academia.

Michele_Conforti Michele Conforti

Michele Conforti is currently enrolled at the University of Illinois studying Social Work and Spanish first at the baccalaureate level. Michele is a first generation college student and has plans of further advancement to pursue a MSW and a license in clinical social work. She is a junior in the BSW program and is excited to join as a research assistant on the IDEA Research team. Michele volunteers at Carle Foundation Hospital and has been involved in NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Health) and Cru while on campus. Michele has a high interest in depression amongst adolescents and parents, and hopes to do clinical work in this area in the near future.

Nancy PerNancy Floresez-Flores

Nancy Perez-Flores is a junior at the School of Social Work. She joined the team as a research assistant in September of 2016. She will contribute to a research study on perinatal depression and suicidal thoughts among low-income pregnant women. She plans to obtain a masters’ degree in Clinical Social Work at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also part of several organizations such as being External Vice President of the coed fraternity, Alpha Psi Lambda National Inc. for the 2016-2017 year, an executive board member of the United Greek Council for the 2015-2016 year and is a FYCARE facilitator.

Syeda_Mohd_HajaraihSyahidatul Khafizah (Syeda) Mohd Hajaraih

Syeda is a PhD student at the College of Education, majoring in Human Resource Development. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Development from Universiti Putra Malaysia in Malaysia as well as a master’s degree in Human Resource Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was awarded the Rupert N. Evans Award, an award for students who achieve high standards of excellence in scholarship, research, and service while engaged in advanced graduate study in Human Resource Education. She has research experience in the area of use and acceptance of technology among medical officers who work with cancer patients. Her current interest is in investigating the stigma and acceptance of mHealth for perinatal and postpartum depression screening among low-income immigrant women. She also worked on a project to compile research evidence of health outcomes among garment workers in low-middle income country with an undergraduate mentee at the IDEA lab. Ultimately, she aims to become a Human Resource Development educator and stay committed to her interest in highlighting the importance of women’s mental health for national human resource development policy and programs.


 Tumani Malinga

Tumani Malinga is a PhD student at the School of Social Work. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Botswana (Botswana) as well as master’s degree in social work from the University of Utah (Utah, USA). She has research experience in the area of HIV and adolescents where she was part of a research team and in a Partnership for Capacity Building for HIV/STD Prevention Research on Batswana Adolescents: School Based Adolescents Project. This was a partnership between the University of Botswana and the University of Pennsylvania and was NIH funded research. In addition, she was part of a team of researchers who won a grant from the University of Botswana to conduct a Tracer Project for Social work Graduates (1998-2008) employed by Social and Community Development department, Private and Parastatal Organizations in Botswana.

Samantha Noehre_imageSamantha Noehre

Samantha Noehre is a junior at the College of Applied Health Sciences, majoring in Community Health with a concentration in Health Administration and Planning. She recently joined the team as an undergraduate research assistant in September of 2017. She will help conduct a policy analysis of perinatal depression screening mandates in four states. Samantha is interested in learning more about the health disparities among minority women. Upon completion of her bachelor’s, she intends to pursue her Master of Science in Nursing and work in maternal health.


 Maria Pineros-Leano

Maria Pineros-Leano received her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently completing a Master of Public Health and a PhD in social work and is a scholar of the Illinois Transdiciplinary Obesity Prevention Program. Maria’s research interests are related to maternal and infant health and early maternal risk and protective factors for child obesity. Specifically, she would like to explore the role that antenatal and postpartum depression has on the development of childhood obesity among minority groups. Maria started working with Dr. Karen Tabb in August of 2012 and ever since she has been working in various projects such as consenting mothers from the WIC clinic to participate in a project looking at antenatal depression and its consequences, investigating the perceptions of introducing mHealth to screen mothers for depression, and looking at the prevalence of depression and diabetes among Latinas. During the summer of 2013 Maria became the appointed research coordinator of the research team and she has been fulfilling this task ever since. Maria plans to become a professor and researcher and contribute to the current knowledge of maternal and childhood obesity and depression.

Yang_WangYang Wang

Yang Wang is a PhD student at the School of Social Work. He received his bachelor degree in management from China Agricultural University, and master degree in social security from Beijing Normal University. His research interests are related to mental health, particularly that of the pregnant women and older people. He has been involved with the team since August 2014. He is currently working on a research project to investigate mental health and health outcomes among minority women. He hopes to learn and do more research on mental health during and after completing his PhD.

Former Research Assistants