IDEA Team Research Assistants

Kelsey_BarnettKelsey Barnett

Kelsey Barnett is a senior majoring in social work. She has recently joined the IDEA team as an undergraduate research assistant in June of 2017. She aspires to obtain her PhD in social work with a research focus on international mental health disparities with the intention of promoting awareness in how mental illness impacts the functionality of societies on a global scale.

Kelsey is a certified crisis intervention responder and an advocate for individuals and families who are struggling with a mental illness diagnosis. She is a BSW representative on the academic integrity committee, a member of the Phi Sigma Theta Honor Society as well as an Edmund J. James Scholar for the School of Social Work.


Noelle Marie Bruce

Noelle Bruce is a junior at the School of Social Work. She has been on the team since December of 2013 as a research assistant, consenting new participants to the study. Eventually, Noelle would like to research the impact of illnesses on one’s social desirability. At the Undergraduate Research Symposium 2014, she presented the findings of an analysis of the data from a sample within the larger project. Noelle is a James Scholar, BSW Ambassador, and a member of the Alpha Delta Mu society.


Beatrice Chen

Beatrice Chen received her Bachelor of Social Work in 2014 from the School of Social Work. She is currently enrolled in the masters program, specializing in the mental health concentration. She will be graduating in 2015. Beatrice is in the James Scholar Honors Program and has been on the dean’s list since Spring 2011. She has also received the John B. Turner Award in Spring 2013 for her willingness to help and encourage people around her.

Beatrice has been part of this research team since summer 2013. Beatrice has helped with finding, collecting analyzing missing data. She also helps with inputting data from Cornerstone and pulling Edinburg Postnatal Depression Screens.

Beatrice’s research interest involves vulnerable populations who deal with mental health. Currently, she is researching military mothers. In April 2014, Beatrice presented her research titled “The Sacrificial Love of Military Moms” at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Beatrice hopes to continue her research on military mothers, so more information can be published. So far, she has only focused on the accommodations and mental health aspects of this vulnerable population. In the future, she hopes to expand and conduct longitudinal, qualitative research on other populations, such as on immigrant mothers and human trafficking victims. Beatrice is interested in discovering the mental state of these populations when coping with their various responsibilities and circumstances.


Shinwoo Choi

Shinwoo is a PhD student at the School of Social Work. She has been involved with the team since 2012, and has been working on qualitative data collection and quantitative data management. She has also been involved with manuscript and grant writing process for the team.

Shinwoo has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from McGill University and master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Her research interest is the effects of racial discrimination on individuals from minority backgrounds on their mental health and health status. Shinwoo wants to gain more research experiences in mental health and health outcomes for ethnic minority individuals, and take a look at the role of different services.

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 Flores

Nancy Perez-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.

Shelby_GordonShelby Gordon

Shelby Gordon is senior in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences with a concentration in Health Diversity. She began research in the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program and received the Capitol Scholars award for her research on the increasing attention to immigration rights and language policy in the United States. From there, Shelby joined the Aging and Diversity Lab in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health and became the undergraduate intern at the Office of Undergraduate Research. Since joining the IDEA Team, Shelby worked alongside graduate student Syeda Mohd Hajaraih to conduct a scoping review search on the health outcomes among garment workers in low-middle income countries. Shelby plans to conduct development and globalization research at Khon Kaen University in Thailand.


Erin Hageman

Erin Hageman is a master’s student at the School of Social Work, concentrating in healthcare. She also received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois in anthropology and religion in 2011. Erin joined the research team in January 2014 and serves as a research assistant in the Perinatal Depression Database Registry at the Public Health Clinic helping to collect consent forms, entering data, and searching for missing data. She also works on research looking at the effects of breastfeeding on maternal mental health both in the Public Health study and in data from the postpartum study in Brazil. Her other research interests include the effects of parental mental illness on children, integrating mental health services into healthcare settings, international health care settings, and mental health of the dying and their families.

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.


Danielle Perry

Danielle Perry is a PhD student at the School of Social Work, where she also completed a Master of Social Work degree in August 2013, concentrating in the area of Advocacy, Leadership, and Social Change. In May of 2012, she also completed a Bachelor of Arts in social work from Rutgers University.

Danielle joined the research team in September of 2013. Her role in this project includes organizing and analyzing data, assisting in project planning and data entry. Her other roles on the project include participant recruitment, drafting the codebook, inputting registry consents, and collaborating with faculty, staff and other RAs.

Danielle’s individual interests are in the area of educational access particularly looking at evaluating the educational practices of Black youth in urban neighborhoods. Her research has focused on the educational inequities that exist in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods, specifically examining the social and cultural factors that contribute to the development of resilient behaviors and academic achievement among Black urban youth.

Danielle is a member of the 2010 cohort of Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Scholars. As a MSW student, she was awarded the Gabe W. Miller Memorial Foundation Scholarship for her commitment to social service and community volunteerism. As a doctoral student, her current projects include gaging how parents in a Chicago neighborhood prepare their children to be ready for school, and examining how the educational aspirations of 7th-12th grade Chicago youth are influenced by their neighborhood characteristics. Her future aspirations are to develop a PreK-12th grade supplemental educational resource community center to prepare disadvantaged urban youth to enter higher education.


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.


Heather Sears

Heather Sears is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in anthropology. Heather joined the research team in the spring semester of 2013 originally for a James Scholar honors credit and loved it so much that she decided to stay; since then, she has been working along Dr. Tabb on various projects. Heather has worked with Dr. Tabb on her research focusing on perinatal depression in WIC mothers by spending time in the clinic and gaining consents and entering data. Heather has also been working on a paper with PhD student, Maria Pineros-Leano that focuses on health care providers’ perceptions of incorporating mHealth technology into a clinical setting. Heather presented part of this research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2013, and presented a policy analysis at the symposium in 2014. Heather was invited and had the honor of presenting at the 2014 Society for Social Work and Research conference in San Antonio, Texas alongside Dr. Tabb and Maria Pineros-Leano on her experience doing research as an undergraduate student. While she has gained a wide variety of research experience on different topics, her main research interests are around mental health, specifically focusing on depression and schizophrenia and the treatment of these disorders.

Heather plans to continue her education at the University of Illinois in the Fall of 2014 and will pursue her master’s degree in social work, with a concentration in mental health.

 Caroline_QuintanillaCaroline Quintanilla

Caroline Quintanilla is a junior at the School of Social Work. She has been on the team since August of 2014 as a research assistant working on various tasks for the project. She is excited at the prospect of attending graduate school after obtaining her BSW and concentrating in mental health. Caroline has many research interests but has really found her passion working with children and adolescents. She is a member of many volunteer organizations and has served on Alpha Chi Omega Women’s Fraternity and Illini Dance Marathon’s executive boards for the 2014 year.

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.