Current Predocs

Stephen Frochen

Stephen Frochen is a doctoral candidate at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. Frochen has a multidisciplinary educational and professional history, including a bachelor of science in urban and regional planning from California State Polytechnic University, a master’s degree in writing from San Diego State University, a doctoral degree in gerontology in progress, and a rich background in teaching and public service in the military, school districts, and cities.

Frochen’s research interests include housing for the elderly, particularly eldercare facilities. He has conducted extensive research on residential care in the City and County of Los Angeles as well as all of California. His most recent research focuses on a new eldercare land use ordinance in Los Angeles, which streamlines the permitting process of eldercare facility developments and allows them to be sited in any area of the jurisdiction. He is currently working on understanding and demonstrating how land use and planning tools such as this new eldercare ordinance may help to close the gap between a burgeoning demand for residential and institutional care among older adults and a languishing supply of such services and facilities.

Frochen has published the initial findings from his research in the Journal of Housing for the Elderly and Journal of Health and Aging and is in the process of contributing his work to other interdisciplinary journals adapted to housing, health, disability, and the elderly. He is an active member of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Association of Geographers, having presented papers at the annual meetings of both organizations. In the years ahead, he hopes to provide yet a new perspective on which decision makers and entrepreneurs can draw to make choices regarding housing for the elderly, within the constraints of an economy and housing stock largely unfit for functionally impaired older adults.

Haley Gallo

Haley Gallo received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychobiology with a minor in Gerontology from the University of California, Los Angeles. As a Gerontology doctoral student in Dr. Kate Wilber’s Secure Old Age Lab, Haley’s research focuses on policies that promote the goals of the Age-Friendly Cities and Communities initiative. She is especially interested in the Age-Friendly domains that relate to civic participation and social inclusion. Her research focuses on using co-production to include older adults as researchers in projects that inform local policies. She is passionate about including older adults—particularly those from groups who are traditionally left out—in the development of research and policy that affects people of all ages.

Dom Grisafe

Dom Grisafe is a joint medical and doctoral student studying chronic disease epidemiology at the Keck School of Medicine in the Department of Preventive Medicine. He received his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2014. His current research interests include understanding the association between chronic eye disease and health related quality of life in multiethnic cohorts of aging Americans.

Molli Grossman

Molli Grossman is originally from Shavertown, Pennsylvania and began her doctoral studies at USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology in 2013, as a recipient of the USC Provost’s PhD Fellowship. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English. Before coming to USC, Molli spent a year conducting research in the PTSD Research Department at NYU Langone Medical Center. Her primary interests are psychology and aging, and she has studied at USC under the direction of Dr. Tara Gruenewald and Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski, examining the mind-body processes that play a role in healthy aging. Specifically, her research has focused on how prosocial activities, such as caregiving and volunteering, are linked to well-being in later life. She is also passionate about improving quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, as well as reducing stereotypes surrounding aging and dementia.

Amy Hammerquist

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Biology from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. While there, I completed four years of undergraduate research in the marine ecology lab of Dr. Jeremy Weisz, investigating the nitrogen cycling capacity of marine sponges and their associated microbial communities. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Molecular Biology in the lab of Dr. Sean Curran at USC. Our lab uses multiple model systems to better understand the relationship between protein homeostasis and health/lifespan. Specifically, I am interested in the protein MAF1, a negative regulator of RNA polymerase III, and its tissue-specific roles in regulating fat metabolism and other health-related outcomes. These pathways are quite well-conserved across species, and I hope my work will someday help us better understand metabolism in humans.


Brendan Miller

Brendan Miller is a Neuroscience Graduate Program PhD student at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Miller studies mitochondrial genetics, neurodegeneration, and mitochondrial-derived peptides in the Cohen lab. His research interests include identifying the effect of mitochondrial single nucleotide polymorphisms on novel mitochondrial-derived peptides in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.


James Nhan

James Nhan received his Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology with emphasis in biochemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He then worked in Dr. Pamela Bjorkman’s lab at the California Institute of Technology, studying the structure of the HIV virus and how to better fight against it. Currently, he is working on a PhD degree in molecular biology at the University of Southern California in Dr. Sean Curran’s lab. He uses the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to study what can cause an animal’s health to decline with age. He ism particularly interested in how early life events can influence the health of an organism later in life.


Shai Porat

Originally from Israel, Shai Porat received his Bachelor’s in Science in Psychology at the University of Central Florida. Since then, he has worked in neuroimaging laboratories researching how memory is affected by sleep, Alzheimer's disease, dance, and drug abuse. Shai recently joined USC’s Neuroscience Graduate Program as a PhD student in the Fall of 2017. As a Gerontology NIH Predoctoral Fellow, Shai works under the mentorship of Dr. Mara Mather in the Emotion Cognition Lab. Currently his research includes investigating how breathing, sleep, heart rate variability, aging, and music affect emotion, memory and attention throughout normal and diseased aging.


Kristi Wisniewski

Kristi Wisniewski is a third year doctoral student at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology working under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski. Kristi graduated from The University of Alabama in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minor in Biology. Before coming to USC, Kristi worked as a research analyst for the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center in Nashville, Tennessee and contributed to the Vanderbilt Memory and Aging Project and the NOBLE clinical trial.

Kristi’s research interests surround cognition, memory, and aging in older adults. With a focus on screening measures for cognitive impairment, specifically Alzheimer’s disease, Kristi examines personal perception of memory or cognitive decline compared to objective neuropsychological performance and health outcomes. Her current projects involve geographic variation in rates of subjective cognitive complaint, personality factors and financial decision making associated with cognitive decline, and physician-patient communication regarding brain aging.


Yuan Zhang

Yuan Zhang is in the Gerontology Ph.D. program. She came to USC with an MS in Survey Methodology from the University of Michigan and a BA in Economics from the Central University of Finance and Economics. Her overarching research objective is to understand the role of behavioral, social, environmental, and contextual factors in making the aging process different across time and place. Her research covers multiple topics in demography and population health, focusing on determinants of morbidity, disability, and mortality over the life course in both less developed and more developed settings. Her dissertation work uses data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative study of middle-aged and older Chinese, to assess age-related physiological changes that underlie the risk of disease, disability, and mortality, and study the determinants of physiological health change and mortality among the older Chinese. In addition to her dissertation research, she is involved in research on life expectancy and extension of healthy life.

Current Postdocs

Yeon Jin Choi, PhD

Yeon Jin Choi, PhD, received her doctorate in Social Work from Boston College. Her research interests include environmental gerontology, determinants of health, health disparities experienced by vulnerable populations who have multiple risk factors (e.g., low socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic minorities, chronic diseases/disabilities), and supportive services/technology for community-dwelling older adults which enables older adults to stay healthy and independent (or to age-in-place). Specifically, Choi has a strong interest in conducting research on the effect of environments on older adults’ health and well-being.

Kevin Feeney, PhD

Kevin Feeney, PhD, researches the economic impacts of social welfare programs, both in the United States and low/ middle-income countries. Current projects included understanding the impact of noncontributory pension programs on mortality and other health outcomes in places like Mexico and South Africa. More recent work analyzes the impacts of health insurance, Affordable Care Act policies, and Social Security in the US. Feeney received his PhD in Health Policy with a focus in economics from UC Berkeley in 2017.


Brenton Keller, PhD

Brenton Keller, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Keller completed his Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Philosophy and his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Southern California. During his doctorate, Keller focused on two separate projects. The first examined human decision-making behavior with an emphasis on modeling goal-directed versus habitual action selection using a reinforcement learning framework. Separately, Keller also worked with the Longitudinal Aging Study in India, Harmonized Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia (LASI-DAD) as the MRI Coordinator. In this project, the goal was to establish a multi-site MRI protocol examining the progression of dementia in a literate and illiterate aging population. He is now continuing the LASI-DAD project with the analysis of the acquired MRI scans. Keller’s interests include human behavior, Bayesian estimation, degenerative brain diseases, and applications of scientific research towards the rehabilitation and prevention of psychological diseases.


Gali Weissberger, PhD

Gali Weissberger, PhD, received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in neuropsychology from the San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego, Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. She completed her predoctoral clinical internship at the Boston Consortium in Clinical Psychology. Weissberger is interested in understanding protective and deleterious factors that moderate an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease utilizing neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and behavioral techniques. She is particularly interested in how factors such as bilingualism, multiculturalism, social relationships, and health disparities can impact the aging process.

Past Predocs

Dawn Alley, PhD
Director, Prevention and Population HealthGroup
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation

Joe Angelelli, PhD
Senior Advisor, Alternative Payment Models
UPMC Health Plan

Jessica Brommelhoff, MPH, PhD
Principal Clinician, MedAvante, Bedford Massachusetts
Licensed Clinical Psychologist/Neuropsychologist, Specialized in Geropsychology

Lauren Brown
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Population Studies Department, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

Elisabeth Burgess, PhD
Director and Professor, Sociology and Gerontology
Georgia State University

Hans Dalton, PhD

Marti DeLiema, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford Univ. Center on Longevity, Financial Fraud Research Center

Carrie Donoho, PhD
Chief of Behavioral Epidemiology
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

Charlotte Dunham, PhD
Associate Professor of Sociology
Director, Texas Tech Center for Women Studies
Texas Tech University

Kelly Durbin, PhD

Nicole Gatto, PhD
Associate Professor of Public Health
Director, Doctorate in Public Health Program
Claremont Graduate University

Scott Hofer, PhD
Professor, Harald Mohr, M.D. and Wilhelma Mohr, M.D. Research Chair in Adult Development and Aging
Director, Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health Psychology
University of Victoria

Dominique Ingegneri, PhD
Vice President, Health Care Economics
Medical Informatics at UnitedHealth Group

Chandra Ghosh Ippen, PhD
Psychologist, University of California, San Francisco
Dissemination Director, Child Trauma Research Program
Early Trauma Treatment Network of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

Ross Jacobucci, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of Notre Dame

Brian Kaskie, PhD
Associate Professor
MPH in Policy Program, Health Management and Policy,
College of Public Health,
University of Iowa

Morgan Levine, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pathology
Yale University School of Medicine

Nichole Lighthall, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of Central Florida

Gerardo Marti, PhD
L. Richardson King Professor of Sociology
Department Chair
Davidson College

Teheran (Terry) Mills, PhD
Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion
John Carroll University

Todd McCallum, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Psychological Sciences,
Case Western Reserve University

Kaoru Nashiro, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, University of Southern California

Christy Nishita, PhD
Associate Specialist, University of Hawaii Center of Aging and Center on Disability Studies
Researcher and Gerontologist

Catherine Pérez, PhD

Norella Putney, PhD
Lecturer, Sociology
California State University, Los Angeles

Amber Watts, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,
The University of Kansas

Nicholas Woodward, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Keck School of Medicine,
University of Southern California

Linda Ann Wray, PhD
Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health
The Pennsylvania State University

Past Postdocs

Jennifer Ailshire, PhD
Assistant Professor of Gerontology,
Leonard Davis School of Gerontology,
University of Southern California

Sarah Barber, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
San Francisco State University

Christopher Beam, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of Southern California

Ryon Cobb, PhD
Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Arlington

Robert F. Kennison, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology
California State University, Los Angeles

Uchechi Mitchell, PhD
Assistant Professor
Community Health Sciences
University of Illinois, Chicago

Jennifer Prescott, PhD
Channing Division of Network Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Senior Lead Scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton

Anna Rahman, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Leonard Davis School of Gerontology,
University of Southern California

Chandra A. Reynolds, PhD
Professor of Psychology
University of California, Riverside

Sandra L. Reynolds, PhD
Emeritus Faculty
School of Aging Studies,
University of South Florida

Jennifer Robinette,
Supported by K99

Joseph Saenz, 
Supported by K99

Hiram Beltran-Sanchez, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Community Health Sciences, UCLA

Connor Sheehan, PhD
Assistant Professor,
Arizona State University