Current Ph.D. Students

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Balancing rigorous, high-level research training with leadership skills and the acquisition and application of cutting-edge scientific knowledge, a USC Davis School Ph.D. prepares graduates to take the lead in the research of their chosen aspect of gerontology.

Current Gerontology Ph.D. Students

LaurenLauren Brown is a doctoral student at the Davis School of Gerontology. She received her Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from the University of Southern California in 2004; and a Masters of Public Health in Health Systems Management from Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She has prior work experience at the New Orleans Regional AIDS Planning Council in Louisiana and as a research assistant to Dr. Ihab Hajjar on hypertension and cognitive decline at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Lauren’s research interests are in aging minority health issues, psychosocial and socioeconomic health, and health disparities..

Yonashiro-Cho-HeadshotA graduate of USC in Biological Sciences and Gerontology, Jeanine Yonashiro-Cho returned to USC to begin her doctoral studies in Fall 2013. Her research interests focus on improving and preserving the health and well-being of older adults with a particular focus on reducing health disparities and protecting vulnerable elders.

Before returning to California, Jeanine served as the State of Hawaii’s Planner for Aging Services where she worked to strengthen Hawaii’s aging services infrastructure and development of evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention programs for older adults.

Working under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Wilber, Jeanine is currently studying forensic markers of elder abuse and promising elder abuse interventions, such as the Elder Abuse Forensic Center model.

stephen_frochen150x150Stephen Frochen is a doctoral student, whose research interests include aging in place, geographical quality of life factor analysis, senior housing facility site suitability analysis, and location allocation analysis in evaluating regional accessibility to senior housing facilities.

He currently assists Jon Pynoos as a teaching assistant, and his professional goals are teaching, consulting, and government practice.

He likes to hike, snorkel, surf, and play the piano.

gerson_galdamez150x150Gerson Galdamez is a first year doctoral student at the Davis School of Gerontology. He completed his undergraduate degree in Human Aging and Development at USC in 2016, during which his research focused on economic security in late life among Latino immigrant groups. This research primarily involved detecting income dynamics across the lifecourse, and how these dynamics vary by citizenship and ethnicity.

Gerson’s work in the Secure Old Age lab focuses on Latino economic security and elder abuse. He engages in projects focused on the effectiveness of elder abuse interventions, and hopes to develop further research on legal and criminological aspects of elder abuse.

garcia_lrgKrista Garcia is currently a PhD student at the USC Davis School of Gerontology whose research is done within the USC/UCLA Center on Biodemography and Population Health. Krista’s research focuses on cross-country comparisons in health outcomes and secondary prevention strategies. Her previous work focused on a collaborative project examining whether international differences in health are similar to international differences in life expectancy. Her current research examines prostate, breast, and colorectal cancer screening prevalence and trends in cancer-specific incidence and mortality rates in the U.S. and Europe. Krista’s goal is to increase understanding of the factors associated with cancer survival as well as the challenges and needs associated with the growing population of older cancer survivors.

Krista received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology, with a minor in Human Development-Adulthood and Aging from the University of California, Davis in 2005. She worked on her master’s degree in Gerontology prior to entering the doctoral program in 2009.

Mollie-Grossman-headshotMolli Grossman is originally from Shavertown, Pennsylvania and began her doctoral studies at USC Davis School of Gerontology in 2013. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English. Before coming to USC, Molli spent a year working as a research assistant in the Psychiatry Department at NYU Langone Medical Center. Her primary interests are psychology and aging, and she is currently working under the direction of Dr. Tara Gruenewald, examining the mind-body processes that play a role in healthy aging. She is also the current recipient of a University of Southern California Provost’s Ph.D. Fellowship and a member of the Healthy Aging Lab at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

hagoodElizabeth Hagood is a Ph.D. student at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and originally comes to Los Angeles from Shawsville, Virginia.  Elizabeth graduated from Wake Forest University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in biology.  She subsequently worked in the Senate of Virginia and in clinical research before beginning graduate school at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.  There, Elizabeth completed a Master’s degree in anatomy and neurobiology.

As a doctoral student at USC, Elizabeth works under the direction of Dr. Tara Gruenewald, studying mind-body interactions and their impact on trajectories of health and aging.  Elizabeth’s current research focuses on generativity and health among older individuals and examines how perceptions of generativity and social usefulness may shape health outcomes.

Elizabeth is also a member of the Healthy Aging Lab at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

deborah_hoe150x150Deborah Hoe works under the direction of Dr. Susan Enguidanos.  Her primary research area is in palliative care models and ageism in healthcare.  Her secondary research interests are ageism in media and how we may best use media to shape our perceptions about our own aging.

Prior to attending the USC Davis School of Gerontology, Deborah received a B.S. in Mathematics (U.S.), M.A. in Digital Storytelling (U.S.), and M.Soc.Sc. in Gerontology (Hong Kong).  She is also a certified pet loss and bereavement counselor.

Deborah loves all things storytelling.  She has produced digital stories for older adults, performed at Hong Kong’s Top Notch Storytelling Festival, and was nominated for an Emmy.

hindin_lrgShoshana Hindin is a gerontology doctoral student specializing in aspects of cognition and aging, such as cognitive training programs and changes in language processing. She is a research assistant of Dr. Zelinski and the Long Beach Longitudinal Study. Shoshana grew up in central Ohio and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Shoshana became interested in aging while working in Dr. Stine-Morrow’s Lab in Illinois. She is a regular at GSA conferences and has forthcoming publications.

hyewon_kang150x150Hyewon (Ellis) Kang is a second-year PhD student in the Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. She is interested in socioeconomic disparities in health, access to health care and global aging. She holds Master of Public Administration from Cornell University and Master in Area Studies from Kyunghee University. Past work experience includes working as a consultant with the World Bank, an intern with International Food Policy Research Institute.

kylie_meyer150x150Kylie Meyer is a graduate student in Gerontology, who started at USC in fall of 2015 on a USC Provost Doctoral Fellowship. Her work focuses on elder abuse and family caregiving, with a particular focus on caregiver burden as well as caregivers’ access to information and advice. Recently she is working working with California’s Task Force on Family Caregiving to identify priority policy areas and best practices in caregiving, as well as Care Compass, a pilot for caregivers to access personalized information and resources online.

Prior to beginning at USC, she completed an MSc at the University of Southampton on a U.S. Fulbright. Kylie completed undergraduate studies at Kalamazoo College, where she studied anthropology/sociology and French. Her interest in aging began during her sophomore year, when she became involved with a state branch of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. She also completed internships with the Area Agency on Aging IIIA in Kalamazoo and Elder Law of Michigan.

Untitled-1Catherine Pérez is a doctoral student in the Gerontology Program at the University of Southern California working under the direct mentorship of Jennifer Ailshire. Her research work focuses primarily on understanding the Latino elderly population using the Health and Retirement study to examine ethnic differentials in health outcomes by testing hypotheses of how socioeconomic status, health behaviors, social relationships/isolation, living conditions, stressors, etc. contribute to these ethnic differences. Recently, Pérez graduated with her Master of Science degree in Sociology at Florida State University where the majority of her coursework was in race, health, neighborhoods, and quantitative methods. Previously, Pérez earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and minor in Human Complex Systems at the University of California, Los Angeles.

laura_rath150x150Laura Rath is a doctoral student at the Davis School of Gerontology. She received her Bachelor of Science in Gerontology, with minors in Biology and Bioethics from the University of Southern California in 2000; and a Master of Science in Gerontology from the University of Southern California in 2002. Her research interests include promoting a secure old age for all people, improving the overall health and quality of life for older adults, and family caregiving. She lives in Seal Beach, California with her husband and two practically perfect daughters.

Carly_RomanCarly Roman is originally from Rockville Centre, NY and began her doctoral studies at USC Davis School of Gerontology in 2016. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Carly’s research interests include creating and evaluating positive psychology interventions aimed to increase meaning and well-being in older adults. She became interested in positive psychology and aging through volunteering with GlamourGals, a national not-for-profit that brings high school and college students into senior homes to provide makeovers, manicures, and companionship to senior home residents. She is the current recipient of a University of Southern California Provost’s Ph.D. Fellowship and is working under Dr. Cleopatra Abdou-Kamperveen.

hyunju_shim150x150Hyunju Shim is a doctoral student at the Davis School of Gerontology under the mentorship of Dr. Eileen Crimmins and Dr. Jennifer Ailshire. Her research interests are on health and technology use, both for older adults and their caregivers. She is also interested in aging in Asia, with a particular focus on Active Aging.

She has prior work experience at the North East Asia Subregional Office of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and Pacific as well as the Secretariat Office of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

She received her BA in English from Busan University of Foreign Studies and MSW from Washington University in St. Louis, where she also was a recipient of Fulbright Scholarship.

Diana_Wang(resized)Diana Wang is a fourth-year doctoral student, working with Dr. Tara Gruenewald and Dr. Mara Mather.

She is interested in the effects of giving social support on psychological well-being, stress reactivity, health habits, and cognition in older adults. She is investigating the potential stress-buffering effects of social support exchanges using psychophysiology measures such as blood pressure, skin conductance, and heart rate variability. She graduated from Brandeis University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Neuroscience.

kristi-_wisniewski150x150Kristi Wisniewski is a first year doctoral student at the USC Davis School of Gerontology. She 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. Her primary interests are cognition, memory and aging. She is currently working under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski.

Yuang_Zhang(resized)Yuan Zhang is a fourth-year doctoral student at the USC Davis School of Gerontology. She is working with Dr. Eileen Crimmins and Dr. Jennifer Ailshire at the USC/UCLA Center on Biodemography and Population Health. She received her master degree (M.S) in Statistics from the Program in Survey Methodology, located within the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Before coming to U.S for graduate school, Yuan spent two years working on the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) at Peking University after she got a bachelor’s degree in Economics.

Yuan’s research focuses on health and aging in China and U.S, emphasizing on biological risks and physical assessments. Her current projects include 1) biological risks among the Chinese elderly, 2) time spent on health promoting activities for older Americans, and 3) missing data in HRS physical assessments. She uses the data from the Health and Retirement Study and the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study for most of her research.

Current Biology of Aging Ph.D. Students

Laura_Corrales-Diaz(resized)Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto is a fifth-year PhD student at the USC Davis School of Gerontology in the laboratory of Dr. Kelvin Davies. Laura graduated from USC in 2012 with two bachelors’ degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Gerontology and subsequently completed a Progressive Degree for a Masters’ in Biomedical Engineering.

In her doctoral studies, Laura has been focused upon the role of the mitochondrial stress response protein, the Lon protease. Lon has been implicated as an important protease for mitochondrial protein turnover and mitochondrial DNA replication, with loss of Lon paralleling a decline of mitochondrial function. She is specifically interested in understanding the regulatory mechanisms of Lon expression and the conserved role of Lon in the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster. Laura is a current recipient of a University of Southern California Provost PhD Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Joshua_Kramer_headshotI enjoy hiking, biking, and exploring new and unusual places and experiences. I also am somewhat of a technophile. My research interests include stem cell maintenance and management of homeostasis during periods of persistent stress. I also want to examine the genetic pathways that are most perturbed during aging in such a system and how to remedy these effects.

KennethKenneth is a doctoral student in USC Davis School of Gerontology’s Biology of Aging program. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cell Biology, with an emphasis in Genetics, Genomics, and Development, from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011.  He then attended Dominican University of California and earned his Master’s degree in the Biological Sciences in 2014. Throughout his Master’s education he worked in the Kapahi Lab at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in his hometown of Novato, CA, where he studied the effects of the gut microbiome on responses to dietary restriction, the genetic mechanisms behind gut integrity, and the role of natural genetic variation in response to dietary conditions.
Kenneth’s research interests, as well as his intended doctoral research, are to continue his work on genetic variations and how they modulate dietary response in relation to the aging process.