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Research Team


Elissa Epel, Ph.D., is a Professor at UCSF whose research focuses on healthy aging, psychological and social stress, and resilience. She conducts clinical trials to examine how mindfulness, meditation, and healthy lifestyle modifications can affect cellular aging, weight, diet and metabolism.

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Aric Prather, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF. His research focuses on complex interactions between psychological processes and sleep as they relate to physical and mental illness. Much of his research involves understanding how social factors affect the immune system, especially inflammation as a key pathway in health and disease.


Dr. Rick Hecht, MD is trained in internal medicine, with fellowship training in clinical epidemiology and clinical research methods. Early in his career, he developed a multidisciplinary research program investigating early (primary) HIV infection, which incorporated clinical, epidemiological, immunologic, virologic, and behavioral investigations. This work built one of the largest and most productive cohort studies of early HIV infection in the world, The OPTIONS Project, with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control. 


Ashley Mason, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at UCSF, who researches eating behaviors and develops treatment for individuals with problematic eating. She is also interested in studying the psychosocial factors that shape metabolic risk among individuals who are caregivers for a loved one. These individuals are at increased risk for physical and psychological health problems and are a growing sector of the U.S. population.


Dr. Zaw Maung, MD, MPH is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Maung earned his medical degree (M.D.) from the University of Central Florida, followed by residency in Psychiatry at UC Davis Medical Center. He transitioned and completed his residency in Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Johns Hopkins University where he also earned a Masters of Public Health (MPH) degree.

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Dr. Jue Lin, PhD is a molecular biologist and Director of the Telomere Biology Core Lab in Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn’s laboratory. Her research focuses on telomere maintenance in health and disease, using a variety of approaches, including in vitro and ex vivo cell culture models, animal models, as well as clinical studies.

Study Personnel


Julia Moore is the Lab Manager for the Emotion, Health, and Psychophysiology Lab. She graduated from Santa Clara University in June 2018 with a B.S. in Psychology. She has a particular interest in the cultural differences in emotion regulation, particularly emotion suppression, on social relationships. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Psychology in the future.


Elena Fromer, B.S. is Clinical Research Coordinator for the BOOST Study and a Lab Manager for the UCSF AME Center. She graduated in 2018 with a major in Psychology and a double minor in Public Health Science and Environmental Studies at Santa Clara University. Elena is broadly interested in how we can better understand and improve stress resilience in vulnerable populations in relation to major stressors such as climate change and early life trauma. 


Elnaz Ahmadi

Elnaz Ahmadi graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Biopsychology. She is interested in studying integrative approaches to health and well-being, such as mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches, in the context of depression, anxiety, and coping with stress. Elnaz is planning on pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.


Bresh Merino

Bresh Merino is an Assistant Clinical Research Coordinator at UCSF and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2021. She is interested in mind-body research, specifically the roles of early childhood adversity and its impacts on health. Other research interests include mindfulness, brain-gut connection, and stress resilience. She hopes to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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Julie is going onto her fourth year as a Research Coordinator at UCSF. She graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Spanish, and a minor in Public Health. Her research interests include mental health, stress and nutrition. She is currently in her first year Master’s program at the University of San Francisco


Joanna graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2019 where she received a B.A. in Psychology and double-minored in Educational Studies and Applied Psychology. She is broadly interested in the biological and physiological mechanisms related to stress and trauma across the lifespan, particularly how experiences of early adversity get under the skin to shape physical and mental health outcomes. She hopes to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Contact the research team

(415) 409-8013


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