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Our Team

SACH Director

Sack Director

Candice A. Alfano, Ph.D.

Dr. Candice Alfano is Professor of Psychology, a licensed clinical psychologist, and Director of the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston (SACH) at the University of Houston. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park in 2005. Dr. Alfano's research program integrates several overlapping fields of study including the role of sleep-wake processes in the pathogenesis of psychopathology, especially anxiety disorders, and the development of evidence-based interventions for children and adolescents. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Dr. Alfano has served on the scientific council of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the board of directors for the Society for Behavioral Sleep Medicine (SBSM), and as Associate Editor for Journal of Anxiety Disorders. She has published more than 70 scientific papers, chapters, and books, including the co-edited the book, Comprehensive Evidence-based Interventions for Children and Adolescents (2014; John Wiley & Sons).

Associate Clinical Director

Sack Director

Andres G. Viana , Ph.D., ABPP.

Dr. Viana is Assistant Professor of Psychology, a licensed clinical child psychologist, and Director of the Child Temperament, Thoughts, and Emotions Laboratory at the University of Houston. He also serves as Associate Clinical Director of the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston. Dr. Viana received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology from Penn State University and completed his psychology residency training at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), where he remained as a tenure-track member of the Psychiatry department until 2015. Dr. Viana’s program of research is grounded in the developmental psychopathology perspective to psychological functioning and focuses on the study and assessment of risk factors for childhood psychopathologies, with an emphasis on temperamental, emotional, cognitive, and parenting factors that may exacerbate anxiety, as well as the nature of the covariation among these processes. A growing aspect of his research program involves cognitive and emotion-related factors associated with risk behaviors in children with internalizing difficulties. Dr. Viana’s research has been funded by the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). He is the recipient of several awards, including the Anxiety and Depression Association of America Career Development Award, NIMH’s Child, Intervention, Prevention and Services (CHIPS) Fellowship, and UMMC’s Faculty Research Mentor Award. He is an active member of several professional organizations, including the Society for Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, the Association for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders and the Child and Youth Care Forum.

SACH Staff

Jennifer Fillo

Joanne Bower

Dr. Bower is a postdoctoral fellow originally from England, where she received her Ph.D. in 2016 from the University of Reading. Within the SACH lab she helps coordinate the Military Families Project and a NASA-funded study investigating psychological risk and resilience in isolated, confined and extreme environments. Her research interests include developing tools to measure the regulation of positive emotions, as well as investigating how different emotions impact health and well being. Her background includes several years of working on large, multi-center clinical trials, many of which investigated the effects of experimental compounds on sleep and alertness.

Cara A. Palmer

Cara A. Palmer

Dr. Palmer is a Research Assistant Professor in the SACK lab. She received her Ph.D. in 2014 from West Virginia University in Life-Span Developmental Psychology. Her research interests broadly encompass the development of emotion regulation and reactivity, and her previous work has primarily focused on the regulation of positive affect and responses to positive experiences. Her research uses multiple methods (e.g., behavior, heart rate variability, subjective reports) to examine how people regulate their emotions, what predicts maladaptive affective processes, and how emotional experiences and regulatory strategies impact overall well-being and mental health.

Amanda Palo

Amanda Palo

Dr. Palo is a Clinical Assistant Professor who recently received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. She completed her pre-doctoral clinical psychology internship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She currently serves as the clinic coordinator for the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston (SACH). She is also the clinic coordinator for the University of Houston Adolescent Diagnosis, Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment center (UH-ADAPT), which is directed by Dr. Carla Sharp. Her clinical training focuses on assessment and treatment with children and adolescents, and she plans to pursue licensure as a clinical psychologist.

Graduate Students

Graduate student

Jennifer Cowie

Jennifer Cowie is a graduate student in the lab. Prior to joining, she worked for two years as a clinical specialist in the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Clinic at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Ga. Jennifer's research interests broadly include examining the factors contributing to the development of internalizing disorders in children and adolescents, particularly those affecting the course and treatment of anxiety and compulsive disorders. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from Smith College in 2009

Graduate student

Michelle Clementi

Michelle is a graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program. She graduated with honors from the University of Maryland in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. Following undergrad, Michelle worked at the National Institute of Mental Health studying child anxiety disorders and attention biases. Her research interests include developing and investigating interventions for youth with anxiety disorders and examining the relationship between physical and mental health in children and adolescents.

Graduate student

Rogelio Gonzalez

Rogelio Gonzalez is a graduate student in the lab. He previously attended California State University San Marcos where he earned his Masters degree in experimental psychology investigating culturally–specific expressions of anxiety and depression in young children as well as better understanding barriers to mental health service utilization in Mexican farmworker families. Broadly, his current research interests include anxiety disorders and sleep problems in Hispanic youth.

Graduate student

Jessica Meers

Jessica is a graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program. Jessica earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University and went on to pursue her Master's in Clinical Psychology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. After graduating, she worked for two years as a Clinical Research Coordinator at The University of Texas Medical Branch, working in a lab that studied sleep and health in menopausal women. Broadly, Jessica is interested in studying sleep across the lifespan, particularly in girls and women.

Simon Lau

Simon Lau

Simon Lau is currently a graduate student in the lab, and previously served as projector coordinator for the Military Families Project. He previously served in the U.S. Army under the Joint Special Operations Command supporting multiple theater of operations, where he earned numerous awards, including the Bronze Star Medal and multiple commendations for leadership. Honorably discharged from the Army in 2010, Simon attended and graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2013. Simon hopes to use his experiences from his military career to help improve military research on post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, depression, and fear.


Christine So

Christine is a graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program. Prior to moving to Houston, she worked for 5 years at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) just outside of Washington, D.C., and she also earned her Master’s in Biological Psychology from American University. At the WRAIR, Christine worked in two departments revolving around sleep research and military psychiatry research. Her current research interests broadly involve the bidirectional relationship between sleep and anxiety/posttraumatic stress disorder, particularly in the military population.

Research Assistant

Julia N

Julia Najm

Julia received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Houston in 2016, Summa Cum Laude. She helps coordinate the Family Separation Study at the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston which aims to understand the effects of separation on children and their families when a parent/spouse is away from the home for a period of time. Julia has been part of the SACH family since fall of 2014. Her research interests include the impact of depression and anxiety on emotional processing in children, the effect of exposure response prevention treatment on executive functioning in children that have anxiety disorders, and the relationship between interpersonal factors and suicidal ideation in adolescents. She wishes to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology and primarily work with children and adolescents.