Our Team

SACH Director

Sack Director

Candice A. Alfano, Ph.D.


Dr. Alfano is a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston (UH). She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland-College Park in 2005 and completed her internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Alfano's research and clinical interests include anxiety and sleep disorders across the life span, the role of inadequate sleep in the development of affective problems, and behavioral interventions. She has published over 50 empirical papers, articles, books chapters, and books on these topics. Dr. Alfano’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She serves on the scientific council for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the board of directors for the Society for Behavioral Sleep Medicine (SBSM).

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Jennifer Fillo

Jennifer Fillo


Dr. Fillo is a postdoctoral fellow in the SACH lab. She serves as the project coordinator for the Military Families Project. She received her doctorate in social psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2014. Her research integrates social-psychological, individual difference, developmental, and health perspectives to examine the processes by which individuals cope with acute and chronic stress. Her work has primarily focused on stress in the context of close relationships and stress arising from conflict among various social roles (e.g., work, family, gender). She is particularly interested in individual differences in how people regulate the emotions that arise in stressful situations and the consequences of these individual differences for psychological well-being, interpersonal functioning, and health over time.

Cara A. Palmer

Cara A. Palmer


Dr. Palmer is a postdoctoral fellow 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.

Project Coordinators

Graduate student

Hira Hussain


Hira received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Government from Houston Baptist University in 2013, Cum Laude. At SACH, she assists with the Risk and Resilience study, which aims to understand the impact of military deployment on children and spouses/partners. Hira plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical child psychology in the near future.

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

Katharine Reynolds


Katie received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Vassar College in 2009 and is currently working toward a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Broadly, her interests include development and treatment of child internalizing disorders, environmental stressors experienced in childhood, and the impact of these factors on sleep and development. More specifically, Katie is interested in the impact of sleep quality on the development and course of child anxiety disorders, especially in children with generalized anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders.

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.

Research Assistant

Naomi Alphonso

Naomi Alphonso

Hi, my name is Naomi Alphonso and I'm a junior at the University of Houston. My major is Psychology and minor is Human Development and Family Studies. I am interested in learning more about developmental issues and emotional and behavioral disorders in children. The SACH lab is a great opportunity for me and I hope to get practical research experience from it. My plan is to attend Graduate school and study Clinical Psychology to become a Child Psychologist.

John McKirahan

John McKirahan

John McKirahan is a senior at University of Houston, majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish. His main field of interest includes children coping with and adjusting to anxiety and stress. After he graduates, he plans to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.

Julia N

Julia Najm

Julia is a second year psychology major with a minor in law,values and policy. She previously transferred from the University of Texas at Dallas where she was apart of a personality/relationship lab. Her interests include prevention of suicide in adolescents, depressive/anxiety disorders in children and genetic predispositions to personality. Also, she hopes to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology after obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree.