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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).

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.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

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 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.

Amanda Palo

Amanda Palo

Dr. Palo is a postdoctoral fellow 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.

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

Natassia Bindon

Natassia received her Master of Science in Counseling from the University of Houston at Clear Lake in 2008, Summa Cum Laude. At SACH, she assists with the Military Families Project, a research study examining the effects of separation on children and families. Broadly, her interests include attachment patterns and Attachment Disorders, personality development and Personality Disorders, and psychotherapy processes and outcomes. Natassia plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in the near future.

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.