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Current Graduate Students:


Alexandra Wojda-Burlij, M.A.
Pre-Doctoral Clinical Psychology Internship: Durham VA Health Care System, Durham, NC
M.A. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2019
B.A. in Psychology, Summa Cum Laude, CUNY Hunter College, 2014

My research focuses on couples who face adversity both within and outside of their relationship (e.g., poverty, intimate partner violence [IPV], psychopathology). In particular, I am interested in understanding the extent to which such stressors affect interpersonal processes (e.g., dyadic coping, couple resilience, emotion co-regulation), individual and couple outcomes, and treatment gains within couple therapy. For my Master’s thesis, I examined interpersonal emotional dynamics in couples who report relationship distress and experiences of physical and psychological IPV. My dissertation examined cognitive processes (e.g., stress appraisal) that influence individual and relationship well-being among low-income couples. In the long-term, I look to broaden my work to the realm of treatment development and aim to design interdisciplinary, culturally-sensitive online interventions that target relationship distress and mental health in low-income communities.


Emily Carrino, M.A.

5th year Graduate Student

M.A. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2022
B.A. in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies, Honors Distinction, UNC Chapel Hill, 2017

My research takes an ecological approach to understand the interaction among sociocultural experiences, individual psychopathology, and romantic relationship functioning. Specifically, I focus on populations facing unique challenges, particularly LGBTQ+ (bisexual+), long-distance couples, and couples dealing with eating disorders– with the ultimate goal of improving care for these couples in therapeutic contexts. I am also passionate about dyadic intervention development and multicultural therapist training.


Current Undergraduate Research Assistants:

Anais D’Oelsnitz

B.A in Psychology with Honors, May 2022

As an undergrad research assistant in the Couples Lab since 2020, I have thoroughly enjoyed addressing and investigating psychological issues and concepts through a relational lens. For my Honor’s thesis, I am examining the impact of culture and gender on the use of sarcasm in romantic relationships. Having lived in the UK for the majority of my life, with periods of time spent in the US, I am inspired to better understand the unique impacts of and interaction among cultural norms and gender norms with regards to communication styles, specifically the use of humor, in relationships.





Anthony Pham

B.A. in Psychology & English Literature, anticipated May 2023

My interest within this lab involves examining couples’ ability to process experiences as a couple unit, taking into account factors such as sociocultural contexts and psychopathology. I am currently a third-year undergraduate student double majoring in Psychology and English, as well as minoring in Conflict Management. The Couple Lab interests me because of its unique nature and its expansiveness in preparation for a future in graduate school for clinical psychology or school counseling.



Joseph Kargbo

B.S. in Psychology, anticipated May 2023

Within this lab, I’ve become interested in the intersection between relationship satisfaction and couple interactions in both the dyadic and extrinsic senses. I am a junior pursuing a degree in Psychology with minors in Neuroscience and Medicine, Literature, and Culture. Following the pre-med track, I quickly began to realize the value of psychology in a field so reliant on interpersonal connection. The Couples lab has offered me immense insight into the theoretical and clinical applications of psychology.




Recent Lab Alumni:

Danielle Weber, M.A.

Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Georgia
M.A. in Psychology, American University, 2016
B.A. in Psychology Summa Cum Laude, College of William and Mary, 2014

My research focuses broadly on the experience of emotions within a dyadic context, particularly in how partners influence each other’s expression of emotions within communication and how such emotional expressions relate to various couple and individual outcomes. I am particularly interested in how emotional dynamics play out in couples in which one or both partners is experiencing psychopathology. I am also interested in couples who experience a variety of environmental stressors, including geographic separation (long-distance relationships) and systemic discrimination (including sexual minority couples). These basic research interests are tied naturally with my clinical work, as understanding more about the experience of emotions within couples can hopefully enhance couples therapy and couple-based interventions for psychopathology.


Kimberly Pentel, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellowship in Couple and Family Health
Puget Sound Veteran’s Affairs Health Care System, Seattle, WA

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2020
M.A. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2016
B.Sc. in Clinical Psychology Magna Cum Laude, Tufts University, 2011

My research and clinical work focuses on developing and evaluating couple-based treatment for relationship distress and individual psychopathology. I especially enjoy the process of tailoring couple-based therapies for specific disorders and populations and studying how to maximize treatment gains and fit. For my dissertation, I developed and pilot tested a culturally tailored and affirming couple therapy for same-sex female couples (ACCESS: Affirming Couples Counseling to Engage Same Sex partners;, drawing upon the cognitive behavioral couple therapy framework and sexual minority stress literature. In addition, I have developed a clinical framework for sexual minority-affirming couple therapy. During fellowship in the VA Health Care System, I am working to deliver and expand services to loved ones of Veterans and to better understand and meet the health care needs of LGBTQ Veterans.


Matthew Cohen, Ph.D.

Clinical Fellow, UNC Department of Psychiatry
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2018
M.A. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A. in Psychology Cum Laude, Tufts University, 2008


My goal within the lab is to address psychological issues through the lens of relationship health, as well as improving individual and relationship functioning. Specifically, the focus of my research and clinical work relates to psychopathology experienced in the perinatal period. I am interested in the transition to parenthood with the goal of helping individuals and couples navigate this significant life event, which often occurs in the context of a mood or anxiety disorder.



BelusJennifer Belus, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology Department at the University of Maryland
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2018
M.A. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina, 2015
B.A. in Psychology with Honors, Ryerson University, Canada, 2011

My research interests are centered around developing and disseminating mental health interventions in low- and middle-income countries, including couple-based interventions. My dissertation is focused on trying to improve couple-based HIV prevention programs by examining the Couples Health CoOp, an intervention designed specifically for South African couples. My study is examining the long-term effects of this program as well as trying to explore how couples in this setting define and understand healthy intimate relationships. I’ve now successfully defended my dissertation and completed my internship at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.



Melanie Headshot

Melanie Fischer, Ph.D.
Research Associate, Heidelberg University Hospital

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2015
M.A. in Clinical Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.Sc. in Psychology, Summa Cum Laude, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany, 2009

My research focuses on romantic relationships and interpersonal aspects of individual psychopathology. I am interested in treatment outcome research as well as more basic research on dyadic processes in this context, particularly related to eating and anxiety disorders. In the past, I have used observational coding to examine context-specific partner behaviors in response to a patient’s eating disorder. More recently, I have been studying speech signal processing as a method to gain unique insights into dyadic interactions. As part of my dissertation research, I examined affect regulation processes in couples in which one partner suffers from OCD or anorexia nervosa using this methodology, and hope to gain knowledge that will ultimately help us optimize treatments. I am also involved in a number of other research projects, and in my postdoctoral position served as a couple therapist in Dr. Baucom and Dr. Bulik’s treatment study for anorexia nervosa. I thoroughly enjoy my clinical work in a variety of other settings.