My Research Journey

2014 - present
Master of Science in Social Psychology
degree expected 2017

Behavior, Risk Information, Genealogy, and Health Trial (BRIGHT) .

In collaboration with the Hunstman Cancer Institute, BRIGHT is an interdisciplinary project focused on people from families with a history of melanoma. The purpose of this project is to increase awareness, knowledge, and prevention behavior.

My thesis work is focused on predictors of adherence to screening behavior using mixed-methods (diary and retrospective reports) over a 1-year follow-up.

As a Graduate Research Assistant for this project I have:

  • Collected sensitive patient data via one-on-one interviews
  • Guided participants in a lab setting through tasks and administered surveys
  • Developed interview coding schemes
  • Led data cleaning and creation of project master file
  • Statistical analyses
  • Reviewed literature and presented recommendations for novel interventions.

Peer-Reviewed International First-Author Publication

Thomas, D.M., Amburgey, J., Ellis, L (2016). “Anti-Transgender Prejudice Mediates the Association of Just World Beliefs and Victim Blame Attribution ”. International Journal of Transgenderism .

Research Methods Teaching

As a Graduate Teaching Assistant for Quantitative Research Methods (Summer 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017) I have:

  • Lectured and managed lab sessions in-person
  • Developed two online courses, including book selection, course syllabus, and creation of assignments
  • Managed online course, including grading, working one-on-one with students, and uploading assignments

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nansel, T.R., Thomas, D.M., Liu, A. (2015) “Efficacy of a Behavioral Intervention for Pediatric Type 1 Diabetes Across Income ”. American Journal of Preventive Medicine .

Research Mentoring at SPSP

  • Facilitated Research Mentoring Luncheon at the 17th Annual Convention for the National Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in San Diego, CA.
  • Co-Facilitated with Charlotte Tate, Ph.D. at the 16th Annual Convention for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in Long Beach, CA

HIPAA and Ethics (CITI) Certification

I have been in annual compliance with HIPAA and ethics (CITI) training requirements for working with participants in a health care setting.

Admitted to doctoral program

Started the University of Utah Social Psychology doctoral program!


Family Management of Type 1 Diabetes in Youth (FMOD).

Randomized experimental intervention study designed to provide experiential training for families in the use of a problem-solving approach to promote improved parent-child teamwork and more effective problem-solving skills for diabetes management. A combination of in-person assessments, telephone assessments, and in-clinic data collection were utilized to assess outcomes.

As a post-baccalaureate researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the advisement of Tonja R. Nansel, Ph.D, I have:

NIH Academy Health Disparities Fellow

Received certification of in-depth training, which included working with communities to address health disparity issues and disseminating findings to the NIH Academy.

Pregnancy Eating Attributes Study (PEAS)

This observational study examines the implications of findings regarding food reward response and it's associations with self-regulatory behavior and the food environment for understanding maternal weight gains in excess of Institute of Medicine guidelines.

As a post-baccalaureate researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), my involvement included working closely with the principal investigator, post-docs, and collaborators to design and develop the project, including:

  • Developed wireframe recommendations for research study website, with the goal to attract and retain participants
  • Reviewed website throughout development to determine needed corrections and revisions
  • Conducted literature reviews to inform selection of study measures
  • Aided in the protocol development, including selection of study variables and application of related theories

Cultivating Healthful Eating in Families of Children with Type 1 Diabetes (CHEF).

This study tests the efficacy a family-based behavioral intervention designed to improve diet quality. Data collected include medical record abstraction, parent-youth interview, youth self-report surveys, parent self-report surveys, youth 3-day diet records, parent 3-day diet records, youth continuous glucose monitoring, youth body composition (DXA), and youth biomarkers including lipids, carotenoids, and markers of inflammation and oxidative stress.

As a post-baccalaureate researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), my involvement included working closely with the principal investigator, post-docs, and collaborators to:

  • Assisted with study monitoring and management
  • Assisted with data review and preliminary analyses

NEXT Generation Health Study

As a post-baccalaureate researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), my involvement included:

  • Coded data from sleep actigraphs, a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles
  • Conducted secondary analyses of nationally-representative data on adolescent problem behavior
  • Disseminated research findings via poster presentation at the National Institutes of Health Summer Poster Day 2013

National institutes of health
post-baccalaureate research

I was 1 of 11 students selected across the U.S. for the 2013 NIH UGSP Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship Program.


B.S. in Psychology
summa cum laude

Graduated 2013 from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah with a B.S. in Psychology (Brain and Behavior)!

Developed MTurk Sampling Framework for Westminster Psychology Department

To address sampling constraints in the Westminster College Psychology Department, I designed and implemented a framework that supports information gathering and reporting via MTurk.

IRB-Approved Senior Thesis.

As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar at Westminster College and under the advisement of Lesa Ellis, Ph.D., I designed, developed, sampled, collected data for, analyzed, and published my senior thesis project end-to-end. Specifically, I:

  • Developed the study protocol, including review of theoretical perspectives, determination of methods, measure selection, vignette development, and analysis plan
  • Obtained project approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB), designed to protect the rights of human participants
  • Independently discovered Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) as a cost-effective and empirically valid sampling method to overcome sampling constraints
  • Recruited 385 participants ages 18 to 72 years old from across the U.S.
  • Performed all data analyses, including multiple regression and a mediation model
  • Wrote and submitted manuscript for publication
  • Presented research findings orally at the McNair Scholars Symposium at the University of California, Berkeley, CA
  • Presented research findings via poster at the McNair Scholars Symposium at Westminster College and the 15th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Austin, TX
  • Later disseminated findings via publication in the International Journal of Transgenderism

2013: Outstanding Graduating Senior in Psychology Research Award

1 of 1 awarded from the Department of Psychology

Ethnographic Field Research Project

As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and under the advisement of Lesa Ellis, Ph.D., two colleagues and I developed an ethnographic research study from end-to-end to examine the effects of physiological arousal on adolescent aggression among a sample of youth at a local after-school program. I specifically:

  • Designed and developed research project with team members
  • Reviewed existing literature to develop coding scheme
  • Passive observation and recording
  • Documented additional information, including scene descriptions and key incidents
  • Coded and analyzed ethnographic data
  • Presented research findings orally and via poster presentation at the McNair Scholars Symposium at the University of California, Berkeley, CA

Student Instructor

Worked one-on-one and led workshops for students in Quantitative Research Methods