Our research team explores new methods and approaches to understand the dynamic ways that biology and environment intersect and shape mental health. Read more about the interests and backgrounds of our director, graduate students, lab manager and research assistants below, as well as our alumni and collaborators.

BEAMS Lab Director

Erika Manczak

Erika M Manczak

Assistant Professor

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Our Team

  • Graduate Students

    Samantha Scott

    Samantha Scott is a second year clinical psychology doctoral student in the BEAMS lab. She graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2017 with a BA in psychology and emphases in neuroscience and bioethics.

    After graduation, Sam launched the Stress and Psychosocial Factors in Twos (SPIT) study at Seattle Children's Hospital, which examined cortisol synchrony and attachment in children with newly diagnosed brain tumors and their parents. At Seattle Children's, Sam was also a research coordinator in the Palliative Care and Resilience (PCAR) research program where she coordinated several R01 funded studies examining the impact of a palliative care intervention—Promoting Resilience in Stress Management (PRISM)—in adolescents and young adults with advanced cancer and type 1 diabetes. Sam is primarily interested in a psychoneuroimmunology, with interest in how resilience resources, familial factors and peer factors interact with immune and biological processes to promote or protect against poor physical and mental health outcomes in both healthy adolescents and adolescents experiencing severe chronic illness.

    Summer Millwood

    Summer Millwood is a first year clinical psychology doctoral student in the BEAMS Lab. Summer graduated from University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a BA in psychology. After graduation, Summer pursued additional research experience and graduate school preparation through the Post-Baccalaureate Program in Psychological Science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). During her post-bacc program, Summer worked on several projects examining adolescent depression, psychoneuroimmunology, and interpersonal relationships. She also coordinated a NIMH-funded study on the effects of childhood maltreatment on neurocircuitry in adolescent depression.

    Summer is interested in how social relationships interact with biological processes to buffer against or confer risk for psychopathology in adolescence, with a particular focus on intergenerational transmission of depression and the effects of early life experiences.


  • Lab Manager

    Sasha Zabelski

    Sasha Zabelski is the current lab manager and research coordinator for the BEAMS Lab. She has her BA in psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder and MS from the University of Southampton in the U.K.

    Prior to this, Sasha was a research assistant for the CU Change Lab and helped run an R01 study looking at the effects of mindfulness treatment on heavy alcohol drinkers.

    Her psychology interests include the physical and psychological effects of trauma in low income and minority populations, and she hopes to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology in the future.


  • Research Assistants

    Bayley Alston

    Bayley Alston is currently a fifth-year undergraduate student at DU. He is a double-major in psychology and communications, and his future plans involve becoming involved in clinical counseling. He is from Dallas, Texas and enjoys reading, running and learning pretty much anything. He loves being apart of the BEAMS Lab because "it's pushing me outside my comfort zone with being involved in psychological research and I really love being part of this amazing team!" Fun fact about him: If he wasn't doing psychology or communications, he would be majoring in astrophysics.

    Kathleen Miller

    Kathleen Miller is a fourth-year undergraduate student from Longmont, Colorado studying biology and psychology at the University of Denver and has been an active member in the BEAMS lab since January of 2019. She plans to attend Physician Assistant school after completing her undergraduate degree and hopes to work in the field of neonatology or reproductive endocrinology. The overlap between the fields of biology and psychology has always been of particular interest to Kathleen and the research ongoing in the BEAMS lab exemplifies this intersection. Kathleen is extremely grateful to be a part of the team at BEAMS lab and is thankful to Erika Manczak, PhD, for this research opportunity!

    Sarah Thomson

    Sarah E. Thomson is currently a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Denver. She is pursuing a double major in psychology and biology with a minor in chemistry. She started at BEAMS lab in 2019. Sarah plans to continue onto medical school and eventually become an OB/GYN. She was born and raised in Aurora, Colorado. Some of her favorite things to do are skiing, hiking and scuba diving. She also loves to travel and her favorite place she has visited was Beijing, China.

    Marli Weisman

    Marli H. Weisman is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Denver. She is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Currently, she is majoring in biology and psychology with a concentration in neuroscience. She also is attaining minors in both chemistry and philosophy. Marli joined the BEAMS lab in 2019 and has continued her work as a research assistant in 2020.

  • Alumni
    • Sarah Moody
    • Madison Christensen
    • Mehvish Safdar


the Burwell Center on DU's campus

BEAMS Lab Collaborators

The BEAMS Lab is currently collaborating with other researchers in the DU Department of Psychology, the SEED program, and the Developmental Psychobiology Research Group (DPRG), as well as with researchers at Stanford University, UCLA, University of Illinois-Chicago, Northwestern University, and the Born in Bradford research group in Bradford, England.