Our team of faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduate students develop research that generates novel understanding about intergenerational pathways of risk and resilience in diverse families. Read more about our current team, our collaborators and our lab alumni.
Faculty Director, Angela J. Narayan, PhD, LP
Angela J. Narayan, PhD, L.P.
Angela Narayan, PhD, LP, is an Associate Professor in the Clinical Child Psychology PhD Program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver (DU). She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She received her PhD in Clinical Child Psychology from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota and completed a predoctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Child Trauma Research Program at UCSF. Narayan directs a program of research that examines how childhood adversity and positive childhood experiences have enduring effects on development across adolescence, adulthood and parenthood. She is particularly interested in understanding intergenerational pathways of psychopathology and resilience in socioeconomically-, ethnically-, and culturally-diverse populations.
Dr. Narayan is currently the PI of two large studies. One study is a multi-wave prospective study of over 250 low-income Denver families that began during pregnancy and includes both gestational and non-gestational caregivers. This study assesses the lifespan and intergenerational pathways of childhood experiences and relationships into parenthood and the next generation, as well as the role of multi-system resilience in protecting against the intergenerational transmission of trauma and psychopathology from parents to children. Within this study, Dr. Narayan and her team have followed families through three- and 12-months postpartum, and are currently beginning subsequent follow-up waves during preschool and kindergarten. The second study is a large survey-based study that assessed the associations between childhood experiences and relationships and young adulthood mental health and high-risk behaviors in 1,750 U.S. young adults, including before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Broadly across both studies, Dr. Narayan's research focuses on uncovering resilience processes in development as they apply to theory, measurement, and translation of science to practice. An overarching goal of her work is to identify how basic research on family adversity, intergenerational transmission of trauma, and resilience processes may inform clinical practice, assessment and screening, and the development of practical tools for clinical practitioners and community mental health providers to use with parents, children, and families.
Dr. Narayan is a licensed clinical psychologist in Colorado and a clinical supervisor in the Center for Child and Family Psychology (CCFP) in the DU Department of Psychology. She has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and over 10 book chapters. She is on the editorial board of three peer-reviewed journals, Development and Psychopathology, Child Abuse & Neglect, and Adversity and Resilience Science. Dr. Narayan has received numerous research awards, including from the UCSF Department of Psychiatry; APA Division 56: Trauma Psychology; APA Division 37: Child and Family Policy, Maltreatment Section; and ZERO TO THREE. She has also been hired as an expert witness on topics concerning child abuse and neglect.
Caroline James, Graduate Student
Caroline James (she/hers) is a 3rd year Doctoral Student in the Child, Family and School Psychology Program at the University of Denver. She graduated in 2020 from Colorado College with her BA in Psychology.
Prior to starting at DU, she was a research assistant at the University of Otago with the Early Learning Project and a teaching resident at the Boettcher Early Childhood Center. She is currently an extern at the Front Range Treatment Center and the National Jewish Health Pediatric Neuropsychology Unit. Caroline’s clinical and research interests intersect in the areas of how families influence perinatal and early childhood development, and how identification of early childhood disability affects school trajectories.
In her spare time, Caroline can be found walking her dog in Wash Park, searching for the best espresso in the city, and going to Red Rocks as often as she can.
Arianna Lane, Graduate Student
Arianna Lane, BA, is a second-year clinical child psychology doctoral student in the PROTECT Lab. She completed her BA in Psychology at the University of Southern California in 2018. Following graduation, she spent three years coordinating research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. There, she studied associations between trauma and mental health in children with critical illness, as well as dissemination of digital interventions to improve pediatric mental health outcomes. She also served as a volunteer crisis counselor at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center.
Arianna is interested in processes of risk and resilience underlying pathways between early experiences (ACEs, BCEs) to mental health outcomes in individuals and couples. In her free time, she loves getting to explore all that Colorado has to offer.
Trudy Mickel, Graduate Student
Trudy completed her BA in Psychology with distinction at the University of Denver in 2023. During her undergraduate studies, she was involved in the Doom Lab investigating developmental pathways to cardiometabolic risk in adulthood. With Dr. Jenalee Doom, she completed a senior thesis exploring if youth sports participation influences smoking behavior, dietary quality, and physical activity patterns in adulthood using the Adolescent to Adult Health Study (Add Health). At DU, she was also a research assistant on the Care Project with Dr. Doom and Dr. Elysia Davis where she coded mother-child interactions to assess maternal sensory signals. She worked with young kids on a variety of tasks assessing executive functioning, mother-child interaction, and emotional eating. The broader aim was to understand if prenatal intervention designed to reduce maternal depressive symptoms led to better child cardiovascular health.
Trudy's current research interests as she begins her doctoral studies in the Clinical Child Psychology program include exploring Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) as a pathway to resilience, with a particular interest in the role of childhood sports environments. In her spare time, she loves adventuring with her dog and friends, running around Wash Park, and cheering on her three brothers at their athletic events.
Cassandra Svelnys, Graduate Student
Cassandra Svelnys, MA, is a fourth-year clinical child psychology doctoral student in the PROTECT lab. She received a BA in psychology from the University of Connecticut in 2016. Following graduation, she worked as a clinical research specialist with Michelle Bosquet Enlow, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital. There she coordinated two longitudinal studies examining intergenerational effects of stressful and traumatic experiences on children’s biological, cognitive and psychological development.
Cassandra is excited to continue examining how lifetime experiences and early parenting behaviors affect children’s development and how to intervene to optimize parent and child health. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and baking.
PROTECT Lab Graduate Alums:
Vicky Atzl, PhD '22, University of Denver. Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, TRANSFORM Research Center / Mount Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.
Carly Girnun, PsyD '24, University of Denver: Current Position: Clinical Psychology Predoctoral Intern, Miami-Dade Community Action and Human Services Department, Early Head Start, Miami, FL.
Jacqueline Jacobs, PsyD '24, University of Denver. Current Position: Clinical Psychology Predoctoral Intern, Right Start for Infant Mental Health at WellPower, Denver, CO.
Jill Merrick, PhD '23, University of Denver. Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Lurie Children's Hospital, Chicago, IL.
Laura River, PhD '23, University of Denver. Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Irving Harris Program in Child Development and Infant Mental Health, University of Colorado, Denver, CO.
Rebecca Spear, PsyD '22, University of Denver. Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Birch Psychology, Denver, CO.
PROTECT Lab Undergraduate Alums:
Miriam Castillo, BA '19, University of Denver. Post-bac position: ABA therapist, Firefly Autism, Denver, CO.
Emma Cole, BA '20, University of Denver. Post-bac program: Postbac Premed Program, Columbia University.
Nina Lillehei, BA '19, University of Denver. Post-bac position: Research assistant in the Neurodevelopmental Research Program, Department of Psychology, University of Denver. Graduate program: Master of social work program, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver.
Maddy Ober, BA '18, University of Denver. Post-bac position: Eating disorder Technician, the Emily Program, Minneapolis, MN. Graduate program: Clinical Psychology PsyD program, Graduate School of Professional Psychology, University of Denver.
Maria Rodriguez, BA '19, University of Denver. Post-bac position: Professional research assistant, Autoimmune Screening for Kids (ASK) Research Program, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Maddie Schmidt, BA '18, University of Denver. Post-bac position: Clinical research coordinator, UCLA Depression Grand Challenge. Graduate program: Clinical Psychology PhD program, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University.
The PROTECT Lab collaborates with other faculty within the Department of Psychology and at the DU SEED Research Center (Stress, Early Experiences, and Development).
We also have collaborations with individuals at several other institutions, including the University of Colorado, School of Medicine; the University of California-San Francisco/Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital; and the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota.