Research Team

IMG_5696.jpgKathryn A. Cantrell, PhD.

Kathryn completed her doctoral studies Spring of 2018 within the Department of Counseling and School Psychology at UMass Boston. Kathryn received her bachelor of arts from Austin College and her master of arts in Child Development from Tufts University. Clinically, Kathryn currently provides psychosocial care to children with chronic and terminal illnesses at Developmental Therapeutic Source, LLC, and is a counseling intern with Boston Behavioral Medicine. Likewise, Kathryn is a faculty member at Emmanuel College and Tufts University where she teaches courses on child life and child psychopathology. Kathryn’s current research position with Dr. Bacigalupe explores the intersection of pediatric psychology, technology, and narrative therapy.

untitledSadie Cathcart, BA

Sadie Cathcart is in her second year of doctoral studies in the UMass Boston’s School Psychology program. Sadie completed her undergraduate studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock and Lesley University, respectively. Sadie has worked in a variety of roles providing support to children, ranging from assisting teachers in a classroom of students with comprehensive medical treatment plans, to working in a lab investigating the learning styles and behavioral patterns of children on the autism spectrum. Sadie’s research interests include pediatric psychology, and the relationship between in-school and at-home care for children in need of additional support. She is currently working with Dr. Bacigalupe’s team investigating the social and contextual implications of chronic illness.

Rachel Chickerella, MS, 

Rachel Chickerella, LPC, QMHPRachel Chickerella is a first year counseling psychology doctoral student and obtained her masters in Mental Health Counseling at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research interests include looking into the impact that online patient communities have on individuals with chronic illness, and early intervention for children who have experiences of trauma. After obtaining her master degree, Rachel has practiced as a counselor in a community mental health setting in Chicago, working with individuals diagnosed with severe mental illness

bedihaBediha Ipekci, MS.Ed, M.Phil.Ed

Bediha is a second year doctoral student and researcher in the Department of Counseling and School Psyhchology at UMass Boston. She received her Master’s degree in Professional Counseling from the Univeristy of Pennsylvania. Prior to attending UMass Boston, Bediha served as research assistant at the Center for Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA) at University of Pennsylvania and at the Trauma and Psychophysiology Lab at the New School for Social Research. Bediha completed her first year doctoral practicum training at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Tosa Center. She is passionate about working with PTSD and depressive disorders. Bediha works with Dr. Bacigalupe on research projects related to e-health and chronic illnesses.


Marta E. Pagán-Ortiz, MS

Marta is a third year doctoral student and researcher in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology at UMass Boston. Marta received her Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University, and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Puerto Rico. Prior to attending UMass Boston, she worked as a research fellow at the Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice at Northeastern University, and as a mental health clinician at Arbour Hospital. She is currently a practicum student at McLean Hospital’s Behavioral Health Partial Program. Marta works with Dr. Bacigalupe on topics related to eHealth, populations with chronic illnesses, specifically chronic pain conditions, and crisis response during/after natural disasters.

12032953_10101474817316087_6109811872671799879_nAli Plocha, MS, PhD.

Ali earned her BA in Psychology from Boston College and her MS in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She completed her doctoral at the Counseling Psychology PhD program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2017. Ali has experience working with college students, children, adolescents, adults, and families presenting with a variety of concerns. Her dissertation explores the benchmarks that are used to define resilience among parentally bereaved college students. She challenges current operationalized definitions of resilience and examines the limits of the available grief discourse. She also makes recommendations for ways psychologists can better support these students one-on-one and at the community level.She defended her dissertation in February of 2016. Ali’s research experience with Dr. Bacigalupe, has been primarily in the field of health psychology. She’s collaborated with in studies regarding families and celiac disease, as well as cross-disciplinary research related to patients’ understanding of breast and prostate screening recommendations. She is currently working with the rest of his research team on transnational research related to how communities in Chile respond to crisis situations caused by natural disasters. The research team traveled to Chile in May 2016 and will again continue this work in the summer of 2017.


Akansha Vaswani, MS 

Akansha was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She received her BA in Psychology from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and her MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from San Diego State University. Currently she is a doctoral student in the Counseling & School Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her clinical experiences include her work in Mumbai at Ummeed Child Development Center, and in San Diego at the Center for Community Counseling & Engagement, and ReSpectrum Community. She is currently working with Dr. Bacigalupe on topics related to psychosocially based interventions for celiac disease, the influence of digital technologies on immigrant populations and the psychosocial aspects of technology mediated responses to natural disasters.