Current Research Assistants

Casey Cunningham

Graduate Student

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2021

Casey Cunningham is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State. She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Psychological Sciences and Human Development and Family Sciences. Prior to coming to Penn State, Casey worked at the UConn Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy in a lab researching sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth and adult health disparities. Her research interests include public policy, low-income families, and SGM parents.



T. Berry

Graduate Student

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2021

Shandi Folmar

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Spring 2020 - Present

Shandi Folmar is a recent graduate of the Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in Psychology and minors in Sexuality and Gender Studies and German. Outside of school, Shandi enjoys video games, skincare, drawing, and watching horror movies with their cats. Shandi plans on attending graduate school and pursuing a PhD in Psychology, specializing in LGBTQIA+ research with a focus on gender diversity.

Emily Laird

Research Assistant & Independent Study

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2020 - Present

Emily is a senior undergraduate student at the Pennsylvania State University studying Spanish and Human Development and Family Studies. Outside of school, she enjoys running, reading, and spending time with friends. She hopes to pursue a career helping others and continuing to speak Spanish after graduation, possibly working in social work or studying law.

Catherine Rizzotti

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Spring 2021

Catherine is a senior studying Human Development and Family Studies and minoring in Sociology. This is her second semester working in the lab. She was previously involved in CHAARG and Health Works at Penn State. In her free time, she enjoys fitness and yoga, spending time with family and friends, and being outdoors. After graduation, Catherine plans on going to graduate school to get a Master’s in Social Work in hopes to work as a counselor in a clinical setting.

Deborah Grace

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Spring 2021

Deborah is in her fourth year as a BioBehavioral Health major and minoring in women and gender studies. In her free time she enjoys powerlifting, reading, and photography. After graduating she wants to work in research and eventually pursue a PhD program.

Isabella Taffera

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2020 - Present

Isabella is a sophomore undergraduate student at Pennsylvania State University majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Child Maltreatment and Advocacy Studies. When not in class, Isabella likes to exercise, try new recipes, and play board games with friends. After graduation, Isabella plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work.

Julianna Amore

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2021

Julianna is a Sophomore undergraduate student at the Pennsylvania State University studying Elementary and Early Childhood Education, with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. Outside of school Julianna enjoys spending time with family and friends, baking, and volunteering. After graduation, Julianna plans to attend graduate school to get her Master’s degree in Special Education.

MaryGrace Brizendine

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2021

MaryGrace Brizendine is a third-year undergraduate student at The Pennsylvania State University studying Biobehavioral Health. This is her first semester working in the lab and she is looking forward to it. Outside of her studies, she is involved in Health and Human Development Student Council, THON, and Sunny State at Penn State. She also enjoys working out, listening to music, and participating in yoga. After graduation, MaryGrace plans to attend graduate school to obtain her master’s degree in Public Health.

Emily Trimino

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2021

Emily Trimino is a sophomore undergraduate student at the Pennsylvania State University studying Psychology with a Human Development and Family Studies minor. Outside of school, Emily enjoys playing and listening to music, spending time with friends and family (and her Boston Terrier), and staying active. After graduation, Emily plans to go into the field of Developmental Psychology and work with children.

Natalie Bjorklund

Research Assistant

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Fall 2021

Natalie Bjorklund is a senior undergraduate student at Pennsylvania State University. She is a Biobehavioral health major, minoring in biology. Outside of school, Natalie is on the university’s rugby team. She also enjoys reading, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family. After graduation, Natalie intends to experience the work force and participate in more research before attending graduate school.

Have any questions? Send an email to Dr. Tornello at GenderDiverseParents@gmail.com