Winter 2020

Meet the Lab...Laboratory for the Investigation of Health, Religiousness, and Spirituality (LIHRaS)

For the "Meet the Lab" we travel to Hope College in Holland, Michigan to interview the Laboratory for the Investigation of Health, Religiousness, and Spirituality (LIHRaS). Dr. Alyssa Cheadle is the director of the laboratory. The LIHRaS focuses on resilience; maternal health; and religious, spirituality and health. The laboratory is actively developing a new scale, collecting data, and conducting secondary data analyses. We were fortunate enough to interview Dr. Cheadle. Please read below to see Dr. Cheadle's unique approach to mentoring a laboratory with primarily undergraduate research assistants.

APS: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you study in your lab?

AC: Hello, APS! My name is Alyssa Cheadle and I am currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hope College, a liberal arts college in Holland, Michigan. At Hope, I teach Health Psychology and Research Methods and conduct research with undergraduates in my Laboratory for the Investigation of Health, Religiousness, and Spirituality (LIHRaS). I completed my PhD at UCLA in Health Psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Christine Dunkel Schetter after completing a Masters in Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School and a BA in Biology at Luther College. Broadly, my work focuses on how and why religiousness and spirituality are associated with mental and physical health.

APS: Can you give us a sneak peek on the types of questions your lab is tackling in the near future?

AC: We have three major areas of focus: religiousness, spirituality, and health; maternal health; and resilience.

Currently, we have a number of projects going on. Our major data collection effort is aimed at validating the Resilience Resource Scale that I developed with Melissa Julian, Chris Dunkel Schetter, and others at UCLA. In addition to collecting data, we conduct secondary data analyses. In a collaboration with social psychologist Daryl Van Tongeren at Hope College, we are working on an examination of the health of individuals who were previously religious, but no longer identify as such. We have a few projects on maternal and women’s health that are in the very beginning stages or in manuscript preparation. Last, one of my students, Kim Paquette, is conducting a student-driven project on how religiousness and spirituality are associated with mental health and late effects of polio in polio survivors. Look for her poster at APS in March!

APS: What do you think are some important unanswered questions in the intersect between religiousness and health?

AC: It is well established that there are associations of religiousness and spirituality with better mental and physical health. My main interest is why that is: what are the mechanisms of this relationship? Though many have been proposed, few have been systematically tested. My program of research is aimed at answering this question.

APS: Hope College is a liberal arts, baccalaureate institution. What are some ways you incorporate undergraduate students into your research program?

AC: Hope College has a strong tradition of faculty-student collaborative research. Each semester, several students volunteer their time or receive course credit to work in my lab on current projects. During my four years at Hope, I have worked with over 20 students in this way. Working with undergraduates is different because I often meet them as Sophomores or Juniors and I can’t keep them around after graduation as much as I would love to! This model necessitates developing a lab structure that allows students to learn from me and from each other while doing tasks appropriate to their level of training and ability. I approach my lab as part of my teaching just as much as it is part of my scholarship.

APS: How is the lab structured?

AC: In a semester, I have had as few as three and as many as 10 research assistants in my lab. Typically, students stay in the lab for 2-6 semesters. I like to group them into teams that include at least one senior student and one student who is new to the lab to create opportunities for peer mentorship about research and college in general. The number and size of the teams varies depending on the projects we have going on. In addition to research projects, lab members maintain a database of new literature relevant to our projects and work on professional development goals like preparing CVs and presenting research.

APS: Have you created any unique assignments for students in your courses? If so, what is your favorite one?

AC: I frequently use the APS journal Psychosomatic Medicine in my Health Psychology seminar course! In addition to course content readings, I assign one recent Psychosomatic Medicine article for each of our major course topics (about a dozen in total). All students read the articles and take turns leading the discussion of the article in pairs. If you have published an article in Psychosomatic Medicine in the last 3 years that is accessible to undergraduate readers, it is very likely I have assigned it to my class!

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From left to right: Victoria Gardner, Emily Blackwell, Kimberly Paquette, Dr. Alyssa Cheadle, Nina Cuthrell, Amy Osterbaan, and Lilly Hemesath

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From left to right: Lilly Hemesath, Nina Cuthrell, Amy Osterbaan, Emily Blackwell, Kimberly Paquette; front: Victoria Gardner

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Lab Alumni, left to right: (Alyssa Cheadle), Allison Johnson, Reagan Spindler, Samuel Kuiper

Individual lab members:

Macintosh HD:Users:Cheadle:Downloads:IMG_7977.jpg Lab member Amy Osterbaan: Amy Osterbaan is from Cascade, Michigan. She is a Junior majoring in Psychology and Exercise Science and plans to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy. She says, “I do research because I enjoy learning about health psychology and research methods through active participation!”






Macintosh HD:Users:Cheadle:Downloads:IMG_7978.jpgLab member Nina Cuthrell: Nina Cuthrell is from Bath, Michigan, “right down the street from East Lansing.” She is a Sophomore majoring in Psychology on a pre-med track to become a Pediatric Gynecologist. She says, “I do research with Dr. Cheadle because her research combines my two favorite things: health and psychology!”





Macintosh HD:Users:Cheadle:Downloads:IMG_7981.jpg Lab member Kimberly Paquette: Kimberly Paquette is from Hartland, Michigan. She is a Junior majoring in Biology and Psychology on a pre-med track and hopes to attend medical school and train in Neurology. She says, “I enjoy doing research in Dr. Cheadle's lab and especially find it interesting to analyze the relationship of religiousness and spirituality on different health outcomes.”





Macintosh HD:Users:Cheadle:Downloads:IMG_7983.jpg Lab member Victoria Gardner: Victoria Gardner is a Senior from West Bloomfield, Michigan and is majoring in Psychology with minors in Writing and Neuroscience. She enjoys learning about people, the brain, and behavior, and she hopes to continue her education and conduct more research in graduate school. She says, “I do research with Dr. Cheadle because she enjoys working on the aspects of psychological research (e.g., data collection, data analysis, dissemination), and she is curious about the area of study (i.e., resilience resources in college-aged individuals).”


Macintosh HD:Users:Cheadle:Downloads:IMG_7985.jpgLab member Emily Blackwell: Emily Blackwell is a Junior from Libertyville, Illinois majoring in Psychology and minoring in French-Speaking Culture and Society. She aspires to become an Occupational Therapist. She says, “I am a research assistant in Dr. Cheadle's lab because I am intrigued by health psychology and want to learn more about the research process as I hope to continue doing research in graduate school and beyond.”



Macintosh HD:Users:Cheadle:Downloads:IMG_7975.jpgLab member Lilly Hemesath: Lilly Hemesath is a Junior from Libertyville, Illinois. She is a Chemistry major with minors in Biology and Psychology. She aspires to go to medical school to study pediatrics or cardiology. She says, “I do research in Dr. Cheadle’s lab because I like to see the implications that religiousness/spirituality have in different aspects of one’s life.”