Author: Natalie Baliker

Lucy Finkelstein-Fox is the First Recipient of the Fisher Fellowship

Photo of Fisher Fellowship Award Ceremony
Pictured from left to right: Dr. Radenka Maric, UConn Vice President for Research; Dr. Jeff Fisher, InCHIP Founding Director (Emeritus); Lucy Finkelstein-Fox, recipient of the first Fisher Fellowship Award; Dr. Amy Gorin, InCHIP Director;
Photo credit: Carson Stifel

Lucy Finkelstein-Fox, a Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology, has been awarded the first Jeffrey D. Fisher Health Behavior Change Research Fellowship.

Throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies, Finkelstein-Fox’s primary research interest has been in the effects of traumatic life events and related cognitions as they carry forward into daily health.

“Ever since I was an undergrad, I’ve really been interested in trauma and how different kinds of life events – both…official traumas as well as major transitions – impact the course of people’s lives and how they make sense of what comes next,” Finkelstein-Fox says.

Crystal Park, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychological Sciences at UConn, is Finkelstein-Fox’s advisor, and the two have worked together on several projects.

“In working with Dr. Park, I’ve really had the opportunity to look at how trauma history plays into daily experiences and stress, coping, health, and emotion,” Finkelstein-Fox says.

For her dissertation, Finkelstein-Fox plans to expand on her previous studies of stress, coping, and health outcomes. She plans to explore how emotional attention biases affect meaning-making over time, as well as insomnia, sleep hygiene, and persistent depressed affect after the death of a loved one.

“I’m going to look at how the ways that we make meaning impact our mood and the quality of our sleep,” Finkelstein-Fox says.

Meaning making is when an individual thinks repetitively about a traumatic event. Finkelstein-Fox will be looking specifically at loss as the traumatic event in her study.

Finkelstein-Fox’s study will be the first to examine a comprehensive longitudinal model of reciprocal change in cognitions, mood, and sleep behaviors over the course of bereavement. Her dissertation research has the potential to inform personalized bereavement interventions in the future.

Finkelstein-Fox says the Fisher Fellowship makes reimbursement of study participants possible, which is very meaningful in her work, especially for a longitudinal study where participants are asked to discuss difficult experiences.

“This study also…is a new one for me because I’m going to be using a laboratory task of attention,” Finkelstein-Fox says. “The funds will help me to purchase the software and learn how to use it in a way that’s going be important for my career.”

Finkelstein-Fox has been a research assistant for several clinical intervention studies at InCHIP. In addition, an InCHIP seed grant funds her current pre-dissertation project.

“I’m running a project right now that looks at the ways in which undergraduate students who have chronic medical problems are able to cope flexibly with both their medical issues and their experiences as students,” Finkelstein-Fox says.

In the future, Finkelstein-Fox hopes to work within an academic medical center. She intends to continue her research on the relationship between trauma, cognitions, affect, health-promoting behaviors, and socio-cultural determinants of health.

Jeffrey D. Fisher, Ph.D., recently retired from the University of Connecticut, where he was the founding Director of the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP).

The Jeffrey D. Fisher Health Behavior Change Research Fellowship was created to honor Fisher’s legacy at UConn and to advance the research of continuing UConn graduate students working on dissertations in the health behavior field.

“[The Fisher Fellowship is intended] to provide a measure of extra support for those students to help them to succeed,” Fisher said.

The Fisher Fellowship will award a $2,000 stipend each year to a student conducting their dissertation research on health and health behavior change research. This year, the Office of the Vice President for Research contributed an additional $2,000 to the award.