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The Team

Who We Are


Maria M.Galano

Lab director

Dr. Maria M. Galano is interested in how early-life exposure to violence affects mental health and development in diverse populations. The goal of her research is to understand how various environmental factors — including family context, social support, and experiences of racism and discrimination — impact exposure to violence as well as shape the development of PTSD and related disorders following exposure to various forms of violence. She then aims to translate these findings to improve the effectiveness of current evidence-based treatments for children with PTSD, as well as develop preventive interventions for children exposed to chronic violence. Outside of work, Dr. Galano enjoys baking, sewing, and spending time outdoors.

Minji Lee

Graduate Research Assistant

Minji Lee is a PhD student in ViTAL Lab at UMass Amherst. Her research focuses on the effects of early life violence and trauma on children and families’ mental health outcomes. She is particularly interested in research tailored to reduce mental health disparities by addressing societal and cultural factors: marginalized identity (e.g., racial/ethnic minority, gender/sexual minority, refugee), perceived discrimination, and the acculturation process. Her current research is an inquiry into the extent to how racial climate and experiences of discrimination affect relationships between adverse childhood experiences, coping, and various mental health outcomes in young adults. She holds an MA and a BA in Psychology from Sungkyunkwan University. She enjoys cooking and good (and spicy) food, traveling, and musical theatre. She is also fascinated by all kinds of plants and flowers.

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Ana Uribe

Graduate Research Assistant

Ana Uribe is a PhD student in the Clinical Psychology division at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst working with Dr. Maria Galano. Ana is primarily interested in the role trauma plays in the development of psychopathology in children and adolescents. Specifically, she hopes to better understand how intimate partner violence (IPV) exposure may contribute to the development of post-traumatic stress in youth. Ana is also interested in exploring the way that relevant trauma characteristics and appraisals may influence these symptoms throughout development. In her free time, Ana enjoys catching up with friends and family, listening to podcasts, and visiting new places.

Fiona Fox

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Fiona Fox is an undergraduate research assistant in the ViTAL Lab and a Smith student majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in ethics. She is particularly interested in the biological underpinnings of trauma. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a Bioinformatics PhD focusing on epigenetic changes related to early life trauma and intergenerational trauma. Working in the ViTAL Lab has been such a fantastic opportunity due to the many different perspectives and skill sets the  diverse researchers bring to tackling a problem as vast as trauma across the lifetime.  

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Lanelle Garcia

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lanelle Garcia is a sophomore undergraduate research assistant in the ViTAL Lab majoring in Public Health, Psychology (B.S), and is earning a certificate in Civic Engagement & Service Learning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is particularly passionate on topics such as interpersonal violence, minority health, and women’s health. Lanelle enjoys engaging in crafts, playing instruments, singing, and being active during her leisure time.  


Darla Sutton

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Darla Sutton is a junior undergraduate research assistant in the ViTAL Lab. She is majoring in Biology and minoring in Psychology and is also on the pre-medical track. Her research interests include intergenerational trauma, the biological/medical components of mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder and comorbidities, and the mental health of children and underrepresented groups. Outside of academics, Darla works as an EMT and is a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters.  


Chiao-Min Chang 

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Chiao-Min Chang is a second-year undergraduate student working towards a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She further explores her academic interest in psychology by actively contributing her efforts to the projects in the ViTAL Laboratory as an undergraduate research assistant. She joined the team in 2022 to explore how exposure to different types of violence can affect individuals’ mental health at varying ages and the trauma that ensues afterwards, since she is very passionate about bringing attention to the importance of mental health, identifying the factors of violence that may affect mental health, and finding important results concerning mental health that can potentially help the society to expand their knowledge on this topic. Her effort to educate her peers and the public on the significance of mental wellbeing took place since high school, where she has been proactively advocating for students’ mental wellbeing through her positions as both a student representative in the Mental Health Advisory Committee and a president in a club she founded called Student Mental Health Committee. She aims to gain hands-on experiences in the field of research and expand her knowledge on trauma and its relationship to mental health. Outside of academia, Chiao-Min enjoys many activities that involve food, such as cooking, baking, and tasting them. She also enjoys participating in various forms of exercise like swimming and playing badminton. On top of those personal hobbies, she loves reading classic literature like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. She likes to stimulate her visual sensory system with either adventure-themed or horror-themed movies (or both!). 

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Obinna Asia

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Obinna Asia is a Junior student working towards a BS in Psychology and Public health in the Pre-PA track with a focus area in Childhood Abnormality Medicine. He joined the ViTAL Labs team as an undergraduate research assistant to gain the experience in the field of research and expand knowledge on the development of PTSD and related disorders in children across the life-span. Over the next few years, he hopes to take what he learns in this lab and apply it to clinical practices in the near future as a pediatric trauma physician assistant. Outside of this lab, he enjoys playing the Ukulele, reading books, going to the gym, doing his TA-ships, and interacting with students as an RA.


Alejandra Dilán

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Alejandra Dilán is a junior working towards a BS in Psychology and an undergraduate Research Assistant in the ViTAL Lab in the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. She is passionate about learning, self-development, and engagement with other peers. She joined the ViTAL Lab to further understand the effects of trauma across the lifespan and to reflect on ways the legal system can support traumatized people seeking justice. She is excited to continue to learn from her ViTAL lab experience and to expand her knowledge on violence and trauma.  

Lila Rosendorf

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lila Rosendorf is a Smith undergraduate student majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology. They are a research assistant in the ViTAL lab working towards building a deeper understanding of the effects of early-life trauma on development. Lila is critically interested in working with children in the future as a therapist. Outside of the lab, Lila enjoys crocheting, making digital art, drawing, and baking.


Raphaela Machado

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Raphaela is a junior undergraduate research assistant in the ViTAL Lab at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Education, a specialization in developmental disabilities and human services, and working towards a certificate in social work. Her research interests include understanding the impact of violence and trauma amongst adolescents particularly in women of color, the adverse effects of intimate partner violence/ trauma in the home, and the need for appropriate mental health resources for marginalized communities. Aside from this lab, she also works for the Center for Women and Community in Amherst, MA and am a part of the Diversity in Psychology Club. In her free time she enjoys cooking (a new hobby of hers), thrifting, and spending time with her friends. 

Chizaram Asia

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Chizaram Asia is a third-year undergraduate student working towards a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in psychology and public health at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is most interested in cognition, behavioral neuroscience, the comorbidity of maladaptive daydreaming, and the mental health of children. She joined the ViTAL Lab to learn about current methods of research used to identify consequences of violence and trauma as well as assess and understand the interventions used to improve the physiological outcomes of child victims of violence and trauma and how they may be tailored to produce better outcomes. Outside of academics, Chizaram immerses herself in music production, songwriting, sewing, and reading various works of literature. 


Grace Traboulssi

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Grace Traboulssi is a junior attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying psychology and sociology on a pre-health track and is a part of the Developmental Disabilities and Human Services program. She joined the ViTAL lab as an undergraduate research assistant, seeing it as an opportunity to gain experience in the field of research and broaden her knowledge regarding the adverse effects domestic violence & trauma have on adults and children of ethnic & racial backgrounds.

Kaitlyn Gatza

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Katie is a Junior majoring in Psychology (BA) with a focus in French studies and a minor in sociology. She is a member of UMass' SAAC E-Board, sitting in the DEI position, and a student of the ADRAP program, which explores avenues of promoting diversity in psychological research and practitioners. She joined the ViTAL as an undergraduate research assistant to learn about youth mental health and development, and its many faces throughout development. Outside of this lab, she is a member of the UMass Rowing team, loves reading, crafts, and meeting new people.

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ViTAL Lab Alumni

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Former Lab Members

  • Stevaughn Smith, Lab Manager

  • Yae Hyun (Hannah) Song, Undergraduate RA

  • Yingxin Liang, Undergraduate RA

  • Orin Rozenberg, Undergraduate RA

  • Nathaniel Price, Undergraduate RA

  • Lachelle Do, Undergraduate RA

  • Timiekka McCants, Undergraduate RA

  • Klarissa Lopez, Undergraduate RA

  • Yana Deeley, Undergraduate RA

  • June Xin Ang, Undergraduate RA

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