Student Spotlight March 2014

Lauren Zimmaro

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Lauren Zimmaro is working toward her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in the Mindfulness and Biobehavioral Health Research lab under Dr. Sandra Sephton.  She graduated magna cum laude from Wake Forest University with a major in psychology and a minor in biology.  As an undergraduate, she was an active member of Student Government, Delta Delta Delta sorority, and worked as a research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Wake Forest Medical School.  Upon graduating, she moved to Washington, DC and continued in psychology research at the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There, she performed fMRI and neuropsychological assessments with their epilepsy research teams.  While in DC, she also volunteered at a non-profit yoga studio, which in conjunction with her work in at CNMC and NIH, sparked her interest in mindfulness and the intersection of positive psychology with health psychology.  Her research with Dr. Sephton and Dr. Salmon continues along this line of inquiry, and focuses on investigating mindfulness-based interventions for patients with chronic illnesses.

“Lauren is a research powerhouse and a delight to have in the lab! As an incoming Clinical Psychology doctoral student she was handed a recently funded project to get off the ground in fulfillment of her SIGS fellowship supported research: a study on stress and circadian biology in lung cancer patients that incorporates a mindfulness-based audio intervention to reduce cancer-related distress. The work required she quickly master IRB submission, hospital credentialing, compilation of questionnaires and preparation of materials for collecting blood endocrine and immune measures, wet lab techniques; and interpersonal skills to initiate the many professional relationships with cancer surgeons, nurses, and patients necessary for success in this multifaceted study. Lauren brings precision and passion to this work. Her open-minded, flexible, and positive perspective is a delight, and her maturity graciousness allow her to share her many skills with those around her. I am truly grateful to have her in the lab!” - Dr. Sephton, Associate Professor - Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Interview:

Awards, honors, publications:

I am a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and was a member of the Psi Chi and Golden Key International honor societies as an undergraduate.  From my previous research position and my time at UofL, I have a total of sixteen co-authored abstracts, one publication, and three more currently under review.

Long term goals/aspirations:

After completing my PhD, my goal is to be a full-time faculty member at a medically affiliated university.

What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?

One of my favorite accomplishments was scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. Although I am a certified scuba diver, I remember being so scared to jump off the boat and into the choppy water since it had been quite a long time since I had been scuba diving. But once I made the leap, the experience was truly amazing. There is nothing more peaceful and meditative than being a quiet observer of a completely different world.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate school students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

I believe that one of the greatest challenges of graduate school is to not let the role of being “a graduate student” define who you are. Graduate school requires immense time and dedication, and it can be easy to get swept away in the stress of coursework, research, etc.  In the face of these expectations, having an active and fulfilling life outside of academic responsibilities helps offset some of the stress and can give perspective on the big picture. For me, this means doing things like spending time with friends, trying new restaurants in Louisville, practicing yoga, and making sure to get outside everyday. So enjoy classes and research, but be sure to enjoy your life outside of school as well!


Fun Facts

A talent you have always wanted: I always wanted to be one of those people who could dance really well.  I think it would be especially fun if I had a secret talent for break dancing!

Favorite Book: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Role Model: My parents

Favorite Vacation Destination: Anywhere with a beach, warm sunshine, and clear ocean water.

If you weren't in graduate school, what would you be doing now? I would probably be completing applications to get in to graduate school! (Although, preferably while sitting at the 'favorite vacation destination' described above!)