Center for Arts in Medicine

Professional Development: Intensives, Training, Internships, and Labs

Interdisciplinary Research Lab

CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab

The Center for Arts in Medicine's Interdisciplinary Research Lab is a highly dynamic research lab comprised of 35 undergraduate and graduate students, research associates, and faculty from the arts, health sciences and other disciplines. With faculty mentorship, students provide research assistance on an array of studies that represent collaborations across numerous disciplines. Students are also supported in designing and executing their own research. The program engages students in interdisciplinary research, helps them develop research and leadership skills, and encourages creativity in interdisciplinary research. To learn more about current and past work completed by this team and/or the Center for Arts in Medicine faculty and staff, please visit our Research and Publications page.

Join the Interdisciplinary Research Lab!

The Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab is currently conducting an array of research studies. These studies offer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to gain experience with qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Areas of research include arts and health communication, patient satisfaction, music in emergency and trauma care, and theatre and health communication. Our research assistants engage in a wide variety of tasks, including literature review, data collection, analysis, and hands-on work in the field. This dynamic team meets every Friday from 2-4:30pm and research credit is available.

Applications to join the Center for Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Research Lab in Spring 2023 are now closed. If you have any questions about future cycles or the application process, please e-mail Nicole Morgan at

Student Research

Undergraduate Student Research
  • Applied Theatre for Adult ADHD; Amanda Gerulski, University Scholar Awardee
  • Preferential Music for Pediatric Burn Patients; Nico Manhas, Medical Scholars Program
  • Suicide Prevention Through Theatre Intervention; Ariel Reich, University Scholar Awardee
  • Assessing Music Activity for Children on the Autism Spectrum; Michele Cabeza, University Scholar Awardee
Graduate Student Research
  • Graphic Medicine and Clinical Empathy Development in Pre-Health Undergraduates; Nicole Morgan, University Scholar Awardee
  • The Impact of Arts Activities on Workplace Satisfaction in Pediatric Waiting Rooms; Anna Martin
  • Amplifying the Self: Music Education and Health, Kristen Perry
  • Considering Patient Preference for Structured versus Non-Structured Art Activities, Jillian Olmo

Interdisciplinary Research Team Members

Jill Sonke, Director, Investigator

Jill Sonke is director of the Center for the Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida (UF) and Assistant Director of UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine. She serves on the faculty of the UF Center for Arts in Medicine, and is an affiliated faculty member in the School of Theatre & Dance, the Center for African Studies, the STEM Translational Communication Center, the One Health Center, and the Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration.  Jill is also an Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow in the UF Warrington College of Business, and serves on the editorial board for Arts & Health journal, and the board of Citizens for Florida Arts. Click here to view full biography.

Dr. Virginia Pesata, Investigator

Dr. Pesata is a nurse educator, nurse practitioner and researcher.  She has worked in several settings in home health, community hospitals, academic medical centers, and universities as a pediatric and family nurse practitioner, and in roles in nursing administration, research and higher education. She received a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from George Washington University and two Master of Nursing degrees as both a Family Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Her certifications include Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified and Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Her research studies and publications are related to nursing and healthcare leadership, administration, HIV, health literacy, global health, the use of the arts in health communication, and the integration of the arts in hospital settings. Click here to view full biography

Jenny Baxley Lee, Faculty Investigator

Jenny Baxley Lee, MA, BC-DMT, is a Lecturer and Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist with the University of Florida's Center for Arts in Medicine in the College of the Arts. She is affiliated faculty with the School of Theatre and Dance and the STEM Translational Communication Center and serves on the Research Committee in the College of the Arts. Jenny is an active member of the American Dance Therapy Association and served on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Dance Therapy as Book and Film Review Editor. Click here to view full biography

Dr. Dionne Champion, Faculty Investigator

Dionne's work has focused on the design and ethnographic study of learning environments that blend STEM and creative embodied learning activities, particularly for children who have experienced feelings of marginalization in STEM education settings (e.g. African Americans, girls).  She is interested in understanding the ways these populations draw on their everyday practices and use their bodies as resources.  She explores STEM engagement through making and embodied experienceto construct broader conceptualizations of cognition that substantively intertwine STEM learning and development, attending to the affective, social and emotional while broadening STEM knowledge and understanding. Click here to view full biography.  

Morgan Yacoe, Research Coordinator II

Morgan Yacoe is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, and educator. She is a Research Coordinator for the Center for Arts in Medicine. She is also an Assistant Adjunct Professor within the School of Art and Art History and Resident Artist and Curator at the 4Most Gallery. Her goal as an artist is to work creatively with people and materials to facilitate greater opportunity, awareness, and integrated learning through traversing seemly disparate disciplines. Click here to view full biography. 

Nicole Morgan, Research and Project Coordinator 

Nicole Morgan is a Research Coordinator for the Center for Arts in Medicine. Nicole is a two-time UF alum, having graduated with an MA in Arts in Medicine and a B.S. in Health Education and Behavior with a minor in Health Disparities in Society. She has experience conducting and coordinating research within the CAM Interdisciplinary Lab and at the Institute on Aging in UF’s College of Medicine. She has also designed and implemented quality improvement initiatives within UF Health’s Department of Neuromedicine and in the College of Medicine Equal Access Clinic. Her research interests include the arts in public health, as well as the connection between aesthetic experiences and wellbeing. Click here to view full biography. 

Aaron Colverson, Graduate Assistant

Aaron Colverson is a 3rd-year doctoral student in ethnomusicology, with partnering research in neuroscience. His Master's thesis explored relationships between music and empathy, documenting prosocial behaviors in a computer-based ball-tossing game while participants did and did not listen to music. He is now exploring relationships between rhythm perception, learning and performance in young (ages 18-35) and old (55+) adults. Aaron has been with the CAM research lab since 2015 and has worked on several projects, including the scoping reviews of the literature documenting the roles of the arts in health communication and wellbeing, and the systematic review on the arts and suicide prevention and survivorship. He endeavors to maintain connection with the lab throughout his doctoral career and continue to build interdisciplinary opportunity on the University of Florida campus through the diverse network of the Center for Arts in Medicine.

Miju Ku, Graduate Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Natalie Rella, Communications Specialist

Natalie graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Public Health. After graduation, Natalie worked for the Department of Children and Families as a Child Protective Investigator. Natalie was awarded a Maternal and Child Health Fellowship to study for Masters of Public Health at the University of South Florida where she specialized in community health, health communication, and health disparities. While at USF, Natalie was awarded the USF Graduate Challenge Grant and led a research team that explored the effects of paternal involvement on maternal and child health outcomes. Natalie also worked as a research coordinator for the Social Marketing Group and on a project that used SMS technology and to promote Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. After graduation, Natalie worked at UF’s GatorWell Health Promotion Services as a Health Promotion Specialist for over 6 years. During this time Natalie expanded the creative services and digital media operations for the department, implemented health communications campaigns, and provided Wellness Coaching, among (many) other things. Natalie took a professional pause to get a second human settled into the world before joining the CAM team. In any professional capacity, Natalie finds passion in work that contributes to improving individual and collective quality of life and closing the health disparities gap. Natalie is inspired to learn new and effective approaches to carry out that mission. As much as she likes to work, she likes to play: going on adventures with family and friends, making music, cooking delicious food, moving in her body, and taking time to reset in nature.

​2021-22 Student Research Assistants

Alexa Jaskiel, Student Research Assistant

Alexa Jaskiel is an undergraduate student majoring in Microbiology & Cell Science on the pre-dental track. She is also pursuing a certificate in Dance in Medicine. She has spent most of her life dancing competitively, and is passionate about a holistic approach to healthcare. Through the lab, she hopes to learn more about the role of the arts in health and wellbeing.

Alexander Cohen, Student Research Assistant

Alexander is a senior music performance major with a focus on pre-physical therapy studies at the University of Florida. Alexander is a member of the University of Florida Saxophone Studio and has been a part of numerous University of Florida ensembles including the Wind Symphony, Saxophone Orchestra, Saxophone Quartet, UF Jazz Ensemble, and Symphonic Band. He has always been fascinated by the healing powers of the arts and has research interests in music engagement and music therapy. In the future, Alexander plans on attending physical therapy school and becoming a doctor of physical therapy.

Alex Rodriguez, Student Research Assistant

Alex is a graduate student at the University of Florida where she is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health with a Graduate Certificate in Arts in Public Health.  Her research interests include Preventative Health, Arts in Public Health, and Health Disparities.

During her undergraduate at UF, Alex worked for four years in UF’s Performance Psychology Lab where she led a university funded project focused on exercise and anxiety and had the opportunity to present and publish her research.

Alex has found working in the Arts in Medicine Interdisciplinary Lab rewarding as each of the faculty and research assistants are intrinsically motivated to further the research in this field. On a personal level, Alex loves to sing and minored in Theatre during her undergraduate.

Following her masters degree, Alex intends on pursuing a PhD in Public Health with a focus on Arts in Public Health research.

Ann-Marie Derias, Student Research Assistant

Ann-Marie Derias is currently a second-year psychology major on the pre-med track working to obtain the Music in Medicine Certificate. She is very interested in the power of the arts to promote healing and enhance well-being. She has put her love of music into practice by serving as Director of Musical Development for Dream Team, an organization dedicated to brightening the lives of the children on the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Shands Children’s Hospital. In this role, she has been exploring how music can help alleviate some of the pain that the children in the units endure. She strongly believes that the arts should play an integral role in healthcare and hopes to apply her findings as a future physician.

Camille Eyman, Student Research Assistant

Camille Eyman is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida majoring in Data Science, minoring in Computer Science, and pursuing a Music and Medicine certificate. Growing up an active member of Gainesville’s artistic community, Camille has continuously  been influenced by the arts. She recognizes the power that art holds and is passionate about using that power to help others. While working in the lab she hopes to learn more about the connection between arts and health, specifically as it pertains to using the arts as a tool for education and community healing. 

Caroline Wagner, Student Research Assistant

Caroline Wagner-Jacobson is a 2nd year master’s student in the Arts in Medicine graduate program at the University of Florida. Caroline is an actor, dancer, singer, and improv performer. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in theatre from Arizona State University, she performed professionally across the United States, directed and choreographed hundreds of shows, and taught theatre classes to kids and adults. In 2009, Caroline merged her passion for the arts with her passion for helping others and dove headfirst into the field of arts in health. She has facilitated theatre engagement with hospitalized pediatric patients, low-income school children, at-risk families affected by HIV/AIDS, inpatients recovering from substance abuse, and U.S. Veterans. She believes in the power of using the arts in healthcare and community settings. Caroline is honored to be here and eager to learn from her experience as a member of the CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab.

Devin Valdez, Student Research Assistant

Devin Valdes is a Health Science major on the pre-med track. From a young age, he has been heavily involved and influenced by the arts (especially music) and loves to see how such an impactful medium can benefit patients. He is passionate about the idea of patient-centered care in medicine and is interested in exploring the applications of it-- especially in underrepresented communities. Devin is grateful for the exposure and opportunities that the research lab and the Music in Medicine certificate program have provided him and looks forward to future involvements.

Francesca Leo, Student Research Assistant

Francesca Leo is a professional flutist, music educator, MBA candidate, and performing arts health advocate. She is the founder of, an award-winning website and social media platform connecting musicians with resources to treat and prevent performance-related injuries and take care of their mental health. She has conducted a cross-sectional study on the prevalence of performance-related injuries and the stress connection in collegiate musicians and is a 50-hour certified meditation instructor and Licensed Body Mapping Educator trainee. Francesca serves on the Board of Directors for National Alliance on Mental Illness Wood County and is on the board of the National Flute Association Performance Health Care Committee and the Performing Arts Medicine Association Young Professionals Committee. She holds music performance degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and Bowling Green State University and is currently pursuing a master in business administration at Bowling Green State University. Francesca hopes to pursue a career in performing arts health research and advocacy through increasing access to injury prevention education, treatment options for injured musicians, and mental health resources. 

Gabrielle Hammond, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Gabriella Martinez, Student Research Assistant

Gabbie Martinez is currently a sophomore majoring in Art History on the Pre Med track. She was a dancer, a competitive cheerleader, and played the drums during her younger years. Therefore, the arts have been a part of her life since she can remember. She has a passion for studying art and am very interested in studying the many ways that art can minimize pain. She truly believe art has a huge impact on public health. 

Gisselle Perez, Student Research Assistant

Gisselle Perez is currently a Senior at UF majoring in Biology and completing a Music in Medicine Certificate on the Pre-Med track. Since childhood, Gisselle has always had a passion and love for the arts. Through her hobbies of the piano, singing, and theatre, she has seen first-hand how the arts have impacted her and those around her. She joined the CAM Research Lab during her Freshman year and has been in the lab as a Research Assistant ever since. Through the lab, Gisselle wishes to continue learning how the arts can contribute to both instututional and public health in the hopes that she may create and serve healthy minority communities in the future.

Janika Stokling, Student Research Assistant

Janika Stokling is an undergraduate pre-health student at the University of Florida majoring in health science and pursuing a dance in medicine certificate. As a former competitive dancer and artist, Janika is interested in the benefits of dance, movement, and art as healing. Janika is passionate about addressing health disparities in our community and exploring the impact of arts in every day life and wellness, especially within under represented communities that may not benefit equally from the healthcare industry./////

Jesseca Antoine, Student Research Assistant

Jesseca Antoine is a graduate student at the University of Florida currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology. She loves music and theatre and is dedicated to use these mediums as well as others in the arts to promote increased representation, cultural awareness, and communication in Public Health . Aside from her work in the  lab, she also work in many clinical trials as a research coordinator at UF. Her career goal is to become a physician and her research interests include health disparities, environmental safety, and global health. While working in the lab she continues to immerse herself in mixed method research practices and hopes to apply her cumulating experiences to care for others in the future.

Jose Santana, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Jordan Maurer, Student Research Assistant

Jordan Maurer is an undergraduate pre-medical student at the University of Florida majoring in Biology and minoring in both Dance and Health Disparities in Society. Jordan has grown up with major influence from the arts community, attending performing arts middle and high schools as well as dancing competitively for 12 years. Seeing first-hand how the arts have impacted her own individual health, she joined this lab hoping to see how this interaction can benefit others on a larger-scale. Jordan aspires to become a doctor and use the knowledge she has learned in this lab to improve her patients’ individual experiences by incorporating the arts once she is able to practice medicine in the future.

Katrina Cawaing, Student Research Assistant

Katrina Cawaing is a pre-medical undergraduate student at the University of Florida majoring in Microbiology, minoring in Health Disparities in Society, and pursuing a Music in Medicine certificate. As a long-time dancer and pianist of 16 years, Katrina fully embraces the arts as a powerful tool of empowerment, connection, education, medicine, and more. She is passionate about pediatrics, reproductive rights, accessible & inclusive healthcare, and the integration of diverse cultures & art. In the future, Katrina hopes to become a physician, and utilize the knowledge and experience of arts in medicine practices gained through the lab.

Kimberly Correia, Student Research Assistant

Kimberly Correia is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida dual majoring in Psychology and Communication Sciences and Disorders, as-well-as double minoring in Disabilities in Society and Deaf and Hearing Sciences. The arts have always been a fundamental part of Kimberly’s life from playing the trumpet and ukulele to dancing salsa and bachata since childhood. Seeing first-hand the impact that the arts has had on her well-being motivates her to further investigate this association. Kimberly is interested in exploring non-pharmacological treatment methods in alleviating stress or pain for individuals with varying disabilities. She is grateful for the opportunity to further cultivate awareness and knowledge of the arts in healthcare and is excited to apply her skills gained through this lab to her future career aspirations.

Kylie Wheeler, Student Research Assistant

Kylie Wheeler attends Missouri State University as a graduate student in the Master of Science Health Promotion and Wellness Management program. With her Bachlor of Arts degree in Theatre, Kylie has a strong interest in the Theatre for Health domain. The Lab provides several opportunities to contribute to this work.

Lance Pancoast, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Lavanya Durai, Student Research Assistant

Lavanya Durai is a Biology and Political science major with a minor in Sustainability Studies on the pre-med track. From a young age, she’s been involved in many forms of the arts. She discovered the CAM lab from her volunteering with the Arts in Medicine program at Shands Hospital. Lavanya plans to work in health communication before studying to become a physician. She hopes to combine her passion for science, the arts, and public health in her future and is grateful for the lab for the opportunity to research those topics!

Mariana Occhiuzzi, Student Research Assistant

Mariana is an Argentinian musician, educator, artist in health, and a graduate student in the Arts in Medicine program at UF. She is passionate about the intersection between the arts, health, and culture. She hopes to help build and develop this field in Latin America, contributing to interdisciplinary research, professionalization, and policy making.  

Naoosha Mohammad, Student Research Assistant

Naoosha Mohammad is a Microbiology and Cell Sciences major with a minor in Health Disparities in Society and a certificate in Visual Arts in Medicine. She has been involved in the arts from a young age through both visual arts and music. Through the CAM Research Laboratory and her work with the Arts in Medicine department at Shands, Naoosha has been able to combine her passion for science and holistic health care with her love of the arts. As an aspiring physician, Naoosha is especially interested in the clinical relationship between the arts and health, the use of the arts in public health education, and the ability of the arts to cultivate empathy in patient care.

Nico Manhas, Student Research Assistant

Nico Manhas is a pre-medical student pursuing a degree in Biology as well as a certificate in Music in Medicine. Along with the database division of the Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory, he evaluates and analyzes emerging research for a number of studies related to the arts and medicine. As an aspiring physician, he is particularly interested in the clinical, operative relationship between music and physiological processes, cardiac reactivity, and a range of surgical procedures. Through this laboratory, Nico is working to develop an evidence-based paradigm for utilizing traditionally unconventional treatments in developing forms of healthcare.

Nikita Kulkarni, Student Research Assistant

Nikita Kulkarni is a second year student pursuing a Health Science Major, and a Visual Arts in Medicine Certificate on the pre-medical track. She is passionate about the arts, medicine, and education. She loves working with kids, and is interested in becoming a pediatrician in the future. Through the lab she hopes to learn more about the integration of the arts in medicine to improve patient recovery process and community health.

Tessa Brinza, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Stefany Marjani, Student Research Assistant

Stefany Marjani is a transfer undergraduate student from Miami Dade Honors College to the University of Florida pursuing a major in Biology and a minor in Public Health in the pre-med track. Since she was a child, Stefany enjoyed dancing and performing, especially with and for children. She is an advocate for accessible and affordable healthcare for all. She also likes to learn how education can convey health information through the arts, and how certain actions help to reduce health disparities. Now, she is conducting a study through the University Scholars Program on pre-health students' perceptions of Health Humanities and an applied virtual experience during the pandemic. She hopes this research could support the development of the first academic program at UF and other schools. Stefany wants to continue learning how the arts and humanities influence healthcare,  and she plans to use the skills gained as an aspiring practicing physician and healthcare advocate.

Yanlin Wang, Student Research Assistant

Yanlin Wang is a recent graduate of the University of Florida, where she received B.S and M.S. in Horticultural Sciences. She is passionate about alternative therapies and she has been volunteering in the therapeutic horticulture program at Wilmot Gardens since 2018. She currently works as the Gardens & Landscape Manager at the Harn Museum of Art. She enjoys reading, hiking, painting, and cooking in her free time.

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