Center for Arts in Medicine

Professional Development

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
  • Community Arts for Wellness in the 4th Trimester: Keturah Austin-McClendon 
  • Murals for Vaccine Confidence: Alexandra Rodriguez
  • 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

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.  

Jeffrey Pufahl, Faculty Investigator

Bio coming soon.

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, Research Associate

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.

Keturah Austin-McClendon, 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.

​2022-23 Student Research Assistants

Abel Abraham, Student Research Assistant

Abel Abraham is a second-year Health Sciences major on the pre-medicine track. From a young age, Abel was fascinated by music and its ability to transcend boundaries, connecting people from different walks of life. In addition, he is especially interested in studying how the arts can be used to reduce health disparities and promote health equity. As a future physician, he seeks to apply the findings from research to his career, using the arts to foster health, wellbeing, and connection. 

Abby McDade, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Adelaida Cortez Moreno, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

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.

Alex Rodriguez, Student Research Assistant

As a current Public Health PhD student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences concentration, Alex Rodriguez, MPH primarily pursues research with the UF Center for Arts in Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Lab which she has been a part of since 2021. Alex has had the opportunity to contribute to arts in public health research such as CDC field guides on how to utilize the arts to promote vaccine confidence as well as the Oxford Bibliography for the field of Arts in Health.

More recently, she developed a grant-funded, mural-based vaccine confidence project which was selected for a Cam Busch Award (Honorable Mention) by the National Organization of Arts in Health. Alongside her continued research at the University of Florida, Alex is working with One Nation/One Project — a national arts and community wellbeing project across the United States — as a National Research and Impact Associate.

Amparo Rodriguez, Research Assistant

Amparo is passionate about the intersection between arts and health, healthy aging, promoting health equity, and finding effective ways to address social determinants of health.

She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Health from the University of Houston and a Master of Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

A former prima ballerina, Amparo owned and managed a dance and yoga studio in Puerto Rico, while also traveling the world as a movement therapy consultant. Working in the physical therapy field, she has been treating patients for almost 10 years at the best hospitals in the Texas Medical Center.

Her experience working as an Adjunct Research Assistant for Arizona State University’s Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging triggered her love for research. She is thrilled to join the CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab.

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.

Ashley Quigley, Student Research Assistant

Ashley is a pre-medical student at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in Nutritional Science as well as a minor in Dance and a certificate in Dance in Medicine. Growing up with the discipline of ballet, she has witnessed the transformative power the arts had on her personal health. She has spent time in the lab working on multiple projects under One Nation/One Project. Ashley is passionate about exploring the correlation between artistic movement and mental and physical well being. She is grateful for the professional skills she has been able to develop and the meaningful connections she has made through being a member of the lab.. 

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, Research Assistant

Caroline Wagner-Jacobson is an alumni 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.

Cassandra Belden, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Charleigh Baab, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Cris Sanhueza, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

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.

Emily Chacko, Student Research Assistant

Emily Chacko is a first year Statistics major on the pre-medicine track. Growing up as a competitive Bollywood dancer, she has observed the healing power of the arts within her own life and is eager to further explore the intersection between the arts and medicine. She is especially passionate about exploring the arts as a medium for improving individual and community health. Through her work in the lab, she hopes to gain a more thorough understanding of the role of the arts in patient recovery. She plans to use this knowledge to prioritize the arts in patient treatment plans as a future medical professional.

Gabrielle Hammond, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Gabriella Martinez, Student Research Assistant

Gabbie Martinez is currently a Senior majoring in Art History on the Pre Med track. She was a dancer, 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 art and is very interested in the many ways art can minimize pain. She genuinely believes art has a considerable impact on public health. She plans to pursue a master's next year, during her gap year, and then apply to medical school. Being a member of the lab for three years has taught her so much about collaborative work, research skills, and more about the ever-growing arts in medicine field. 

Hannah Powell, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Jakolbia Shipmon, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Jose Santana, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

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.

Lance Pancoast, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Mallika Bhatta, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

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.  

Maya Smith, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Monish Vijayaraghavan, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Nico Manhas, 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.

Oduntan Sanmi, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

Pallavi Kantipudi, Student Research Assistant

Pallavi Kantipudi is a pre-medical student at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in Public Health. She has grown up learning various facets of Indian Classical music. She is also a member of Down to Dance, working to improve the social, motor, and cognitive skills of individuals with Down syndrome through dance. Inspired by the developmental advantages of the arts, she became interested in exploring the implications of arts in the medical field, specifically in global health communities. She is grateful for the opportunities that the lab provides to explore novel healthcare practices catered toward patient needs.

Stefany Marjani, 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.

Tessa Brinza, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Xander Boggs, Student Research Assistant

Xander Boggs is a graduate student in the Masters of Management program. He was a music major with a chemistry minor on the pre-med track in undergrad. He completed the music in medicine certificate as well as a music performance certificate for cello performance. He plays cello, guitar, piano, and bass. In the future, Xander wants to bring what he learns from arts in medicine into his practice as a medical professional to advocate for patient centered, humanized healthcare in treatment of both individuals and communities.

Yifan Chen, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon. 

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