Center for Arts in Medicine

Professional Development: Intensives, Training, Internships

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 for the Fall 2021 team are now open. Applications can now be completed online here, and must be submitted by August 30th at 2pm.  If you have any additional questions, please e-mail Nicole Morgan at

Student Research

Undergraduate Student Research
  • Suicide Prevention Through Theatre Intervention; Ariel Reich, University Scholar Awardee
  • Assessing Music Activity for Children on the Autism Spectrum; Michele Cabeza, University Scholar Awardee
  • Assessing the Impact of Dance on Menstrual Pain; Danielle Grinberg, University Scholar Awardee
Graduate Student Research
  • 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
  • Compassion Flag Project; Saundra Shanti

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 Coordinator and Graduate Assistant

Nicole Morgan is a Research Coordinator and Graduate Assistant for the Center for Arts in Medicine. Nicole is a UF alum, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Health Education and Behavior and 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.

Megan Ayotte, Graduate Assistant

Megan Ayotte is a Graduate Assistant for the Center for Arts in Medicine with a focus on the Research Database. Megan completed her undergraduate studies at the University of North Florida with a double major in History and Anthropology. After graduating, Meganserved as an AmeriCorps intern in Jacksonville, Florida doing community assessment work for an environmental non-profit. She is currently in her second year of the Museum Studies program at the University of Florida and is in the process of obtaining a certificate in Historic Preservation. She has interests in exhibition development, collections management and digital story telling.

​2020-21 Student Research Assistants

Aanchal Shah, Student Research Assistant

Aanchal Shah is a fourth year Psychology major on the Pre-Medical track with a Certificate in Dance and Medicine. She has a passion for the arts and has been dancing since the age of 2. She also loves medicine and asipres to become a physician. Aanchal has recieved both the Emerging Scholars and University Scholars Research Scholarships and is a member of the Center for Undergraduate Research Executive Board at the University of Florida. She recently founded a student organization titled Down to Dance dedicated to creating research-based dance workshops that help improve the health outcomes of individuals with Down Syndrome. 

Alexander Dela Rea, Student Research Assistant

Alex Dela Rea is a recent graduate of the University of Florida, where he received a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences along the pre-med track. He has a passion for playing guitar and previously participated in a study investigating correlations between learning how to play an instrument and improved cognitive function in children with learning disabilities. He is currently in his gap year and is working at the UF Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute as a medical scribe. In his free time, he enjoys exploring the outdoors, crafting, and playing guitar.

Alyssa Walters, Student Research Assistant

Alyssa Walters is an Art History major on the pre-med track. Alyssa has an interest in the visual arts, and how they can be used to improve the lives of others. She is also interested in how cultural differences can affect medical care, and learning how to ensure that all patients receive the same quality of care. In the future, Alyssa aspires to become a physician. 

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.

Austin Freedman, Student Research Assistant

Austin Freedman is a Nutritional Science and Botany major on the pre-med track. With a passion for the arts, Austin believes in its ability to heal and promote wellbeing. As a University Scholar Recipient, he investigated music as a treatment aid for children with ADHD, with a desire to find alternative treatments to conventional medication. Austin aspires to become a plastic surgeon, where he can utilize his artistic abilities and perspective to improve lives. In the lab, Austin is excited and eager to learn about different arts-based practices and their impacts on health.

Caroline Davidson, Student Research Assistant

Caroline Davidson is a sophomore neuroscience & spanish student interested in pursuing pediatric medicine. She is a pianist of fifteen years and a dancer of twelve years. Caroline is a recipient of the Emerging Scholars award and works as a research assistant in Burke Neuroscience lab on projects surrounding diet and memory disorders. Caroline is passionate about interdisciplinary approaches to healing and enjoys exploring the relationship between arts and health. She is most interested in how the arts can alleviate the physiological effects of toxic stress & adverse childhood experiences. Caroline hopes her experience with art in medicine will enrich her future pediatric practice. In her freetime, Caroline enjoys vegan cooking & exploring Gainesville. 

Courtney Dougherty, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Danielle DuPuis, Student Research Assistant

Danielle DuPuis is a Microbiology and Cell Science major with a minor in Spanish on the pre-med track.  She has a life-long love for the arts, especially music as she is a musician of 13 years.  She also has a passion for medicine and improving patient care, aspiring one day to become an ophthalmologist.  Furthermore, she is grateful for the opportunity to study the humanistic intersections between her two passions as a member of the CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab, as founder of the Music Meets Medicine for Veterans initiative to connect Veteran patients and healthcare musicians through the joys of music, and as a student in the UF Music in Medicine certificate program.

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 Davis, Student Research Assistant

Emily Davis is a senior Honors Biology major at the University of Pennsylvania and a professional ballet dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet. She is passionate about understanding the role of dance in promoting health and wellbeing. She has created her own customized dance for health programs through partnerships with Nemours Children's Hospital, Puentes de Salud, and Magee Rehabilitation Hospital serving pediatric patients, Latinx-immigrant families, and traumatic brain injury patients, respectively. 

Emily Dolce, Student Research Assistant

Emily is a Applied Physiology and Kinesiology major with a minor in Disabilities in Society. Her research interests include how music can improve mental health and how the arts can be used to benefit individuals with disabilities. She has a passion for helping others and aspires to become pediatric oncologist.

Emily Erdman, Student Research Assistant

Emily Erdman is a fourth-year undergraduate student dual majoring in Music and Zoology while pursuing a Music Performance certificate. Her main passion is playing the violin, which she has done for 17 years, and she is interested in discovering connections between music and both physical and mental health. She is also curious about the effects of music on the health of animals and hopes to explore this topic as she begins veterinary school in the fall of 2021./////

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 Junior 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.

Jennifer Ly, Student Research Assistant

Jennifer Ly is a graduate student with the UF Center for Arts in Medicine and has been with the research team since 2019. Her primary artistic modality is visual art where she has explored several mediums including acrylic, clay, calligraphy, photography, and videography. Jennifer's research interests include arts in community health as well as digital art practices in both community and healthcare settings.

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.

Kelviyana Walker, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Maria Kuge, Student Research Assistant

Maria is a graduate student in the Arts in Medicine MA program at UF. After joining the research team in 2016, she has found a passion in Arts in Medicine and hopes to one day do her own research exploring the relationship between music and the brain.

Morgan Helmich, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Natalie Geis, Student Research Assistant

Natalie is a fourth year undergraduate Biology major completing the Visual Arts in Medicine certificate program at the University of Florida on the pre-medical track. Volunteering by conducting art education classes for brain and spinal injured patients allowed her to discover her passion for both the art and science disciplines and has drawn her to juxtapose the two through research in the CAM Interdisciplinary Research Lab. Natalie aspires to one day utilize her artistic abilities, attention to detail, and devotion to helping others in her practice of medicine and her journey to becoming a physician.

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.

Nicole Villanueva, Student Research Assistant

Nicole Villanueva is an Arts in Medicine MA student who will be graduating in the spring. Her research interests include community art organizations, social determinants of health, the Latino population, and children. She loves anything visual art- painting, drawing, photography, and collaging. Her dream job is to facilitate community art groups and also to work on the administration team of a non-profit. 

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.

Sarah Braceras, Student Research Assistant

Sarah Braceras is a Biology and Anthropology dual degree student on the pre-medical track. Her passion for the arts is rooted in creative writing, literature, design, and watercolor. Seeking to explore the duality of science and human cultural diversity, Sarah is interested in the intersections of art, culture, medicine, and mental health at the lab. She has aspirations to become a Forensic Anthropologist. 

Savannah Simerly, Center for Arts in Medicine Intern

Savannah is an MFA student at the University of Florida's School of Theatre and Dance. Through her internship with UF's Center for Arts in Medicine she hopes to explore how theatre can educate youth on Civil and Human Rights history and function as an agent of change in society.

Stefany Marjani, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

Victoria Grusauskas, Student Research Assistant

Bio coming soon.

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