top of page
Circular Library

Our Research Team

Dr. Jennifer Hays-Grudo

Jennifer Hays-Grudo, PhD
Lab Co-Director

Jennifer is a Regents Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Center for Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University. She is the Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Adversity (CIRCA), an $11.3M, five-year, NIH-funded center grant that coordinates studies on the effects of trauma and poverty on children’s health and development and builds research capacity in northeast Oklahoma. From 2008 to 2013, she was a George Kaiser Family Foundation Chair in Community Medicine at OU-Tulsa, where she led the Tulsa Children’s Project, a highly integrated set of interventions to reduce the effects of intergenerational poverty and adversity. With Dr. Amanda Sheffield-Morris, she is the co-author of "Adverse and Protective Childhood Experiences: A Developmental Perspective", published in 2019 by APA Press, and is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Adversity and Resilience Science (Springer).


To learn more about CIRCA:

Dr. Amanda Sheffield-Morris

Amanda Sheffield Morris, PhD
Lab Co-Director

Amanda is the George Kaiser Family Foundation Chair and Regents Professor in the Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Morris is a developmental scientist with research interests in parenting, socio-emotional development, and risk and resilience. She is endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Research Mentor, Level IV, and is a certified Trainer of Trainers for Active Parenting programs. Dr. Morris is a Principal Investigator on the NIH funded HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study. Dr. Morris also serves on the ABCD Culture and Environment work group as part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study at LIBR. She has authored numerous articles and chapters on child and adolescent development and the neuroscience of emotion regulation and parenting. Dr. Morris is an Associate Editor for the new Journal Adversity and Resilience Science: Research and Practice published by Springer and she is a researcher for the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Adversity (CIRCA). She is also a co-author of the in-press book, Adverse and Protective Childhood Experiences: A Developmental Perspective published by the American Psychological Association.

Lana Beasley, PhD

Director of Resilience, Adversity, and Interventions

Dr. Lana Beasley is a licensed Clinical Child Psychologist and the Director of Resilience, Adversity, and Interventions at CIRCA. Dr. Beasley’s research has included working on randomized clinical trials and program evaluation all in the area of supporting children and families experiencing high-risk factors. She holds expertise in qualitative research and has been a co-investigator on many grants involving a program of research developing, implementing, evaluating, and expanding evidence-based home visiting programs serving populations facing adversity. Dr. Beasley also conducts mixed-methods research in the area of adaptation of treatments for diverse populations and examining engagement and attrition of families experiencing high-risk factors.  

Dr. Jens Jespersen

Jens Jespersen, PhD

Post-Doctoral Scholar

My name is Jens Jespersen, and I am Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, working at the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Adversity. I received my doctorate in Human Development and Family Science from OSU with an emphasis in infant mental health. My research interests are centered around how early relationships and experiences influence social and emotional development in infants and young children, and how protective experiences influence child and family development and functioning in the context of early adversity. I am a mixed-methods researcher involved with work evaluating various parenting, health, and education programs across the State of Oklahoma.

Jennifer N.H. Watrous

Jennifer N.H Watrous, MS

Graduate Student

Jennifer N.H. Watrous, M.S., is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University under Dr. Morris. In 2022, she completed her Master of Science in Leadership studies and examined the effects of physical activity on cognition in youth. Her research interests include childhood factors that contribute to or prevent mental illness later in life and multi-modal neuroimaging techniques to assess brain development. 

Courtney Cooper

Courtney Cooper

Graduate Student

Hello! My name is Courtney Cooper. I am a 2nd year graduate student in clinical psychology at OSU. My research interests are in rural mental health and early interventions for emotion dysregulation, trauma, and psychopathology in children and adolescents.

Kaylen Smith

Kaylen Smith, BS

Program Coordinator

Kaylen Smith graduated from Oklahoma State University with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Kaylen's 10+ years of experience in art and photography, as well as her fascination with the science of human behavior, led her to explore a career in marketing. Kaylen came to work with CIRCA in 2023, where she now assists with community outreach efforts and program coordination.

Jerry Root

Jerry Root, MA, SPHR

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Jerry graduated from UCO with an undergraduate degree in psychology and went on to get a master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology from the University of Tulsa. Jerry now serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for CIRCA and manages a new stress reduction program for first responders across the state called Mindful First Responders. He is also pursuing a development track to be able to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs. Jerry also serves as a board member for Resilient Payne County and as a NEAR Science mentor-trainer.

Dr. Dian Yu

Dian Yu, PhD

Assistant Professor

Dr. Dian Yu is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University. She got her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Science. Her research focuses on self-regulation development in early childhood to adolescence among low-income racial-ethnical minority families using intensive longitudinal methods.

Dr. Devin Barlaan

Devin Barlaan, PhD

Post-Doctoral Scholar

Dr. Barlaan, PhD, is a post-doctoral research fellow through the Department of Psychology at Oklahoma State University. She completed her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at The University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma and her pre-doctoral internship at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, Minnesota within the child track emphasis area. Dr. Barlaan is interested in prevention-intervention research, with a particular focus on disrupting the impact of adverse childhood experiences on later mental health outcomes. Clinical interest includes child trauma and mood disorders, parent management training, and pediatric sleep, and using empirically supported treatments to promote optimal health and wellbeing for children and their families. 

Melissa Dobson

Melissa Dobson, MS

Graduate Student

Melissa Dobson is a graduate student in the Experimental Psychology program at Oklahoma State University working under Dr. Amanda Morris. She received her B.S. in early childhood education and her M.S. in child and adolescent psychology. Her previous professional experience with children formed research interests in social-emotional development and resilience in marginalized child populations, early interventions for developmental disorders, and child-adult relationships.

Hongming Chen

Hongming Chen, MEd

Graduate Student

Hongming Chen is a graduate student working with Dr. Amanda Morris. He received his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and M.Ed. in Child Studies from Vanderbilt University. He is generally interested in early emotional development and how emotional development is informed by early life experiences (adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and protective and compensatory experiences (PACEs)) and dispositional characteristics (e.g., temperament). In his free time, he enjoys music, movies, and shows.

Haley Hall

Haley Hall, MS

Graduate Student

Cindy Swimmer

Cindy Swimmer, BSBA, CRA

Program Manager

After graduating summa cum laude with a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in HR Management and Forensic Accounting, Cindy Swimmer went on to work at Rogers State University in accounting, accreditation, and financial research administration. She then moved to the University of Tulsa as a grant manager & accountant before settling at OSU-CHS as Senior Grant Accountant in the Office of Research. In November 2018, she began work on CIRCA as the senior grant accountant as well as remaining in the Office of Research. In November 2019, she began working solely on CIRCA. She continues her work as CIRCA's program manager. She is also a certified research administrator (CRA) through RACC.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Sage Murry

Current Undergraduate Student

Madyson Kirkendoll

Current Undergraduate Student

Previous Lab Members

Post-doctoral Fellow (2018-2023)

bottom of page