K Halfway: Reflections on the First Half of an NIH K23 Award


By Dr. Dani Arigo (K23 HL136657)

In January of 2018, I received the wonderful (and unexpected) news that my K23 application was in line for funding through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at NIH. The award was funded in March 2018 (see me with the notice of award while crying, right), to support my research and continued training in intensive assessment methods and physical activity promotion for midlife women (ages 40-60). Since then, I’ve transitioned a new institution, moved my home twice, shared in the growth of the CHASE Lab, and attempted to adapt our work to the realities of a global pandemic. I’m now halfway through the 5-year K23 award, and I want to share some reflections on the first stages of this process.

Planning and Tracking

Five years sounds like a long time, but I knew from the start that time could easily fly by. And the goal of a K23 award is to set you up well for future grant funding; the process of developing a large-scale grant proposal, submitting, receiving reviews, and responding to critiques can take years in itself, so it’s recommended that you start working on this next step in Year 3. (See here for some timeline descriptions.) So you really only have a little more than two years to put everything in place for the next stage, including executing major components of the training plan and collecting preliminary data. My sense is that the second half of a K seems much shorter than the first half; the first half is focused mostly on the work proposed in the award, whereas the second half includes doing the work you planned for this award and working toward the next one. (Plus any other duties you have as a faculty member, which increase over time.)

Knowing all this from the start, I wanted to avoid looking back at any point and realizing that I hadn’t maximized the time. So from the first day of the award, I’ve planned for and tracked my progress in several ways. First, I keep track of ongoing projects/papers via whiteboard and paper notebooks; I use these to plan out the next steps for each project and then transfer the plans to Google Docs that are shared with the CHASE Lab, so that the team knows what steps they can take in each domain. (My newest weapon: The LOT Planner.)

At the start of each workday, I also set tasks and goals for myself and share them via Twitter, using tweets as markers for how long I’ve been on the K. (I’ve done this since K23 Day 1, and today is K23 Day 913 – the halfway point!) This not only helps me stay accountable, but it also allows me to (1) give others insight into the day-to-day operations of a K award, and (2) get a daily reminder of where I am in the timeline, so that I don’t lose track.

Second, I track my individual progress and productivity with a Google Doc. (Also started this on K23 Day 1.) I have a section for each week where I update work done on each aspect of the K award, as well as work done in non-K domains, such as service to my department or research projects not funded by the award. Together, these include training activities, recruitment and enrollment stats for ongoing data collection, status/progress on each paper and grant application, meeting attendance, and behind-the-scenes committee work (institutional and professional). I also highlight to-do items and transfer them to my planning docs.

I update this Google Doc daily or as progress is made in each area. I sometimes post progress updates on Twitter to indicate whether I accomplished my goals each day, but I’m less consistent about that than I am about the morning agenda posts. This amount of progress monitoring probably seems like a lot, but it has advantages. It provides regular input for planning, keeps me from getting lost in the sea of specific work tasks, and makes drafting other progress reports fairly painless. For example, I send my mentors quarterly updates on progress toward each training/research goal of the K23, and I’m required to submit periodic reappointment applications until I’m tenured at my institution. And, like all NIH investigators, I submit yearly reports to my institute for their review. When it’s time to prepare each of these, I scroll back through my Google Doc and pull out the information I need. Much easier than having to track down and organize all that information when I’m writing reports! This is probably the most useful set of procedures I adopted when the K23 was funded, and I anticipate continuing them long after it’s over.

Assessing Progress

The first 2.5 years did go by quickly, but I was able to stay mostly on track, despite the disruption of re-establishing my research program at a new institution. Here is what’s happened during that time:

  • K23 Aim/Study 1 of 2 completed (10-day EMA study)
  • Development for K23 Aim/Study 2 underway (testing a new tech tool)
  • 18 publications accepted, 7 under review/revision (2 published papers were large-scale scoping reviews of topics related to my training plan, and 3 were preliminary work for Study 1)
  • (Also several rejections and several manuscripts in preparation)
  • 3 grant applications in progress as PI
  • 5 grant applications submitted as PI or co-I (no hits yet, sadly, but I’m proud of these and they’ve helped me clarify ideas)
  • 24 conference presentations
  • 3 Ph.D. students, 6 undergraduates, and 1 postdoc joined CHASE Lab at my current institution (10 publications are co-authored with these team members)
  • Service to my primary professional organization (Society of Behavioral Medicine) as chair of a special interest group and council member

I’ve also developed many exciting and productive new collaborations with wonderful colleagues, including psychologists, public health professionals, computer scientists, game designers, and physicians. I can’t wait to see where we take these.

I’m proud of these accomplishments and I’m grateful that the K23 has made many of them possible. Academia provides a constant string of rejections and critiques, and it’s so easy to get lost in what’s not happening while ignoring what is. If I’m being reflective, though, it is important to acknowledge what hasn’t gone particularly well, and what I need to keep working on. Some of this has to do with focus. If my research program were a tree, it would have many branches off of the main trunk. This isn’t uncommon, as projects lead to new questions and angles of approach, especially if the truck is a fairly broad area. Sometimes these branches lead to fruitful (and fundable) lines of inquiry. But it can be easy to let attention get pulled from the trunk to the branches, which then seem more disconnected, and not all branches are equally worthwhile. So it’s a balancing act.

And of course, I’d be happier with my progress and more confident in my future prospects if I’d had any success with new grant applications along the way. To be fair, though, I haven’t submitted that many applications – another balancing act, between executing the plans for current funding and chasing more. Proposals take time and energy to craft that then has to come from other areas. But it seems pretty clear that very successful researchers put themselves out there a lot. So perhaps the balance needs to shift just a bit more toward applying. I submitted two foundation grants this year (1 as PI, one as co-I) and I’m waiting for funding decisions; a few other proposals are in progress, so I think we’re moving in the right direction.

A huge and unexpected change this year is the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with months of protest against unspeakable police brutality in the U.S. CHASE Lab wasn’t immune to its effects; some of our internal resources were frozen, which has changed our plans a bit. But we’re so fortunate that when the pandemic hit, we were in a good place to wind down face-to-face data collection and move into data analysis and writing. So it was a productive summer, even though several papers are still in progress, and we’ve been intentional in our efforts to increase attention to diversity. And we took the opportunity to re-assess some of our participants from 2019 to determine whether what we observed pre-pandemic still holds up. But for the last few months, I’ve wondered whether we could (or should) be doing more to understand the potentially life-changing effect that these events have had on our populations of interest.

To be sure, many other researchers have taken up this charge, with better resources, ideas, and solutions than we may be able to muster. And rushing to put something else together might not end up being better than what we have done, for us or (more importantly) for our participants. So again, it’s an ongoing effort to find the right balance, and our team continually communicates ideas and feedback about whether we’ve found it. This academic year, we’re also looking forward to hiring our first work study students as research assistants, who will bring fresh ideas to the discussion.

So, We’re Halfway!

Looking back, the past 2.5 years have gone really well, and there is still a lot interesting work to do with smart and creative people. Yet, despite all of my emphasis on careful planning, tracking, and evaluation of progress, perhaps the overarching theme of the first half of the K23 has been the importance of maintaining flexibility. Even before the pandemic and civil unrest, there were many unexpected challenges, including:

  • Budget confusion that led to hiring/effort changes
  • Purchasing restrictions that almost prevented the acquisition of necessary equipment
  • Slow participant recruitment
  • Shifts in the technology landscape that required meaningful modifications to development plans
  • Limited time for additional professional development opportunities

My primary K23 mentor loves to say “it will all work out” – no matter what the situation is or how concerned I am about it – which can be more frustrating than comforting, at times. So I hate to admit it, but he’s been right so far, and I hope that I’m starting to adopt that perspective for myself.

Our New Paper: Perceptions of #Fitspiration Activity on Instagram


By Sabrina DiBisceglie, B.S. and Dr. Dani Arigo

Our new paper in Journal of Health Psychology investigates perceptions of the Instagram trend #fitspiration, with the goal of better understanding its health potential for health promotion. This study is the first in our series that focuses on how best to use fitspiration to promote physical activity. This series began in 2016 at The University of Scranton, where it was funded by the Presidential Summer Research Fellowship to then-undergraduate Sabrina DiBisceglie. (See here for our the first of our blog posts on the topic, as well; five total.) Study design and data collection involved several additional undergraduate research assistants working with Dr. Arigo’s Clinical Health Psychology Research Team (now the CHASE Lab at Rowan University).

Fitspiration is a popular trend on Instagram (and other platforms) and is intended to inspire users to engage in healthy behaviors. Yet existing research has raised concerns about the possible negative effects of fitspiration exposure on body image or self-esteem, and little is known about how Instagram users perceive or respond to fitspiration posts. This study was designed clarify the intentions and perceptions of both individuals who host fitspiration accounts (fitstagrammers) and young adults who regularly follow such accounts (followers). Importantly, the bulk of existing research on fitspiration has focused only on women; this study included both men and women, which allowed us to examine gender differences. The following infographic gives a summary; read on below for more detail.

What did we do?

Using the Instagram direct message function, we recruited Instagram users who had recently posted fitspiration content and had over 300 followers. We also recruited young adult fitspiration followers from our university. Both groups were asked to complete a short online survey. A total of 65 fitstagrammers and 270 followers completed the survey, with 20% of the overall group identifying as men.

What did we find?

The most common reasons for posting fitspiration among fitstagrammers were to inspire others and to keep themselves motivated and accountable. Followers reported that their most common reasons for following fitspiration were to learn exercises and tips that they could use for themselves, and to be inspired to exercise. Followers who said they had more frequent exposure to fitspiration content also reported exercising more often.

The largest subsets of fitstagrammers reported feeling negative at least sometimes (50%) when viewing fitspiration images, followed by feeling mostly positive (42%). The largest subsets of followers reported feeling negative at least sometimes (64%) and feeling mostly positive (11%) when viewing fitspiration posts. Followers were more likely than fitstagrammers to feel negative after viewing fitspiration posts, and women were more likely than men to feel negative after viewing posts.

When given an option to choose the most motivating post from six available images, fitstagrammers and men were most likely to select a post with the underlying message of “fitness is earned and not given.” However, followers and women were most likely to select a post that emphasized not quitting or the benefits of effort.

What does this mean?

Fitstagrammers’ intentions to motivate and inspire others are appealing to many followers, and fitspiration may offer opportunities for positive health communication and physical activity promotion. However, this study shows that fitspiration can have negative consequences (for both women and men), which may stem from social comparison processes. Users may compare their physical fitness or body shape to that of fitstagrammers, who typically are muscular and attractive, and feel discouraged or inadequate. This study also indicates that content preferences differ between users. Repeated exposure to nonpreferred content may increase the likelihood of experiencing negative consequences. 

What was it like to run this study?

“This study was a great learning experience for me as a student, but also as a fitspiration follower. Through this research process, I became more aware of my experience as a follower, and in turn have continued to question what types of posts and messaging motivate me (and ultimately, get me to exercise). Our findings show that what works for one user doesn’t necessarily work for others. Understanding these individual differences will be helpful for health professionals and other consumers like me as we try to determine how to tailor fitspiration content to meet different motivational needs and preferences.”

— Sabrina DiBisceglie

“Sabrina and I started working together when she was a second-year undergraduate. She approached me with the idea of studying fitspiration and has been the driving force behind our growing interest in this topic. This was an important first step for us, toward understanding who and under what circumstances fitspiration is helpful versus harmful. Social comparison theory can help us understand these nuances and we’ll continue to look for other perspectives that can contribute. And this was the first time our group has attempted to use Instagram to recruit participants – this is a unique and challenging process!”

— Dr. Dani Arigo

Next steps

We’re working on an experimental study to understand group and individual differences in response to distinct fitspiration messages. Understanding the effects of these message types will improve our ability to use and tailor fitspiration content to promote physical activity.

Meet @RowanCHASELab: Interview with Jennilee Bradley


Jennilee Bradley is a senior Psychology major with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. bradleyinterviewphotoShe was interviewed by Megan Brown, the CHASE Lab research coordinator.

@RowanCHASELab: Let’s start off with the basics! Since this is your last semester at Rowan, tell us about your undergraduate experience and how you were introduced to psychological research.

JB: My undergraduate experience has been a wild ride. I started college in NYC then had to return to NJ suddenly. I took a couple of half-semesters, took some time off, then transferred over to Rowan in Fall 2017. Since then, I’ve been taking classes year round to complete my degree. During my first semester here I was told about research on campus, something I never knew was a thing at any college, and at the end of one class a professor sent out an email looking for research assistants. I didn’t know anything about research, but was accepted to the team! I was very lucky in stumbling upon that chance, and it helped me get my foot in the door to look into other experiences, which is how I ended up with the CHASE lab.

@RowanCHASELab: Continuing with that theme, you mentioned you previously worked in other Rowan research labs. What was that like?

JB: It was pretty interesting! I spent a lot of time video coding and entering data. I didn’t know anything about research, and it was a great way to ease into the subject. I was able to learn a lot about it, figure out what kind of research interests me, and what opportunities I’m interested in within a research lab.

@RowanCHASELab: How does this experience relate to your specific research interests? How have they changed since then?

JB: Honestly, I got into my first lab by pure luck of having a professor who needed RAs, so I wasn’t too focused on what my research interests were. I also knew nothing about research so I had never thought about my interests! I will say, almost anything that relates to psychology interests me, so I would probably be okay with any sort of research and my interests vary widely.

That being said, I am very interested in mental illness and its biological and environmental factors. Chronic illness is also something that interests me, and how it affects different parts of everyday life and relates to mental illness as well. Those are pretty broad, so one of my more specific interests is eating disorders. I think that they are often surrounded by stigma in everyday society, and more research and information needs to be available to the public.

@RowanCHASELab: What initially got you excited to work in the CHASE lab as a research assistant?

JB: I remember receiving an email from the Psychology department mentioning the CHASE lab was looking for RAs and after reading some interests of the lab, I was thrilled to have this on campus, and even the potential opportunity to be a part of it. I am very interested in eating disorders, diet culture, and body image. All of those can tie into the lab in one way or another, so immediately it felt like a great fit for my interests. I would have been thrilled for the experience in general, but the fact that my interests lined up was even better and more rewarding.

@RowanCHASELab: What is some valuable advice you would give to other students at Rowan looking to pursue a research assistant position?

JB: My go-to advice for becoming a research assistant is to talk to your professors! Learn what psychological research is, what your interests are in it, and keep looking out for professors who are looking for RAs. I’ve found opportunities through Psychology department emails, flyers in random hallways on doors, and even just from professors I’ve previously taken classes with. Keep your eyes open, and keep up to date with professors to see if any opportunities open!

@RowanCHASELab: What is something you want to do or are excited to learn about while working in the CHASE lab?

JB: I never had a lab experience like this before, so I’m still learning about what I want to do within the field. I love being able to see how studies work, how surveys are made, how participants are screened, etc. Even the little things excite me about research! Within the CHASE lab, I am so excited about this Instagram study we just recently launched. I can’t wait to see what the data say!

@RowanCHASELab: Lastly, what are your plans for after you graduate, and how will the skills you learned in the CHASE lab help you in your future endeavors?

JB: When anyone asks me what my plans are after school, my answer is always “more school!” I plan on taking some time off, a year or two, to gain experience in the field of research and then apply to Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs. I’m still not sure exactly what I want to do within the field, but I see myself working with eating disorders in one way or another.

The CHASE lab has helped me learn all about research and helped refine my interests even more. I am able to learn how to work on a research team, all the different aspects that go into research, and how important it is to follow every instruction and pay attention to even the smallest of details. It’s a great introduction into the field of research, and I have the amazing opportunity to work on studies that I’m interested in!

Reference List for Social Comparison in Physical Activity Apps (Arigo et al., 2018; UConn mHealth Conference)


Arigo, D., Pasko, K., Plantier, N., & Montalbano, M. (2018, May.) Social Comparison Opportunities in Mobile Apps for Increasing Physical Activity: A Systematic Review. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media, Storrs, CT.

1. Yang, C. H., Maher, J. P., & Conroy, D. E. (2015). Implementation of behavior change techniques in mobile applications for physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 48, 452-455.

2. Elaheebocus, S. M. R. A., Weal, M., Morrison, L., & Yardley, L. (2018). Peer-based social media features in behavior change interventions: systematic review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20 (open access).

3. Arigo, D., Suls, J., & Smyth, J.M. (2014). Social comparisons and chronic illness: Literature synthesis and clinical implications. Health Psychology Review, 8, 154-214.

4. Gerber, J. P., Wheeler, L., & Suls, J. (2018). A social comparison theory meta-analysis 60+ years on. Psychological Bulletin, 144 (online first).

5. Anderson, I., Maitland, J., Sherwood, S., Barkhuus, L., Chalmers, M., Hall, M., . . . Muller, H. (2007). Shakra: Tracking and sharing daily activity levels with unaugmented mobile
phones. Mobile Networks and Applications, 12, 185-199.

6.  Cafazzo, J. A., Casselman, M., Hamming, N., Katzman, D. K., & Palmert, M. R. (2012).
Design of an mHealth app for the self-management of adolescent type 1 diabetes: A
pilot study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 14 (open access)

7. Colón-Semenza, C., Latham, N. K., Quintiliani, L. M., & Ellis, T. D. (2018). Peer coaching
through mHealth targeting physical activity in people with Parkinson disease:
Feasibility Study. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 6 (open access).

8.  Consolvo, S., Everitt, K., Smith, I., & Landay, J. A. (2006). Design requirements for
technologies that encourage physical activity. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on
Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI 06, 457-466.

9. Edney, S., Plotnikoff, R., Vandelanotte, C., Olds, T., Bourdeaudhuij, I. D., Ryan, J., & Maher, C. (2017). “Active Team” a social and gamified app-based physical activity intervention: Randomised controlled trial study protocol. BMC Public Health, 17 (open access).

10. Fanning, J., Roberts, S., Hillman, C. H., Mullen, S. P., Ritterband, L., & McAuley, E. (2017). A smartphone “app”-delivered randomized factorial trial targeting physical activity in adults. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 40, 712-729.

11. Glynn, L. G., Hayes, P. S., Casey, M., Glynn, F., Alvarez-Iglesias, A., Newell, J., . . . Murphy, A. W. (2013). SMART MOVE – a smartphone-based intervention to promote physical activity in primary care: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. BMC Trials, 14, 157-164.

12. Griffiths, F., Lindenmeyer, A., Powell, J., Lowe, P., & Thorogood, M. (2006). Why are health care interventions delivered over the internet? A systematic review of the published literature. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 8 (open access).

13.  Harries, T., Eslambolchilar, P., Rettie, R., Stride, C., Walton, S., & Woerden, H. C. (2016).
Effectiveness of a smartphone app in increasing physical activity amongst male adults: A
randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health,16 (open access).

14. Hebden, L., Cook, A., Ploeg, H. P., & Allman-Farinelli, M. (2012). Development of
smartphone applications for nutrition and physical activity behavior change. JMIR
Research Protocols, 1 (open access).

15.  Hurling, R., Catt, M., Boni, M. D., Fairley, B. W., Hurst, T., Murray, P., . . . Sodhi, J. S.
(2007). Using Internet and mobile phone technology to deliver an automated physical
activity program: randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet
Research, 9 (open access).

16. Kouliev, F., Durst, C., & Wickramasinghe, N. (2015). CarepariZn: Translating social
comparison elements into a mobile solution to support weight loss. Proceedings of the 48th Hawaii  International Conference on System Sciences, 3207-3216

17. Laranjo, L., Lau, A. Y., Martin, P., Tong, H. L., & Coiera, E. (2017). Use of a mobile social
networking intervention for weight management: A mixed-methods study protocol. BMJ
Open, 7 (open access).

18.  Muntaner-Mas, A., Vidal-Conti, J., Borras, P. A., Ortega, F. B., Palou, P. (2017). Effects of a Whatsapp-delivered physical activity intervention to enhance health-related physical fitness components and cardiovascular disease risk factors in older adults. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 57, 90-102.

19. Paul, L., Brewster, S., Wyke, S., McFadyen, A. K., Sattar, N., Gill, J. M., … & Gray, C. M. (2017). Increasing physical activity in older adults using STARFISH, an interactive smartphone application (app): A pilot study. Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering, 4 (open access).

20. Rovniak, L. S., Hovell, M. F., Wojcik, J. R., Winett, R. A., & Martinez-Donate, A. P. (2005).
Enhancing theoretical fidelity: An e-mail—based walking program demonstration.
American Journal of Health Promotion, 20, 85-95.

21. Tong, X., Gromala, D., Shaw, C. D., & Choo, A. (2016). A field study: Evaluating gamification approaches for promoting physical activity with motivational models of behavior changes. Proceedings of the 2016. International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction.

22. Toscos, T., Faber, A., Connelly, K., & Upoma, A. M. (2008). Encouraging physical activity
in teens: Can technology help reduce barriers to physical activity in adolescent girls?
Proceedings of the Second ICST International Conference on Pervasive Computing
Technologies for Healthcare.

23. Turner-Mcgrievy, G., & Tate, D. (2011). Tweets, apps, and pods: Results of the 6-month
mobile pounds off digitally (Mobile POD) randomized weight-loss intervention
among adults. Journal of Medical Internet Research,13 (open access).

24. U Ayubi, S. ., Parmanto, B., Branch, R., & Ding, D. (2014). A persuasive and social mHealth application for physical activity: A usability and feasibility study. JMIR MHealth and uHealth, 2 (open access).

25. van Dantzig, S., Geleijnse, G., & Halteren, A. T. (2012). Toward a persuasive mobile
application to reduce sedentary behavior. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing,17,

26. Van den Berg, M. H., Ronday, H. K., Peeters, A. J., Cessie, S. L., Giesen, F. J., Breedveld, F. C., & Vlieland, T. P. (2006). Using internet technology to deliver a home-based physical
activity intervention for patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 55, 935-945.

27.  Harvey-Berino, J., Pintauro, S., Buzzell, P., Digiulio, M., Gold, B. C., Moldovan, C., &
Ramirez, E. (2002). Does using the Internet facilitate the maintenance of weight
loss? International Journal of Obesity, 26, 1254-1260.

28. Harvey-Berino, J., Pintauro, S. J., & Gold, E. C. (2002). The feasibility of using Internet
support for the maintenance of weight loss. Behavior Modification, 26, 103-116.

29. Mckay, H. G., King, D., Eakin, E. G., Seeley, J. R., & Glasgow, R. E. (2001). The diabetes
network Internet-based physical activity intervention: A randomized pilot study.
Diabetes Care, 24, 1328-1334.

30. Pyky, R., Koivumaa-Honkanen, H., Leinonen, A. M., Ahola, R., Hirvonen, N., Enwald, H., … & Mäntysaari, M. (2017). Effect of tailored, gamified, mobile physical activity intervention on life satisfaction and self-rated health in young adolescent men: a population-based, randomized controlled trial (MOPO study). Computers in Human Behavior, 72, 13-22.

31. Webb, T. L., Joseph, J., Yardley, L., & Michie, S. (2010). Using the Internet to promote
health behavior change: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of
theoretical basis, use of behavior change techniques, and mode of delivery on
Efficacy. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 12 (open access).

32. Breton, E. R., Fuemmeler, B. F., & Abroms, L. C. (2011). Weight loss-there is an app for that! But does it adhere to evidence-informed practices? Translational Behavioral Medicine, 1, 523-529.

33. Cowan, L. T., Wagenen, S. A., Brown, B. A., Hedin, R. J., Seino-Stephan, Y., Hall, P. C., &
West, J. H. (2012). Apps of steel: Are exercise apps providing consumers with
realistic expectations? Health Education & Behavior, 40, 133-139.

34. Chou, W. Y. S., Prestin, A., Lyons, C., & Wen, K. Y. (2013). Web 2.0 for health promotion: Reviewing the current evidence. American Journal of Public Health, 103, e9-e18.

35. Lyzwinski, L. N. (2014). A systematic review and meta-analysis of mobile devices and weight loss with an intervention content analysis. Journal of Personalized Medicine, 4, 311-385.

36. Direito, A., Dale, L. P., Shields, E., Dobson, R., Whittaker, R., & Maddison, R. (2014). Do physical activity and dietary smartphone applications incorporate evidence-based behaviour change techniques?. BMC Public Health, 14, 646 (open access).

37. Conroy, D. E., Yang, C. H., & Maher, J. P. (2014). Behavior change techniques in top-ranked mobile apps for physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 46, 649-652.

38. Bort-Roig, J., Gilson, N. D., Puig-Ribera, A., Contreras, R. S., & Trost, S. G. (2014).
Measuring and influencing physical activity with smartphone technology: A
systematic review. Sports Medicine, 44, 671-686.

39. Middelweerd, A., Mollee, J. S., van der Wal, C. N., Brug, J., & Te Velde, S. J. (2014). Apps to promote physical activity among adults: a review and content analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 11, 97 (open access).

40. Payne, H. E., Lister, C., West, J. H., & Bernhardt, J. M. (2015). Behavioral functionality of mobile apps in health interventions: a systematic review of the literature. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 3 (open access).

41. Dute, D. J., Bemelmans, W. J. E., & Breda, J. (2016). Using mobile apps to promote a healthy lifestyle among adolescents and students: a review of the theoretical basis and lessons learned. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 4, (open access)

42. Schoeppe, S., Alley, S., Rebar, A. L., Hayman, M., Bray, N. A., Van Lippevelde, W., … & Vandelanotte, C. (2017). Apps to improve diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children and adolescents: a review of quality, features and behaviour change techniques. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14, 83 (open access).

43. Schoeppe, S., Alley, S., Van Lippevelde, W., Bray, N. A., Williams, S. L., Duncan, M. J., & Vandelanotte, C. (2016). Efficacy of interventions that use apps to improve diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour: a systematic review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 13, 127 (open access).

44. Arigo, D., Schumacher, L.M., Pinkasavage, E., & Butryn, M.L. (2015). Addressing barriers to physical activity among women: A feasibility study using social networking-enabled technology. Digital Health, 1, 1-12.


UofSHealth Psych on the Road: Trainee Reflections on the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting (New Orleans, April 2018)


Post by Kristen Pasko, B.S. (research coordinator) and Sabrina DiBisceglie (senior undergraduate student). This was their first opportunity to attend a professional conference. 

SBM 2018 Logo


The 2018 Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) conference was a learning opportunity distinct from any of my prior professional development experiences. Specifically, I was able to disseminate my original findings, discover cutting-edge research in health psychology, connect with pioneers in the field of similar interest, and experience growth as a budding clinical psychologist.

As someone who is about to enter graduate school, SBM provided me KP SBM 2018 2with an opportunity to grow as an independent researcher. This experience was a chance to build my network of potential collaborators, train my eye to qualities of impactful posters and presentations, and gain a deeper understanding of topics of particular interest. One observation was how specific the research projects were, which got me thinking about how generalizable these findings are, beyond the particular context of each study. From these lines of consideration, I was able to make connections across findings and develop new research questions.

I also realized that I am now a member of this professional organization, in the same learning environment among fellow beginners, intermediate and advanced individuals alike. The continued educational aspect of this field excited me. Likewise, experiencing many collaborative efforts in action was helpful, as members of SBM include healthcare professionals from a variety of disciplines besides psychology. These differences between fields provoked interactive conversation within almost every presentation to work across disciplines and perspectives for the common goal of creating research for the best healthcare outcomes.

Social Divides and Health Divides – Keynote: Sandro Galea
In a seamless narrative that led with data, this keynote addressed the connection between social and health disparities across the United States. The speaker demonstrated the extent to which life expectancy can range at the levels of country, state, and even county. For example, an individual could receive the same treatment in two different countries for a chronic illness and still have a large gap in life expectancy depending on where they reside. Furthermore, when we compare healthcare costs by country, the United States prioritizes treatment over prevention, as opposed to most other countries. Overall, the speaker acknowledged that health behaviors don’t exist in a vacuum and proposed getting social and economic forces into the healthcare conversation.

Acceptance-Based Approaches to Behavior Changes; Application to Weight Control and Physical Activity Interventions – Symposium: Jocelyn Remmert, Leah Schumacher, Courtney Stevens, Meghan Butryn
This symposium centered around the affective barriers before, during, and after engaging in physical activity. It was suggested that acceptance-based therapy (ACT) could mitigate barriers that stem from the associated uncomfortable feelings (fatigue, sweat) as many aspects of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity are not subject to change. Taken together, these findings are intuitive as ACT and psychological flexibility go hand-in-hand and are associated with the greatest long-term outcomes for physical activity. Individuals could benefit from being flexible with guidelines for physical activity for a more tailored approach to their ability and goals.     


SD SBM 2018SBM was a stimulating experience that bolstered my interest in pursuing a career in the behavioral medicine field. Sandro Galea’s opening keynote provided an eye opening presentation on social divides and health divides. His enthusiasm and fascinating findings set the tone for the following days of the conference. As this was my first professional conference, this was a great learning experiences as to how conferences work as well as an experience to be exposed to thought provoking research.

Not only did I gain knowledge on interesting topics and research, I also gained professional knowledge in terms of sharing and presenting research. Attending poster sessions as well as paper sessions allowed me to observe different ways people shared knowledge. It was exciting as a beginner to be introduced to new information alongside experts in this field. My favorite portion of the conference was the poster sessions. These sessions allowed close and personalized interaction with investigators. I was amazed by the breadth of topics that were covered throughout these sessions.

This experience has allowed me to not only gain knowledge on topics new to me, but it has also allowed me to reflect on my individual research and to reevaluate as well as add components to support and further my research. I look forward to continuing my membership with SBM and to continue to use this society to further my research interests.


Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Marissa DeStefano


Marissa DeStefano is a senior psychology major at The University of Scranton. She was interviewed by senior Katie Notarianni.

Marissa PicUofSHealthPsych: We’ll start easy. Where are you from?

MD: I’m from Martinsville, NJ. I went to Bridgewater Raritan High School.

UofSHealthPsych: What do you like most about The University of Scranton?

MD: I like the size of the campus. I love having small class sizes and walking around campus seeing friendly faces. I really feel a sense of community on campus. I also love the food! DeNaples food was one of my top reasons for choosing Scranton.

UofSHealthPsych: What activities are you involved in on campus, besides research?

MD: I am a teaching assistant for Dr. Arigo’s health psychology course (PSYC 228). I’m the vice president of APSSC (the Association for Psychological Science Student Caucus), and I’m the vice president of Psi Chi (the Psychology Honors Society). I also really enjoy going to yoga classes on campus and the gym.

UofSHealthPsych: What made you choose to study Psychology and what are you most passionate about in the field? What kind of research are you most interested in?

MD: I chose psychology because I have always been intrigued by the human mind. I wanted to learn more about how our minds work, and how I can help people with mental illness. I’m really passionate about understanding how psychological disorders develop, and what methods of treatment are available to help. I am also interested in the relationship between our mental and physical health and how they affect each other.

UofSHealthPsych: What is your favorite memory working in the Health Psychology Research Lab?

MD: I really enjoyed presenting at student scholar day last year. It was cool to see all our hard work pay off and to see the research that other students are doing. It was a good way to celebrate our accomplishments as a research team.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your plans after graduation?

MD: My plans are still uncertain! However, I plan to attend graduate school in the fall. I applied to doctoral and masters programs in clinical psychology and clinical mental health counseling. I am still waiting to hear back from a couple of schools and then I will make my decision. This summer I plan to work in a clinical setting, possibly in an inpatient or outpatient treatment center but I am still in the process of applying to jobs!

UofSHealthPsych: What advice would you give to underclassmen about being involved in Psychology and/or Research?

MD: If you are interested in gaining research experience don’t hesitate to ask! Think about what research you are interested in and see if your interests align with any of the professors in the department. I encourage you to visit different professors during office hours to chat about your research interests. Don’t give up if the first professor you ask already has a full research team, keep trying and always have a backup plan!

UofSHealthPsych on Campus: The University of Scranton’s Psychology Research Day and Women’s Health Research Panel


Contributors: Zuhri Outland, Marissa DeStefano, Kristen Pasko, Sabrina DiBisceglie, Dr. Arigo

Our research team recently participated in two events at The University of Scranton. Here are our reflections on these experiences.

APSSC Student Research Day

Every year, the University of Scranton chapter of the Association for Psychological Science Student Caucus (APSSC) hosts a series of brief presentations to promote student research in the Department of Psychology. This is a student-run event that allows psychology research labs on campus to present their research interests and accomplishments to their peers. The event is a great opportunity for students who are interested in psychology research to see how their classmates are involved and to learn more about their professors’ research interests. It is also a good opportunity for professors to advertise their work and recruit new members for their teams.

At this year’s event (February 25th), students from several labs in the psychology department presented their research to an audience of 25 students. Labs represented were those of Dr. Hogan (psychological testing), Dr. Orr and Dr. Cannon (behavioral neuroscience), Dr. Kuhle (evolutionary psychology),  and Dr. Arigo (health psychology). Students Caitlin Gilby and Arielle Williams also presented their faculty-sponsored independent research projects. Students spoke for 5-10 minutes and used slides to illustrate their work.

At the event, several members of our health psychology research team presented on the lab’s focus and the work that we have been doing this year. We described health psychology as a field, our specific interest in social influences on health, our outreach efforts (like Healthier U Day), and our ongoing study Project CHASE (College Health And Research Team APSSC RD17Social Experiences). For Project CHASE, we described how each member has contributed to the study (scheduling appointments, sending reminder emails, conducting face-to-face interviews, and managing data). Kristen, Zuhri, and Marissa also shared their independent projects, which will include data from Project CHASE and other ongoing studies. Their topics include exercise motivation, relations between different types of social media and health behaviors, and perceptions of various body types. 

After the presentations there was time for interested students to talk to researchers about their experiences. Students were interested to know how we got involved in a research lab, and how we got the opportunity to form our own independent study. These students were invited to discuss their interest with faculty members or fill out applications to become research assistants. The event was a great opportunity to share all of the work do and learn about some of the work our friends and classmates have been doing.

Women’s Health Research: Panel Discussion and Fair

On the evening of March 2nd, professors at the University of Scranton participated in a panel discussion on their research on women’s health. This event, which was presented by the Women’s Studies Program and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, was intended to showcase the excellent women’s health research on our campus and begin an interdisciplinary dialogue about women’s health research. Participating faculty members came from a variety of backgrounds and each had a different perspective on women’s health. Backgrounds were in nutrition, exercise science, psychology, political science, and nursing.

WH Research Panel

The panel: Drs. Trnka (moderator), Bachman, Grossman, Harris, Feeney, and Arigo

Dinner was provided and included an array of healthy options. The event opened with welcoming remarks from Cathy Mascelli, our Assistant Director of the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW), who spoke to the importance of examining gender differences in health outcomes. Each presenter then spoke for roughly 5-10 minutes on their research and interests in women’s health. Dr. Ann Feeney discussed her research on postpartum smoking cessation; Dr. Jessica Bachman described her findings related to postpartum weight loss interventions; Dr. Joan Grossman discussed weight gain and health risks during menopause, as well as weight loss interventions for this group; Dr. Arigo gave an overview of health psychology and our research on women’s body image, eating behavior, and physical activity; Dr. Jean Harris provided the broader context of what this research means for government policy (such as regulations on health care).

After these presentations, Dr. Jamie Trnka, the director of our Women’s Studies Program, opened the discussion to the audience for questions. She began with her own question about intersectionality and diversity, and questions from the audience focused on how best to handle issues of generalizability beyond the lab and doubt from the general public about the importance of women’s health research. It was interesting to see the

WH Research-Team2017

Dr. Arigo, Kristen, Marissa, Zuhri, and Sabrina at the table fair

commonalities and differences among each panel member and how they approached each question from her own perspective. The last part of the event was a table fair, where attendees could interact with panelists and their students and ask more detailed questions. Zuhri, Marissa, Sabrina, and Kristen represented our lab at the table fair, and students from various majors approached us to ask about our work.

The key takeaways from this discussion were not only the importance of studying women’s health, but also the idea that everything that we do as a research team is connected to so many other perspectives and outcomes. That while the research we do is fun and interesting, it can also be the research that helps someone later or forms a government policy or is part of a treatment plan. The research isn’t just a solitary act – it can affect the lives of women at all ages. This event also demonstrated the importance of creating a conversation of women’s health. With this beginning, those who participated and/or attended the event may now have a greater appreciation for the current issues in women’s health and acknowledge that there is much more to learn. We look forward to future events like this to continue the discussion.

Interested in reading more about the panelists’ research? Visit their webpages (linked above) or look them up on Google Scholar!

Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Kristen Pasko


Kristen Pasko is a senior psychology major at The University of Scranton. She was interviewed by Zuhri Outland, who recently graduated.

UofSHealthPsych: Where are you from?

RP: A little town called Skipback, PA. I like to compare it to Stars Hollow from Gilmore paskoGirls. It’s about 2 hours from here.

UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose The University of Scranton?

RP: One of my high school guidance counselors recommended it to me. They thought I would like the feel and community of the school as well as the small size. Plus, the Jesuit educational mission and ideals are similar to those of my high school, and I really liked it there.

UofSHealthPsych: What inspired you to join the Health Psychology Research Team?

RP: I took Abnormal Psychology with Dr. Arigo and enjoyed the class. From there I interviewed her for a career development course, and found out that we had similar interests (in social media, for example). She introduced me to the field of health psychology and to the lab.

UofSHealthPsych: Tell us about your experience with the Health Psychology Research Team.

RP: It has been both challenging and eye opening. I have done things that I never thought I could do before, like helping to oversee a large, complicated project with many participants. Being in the lab has expanded my interests and I have found some new abilities.

UofSHealthPsych: What’s the most valuable lesson have you learned from doing research with the team?

kzRP: Just how much goes into the research process. There is so much that you don’t see from the outside. And learning how to be professional yet personable with participants. That’s been really helpful for me, because it also strengthens my clinical skills.

UofSHealthPsych: We know that you’re doing an independent study this semester. What can you tell us about it?

RP: (Laughs) It involves Snapchat! It’s about the relationship between social media and health behaviors. I’m interested in how people respond to social media. It came from all of the work I did on the Fitspiration blog series, which was a great way to learn how to communicate research to a broad audience.

UofSHealthPsych: What did you like the most about Scranton and the research team?

RP: For Scranton, the people. For the research team, how much I’ve seen myself grow over the past two years.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your future plans?

RP: So I don’t have to miss Scranton or the team too much, actually. Right after graduation I’m staying on as a research coordinator, working with Dr. Arigo on projects related to physical activity. Eventually I plan to apply to graduate school for clinical psychology.

UofSHealthPsych Welcomes Leah Schumacher to Campus


leah1On September 20, 2016 the Health Psychology Research Team and the Psychology Club welcomed Leah Schumacher, M.S. to talk about her research and clinical experiences. Leah is currently a Ph.D candidate in clinical psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Leah’s visit featured a talk on her research into behavior lapses and difficulty with healthy eating and exercise. Before the main event, our research team was treated to a conversation about Leah’s experiences with graduate school and exploring a career path that was right for her. Leah shared her own journey with us: she explained how her  path did not take her exactly where she planned, but each experience helped lead her to a career that she is excited about. We learned the importance of finding your own path, and considering master’s degree programs to help hone in on your interests before the substantial commitment of a Ph.D. or other doctoral-level program.

Leah explained that choosing a grad program leah3is not the end of your path, and there will be opportunities to change in the future if your career goals change. (This was a relief to us!) We learned that it is important to get experiences in a variety of settings because that can help you discover what is right for you. She talked about how the best way to know if you want to pursue a particular career is when you go out into the field and try it. You may find that your experience does not match your expectations. She gave an example of working at a substance use treatment facility; although she valued the experience, it taught her that working with substance use isn’t quite right for her. An important take away message from this conversation was to make sure you try things you think you won’t like, because that could end up being what you like the most.

During this conversation, we distinguished between graduate programs in psychology and related fields. For example, the differences between programs in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or social work. She also explained the differences between a masters program versus a Ph.D. program. Ph. D programs are highly competitive, and you should not be discouraged if you do not get accepted your first time applying. We discussed that picking the best program for you should take precedence over “the best program” in other people’s minds.



Leah speaking to UofSHealthPsych, the Psychology Club, and other student guests.

After this session came Leah’s main talk, which was attended by our lab, Psychology Club members, and other interested students. Leah presented her research on “lapses” after starting a behavior change effort and how they affect people who are trying to live healthier lifestyles. Specifically, she explained that behavioral lapses occur when individuals set goals to follow a behavior modification plan and then experience a slip back to their old behavior. Some people will experience a lapse for a day or so and then continue working towards their goal, while others will quit entirely. Research in this area looks to explain the psychological contributors to behavioral lapses. Leah brought to our attention the scarcity of research in this area and the opportunities for new discoveries.

Everyone who attended the talk gained beneficial information. This included information regarding graduate school and career paths, but also on health psychology research that could be helpful for improving behavior change treatments. Overall it was a valuable learning experience for all those involved. We thank Leah for sharing her research and personal experiences with us!

Learn more about Leah’s research team at Drexel. Contributors to this post were Zuhri Outland, Kristen Pasko, Marissa DeStefano, and Dr. Arigo.

Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Coco Thomas


Coco Thomas is a senior Nursing major who joined the Clinical Health Research Team in 2015. She was interviewed by senior Psychology major Katie Notarianni.


UofSHealthPsych: Where are you from?

CT: I’m from Parsippany, New Jersey. Soon to be full time in Scranton, PA!

UofSHealthPsych: Why did you choose Scranton?

CT: When I visited the campus, it just felt right and I decided on a whim that this would be my school. It ended up working out very well for me and I am glad how it turned out.

UofSHealthPsychWhat inspired you to join the Clinical Health Lab?

CT: I wanted to do research but was uncertain about what kind. I was talking to Dr. Cannon, a Neuroscience professor, and a student said “you should talk to Dr. Arigo.” I attended the APSSC Research Day to hear her students present, and I contacted her to ask about opportunities in the lab. I’m glad that the other student pointed me in this direction.

UofSHealthPsych: Do you do anything for your health that you learned from the lab?

CT: Dr. Arigo gave me a Fitbit once to try it out. It was helpful so I could learn how to use it and trouble shoot it so I could help research participants with technical difficulties. It also helped me look at my own health from a new perspective.

UofSHealthPsychWhat advice do you have for students who might be interested in research?

CT: If you’re motivated, just go for it. It’s a good experience and definitely worthwhile. If you put in the work you will get a lot out of it. It’s a way to learn in an applied setting. Instead of just reading, you can implement concepts into action.

UofSHealthPsychWhat do you plan to do after you graduate?

CT: I am going to graduate and get my nursing license. I am going to work in the ER at Moses Taylor Hospital and continue taking classes at The University of Scranton while continuing research. Eventually I plan to apply to medical school.

UofSHealthPsychWhat will you miss most about Scranton?

CT: When I leave I will miss the opportunities that are offered here. For, example retreats and study abroad, research, and different activities on campus. I will also miss the types of people that come to Scranton. Everyone is kind and friendly and I have noticed that Scranton helps people develop good personalities and values.