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Monika A Waszczuk, PhD

Associate Professor

Dr. Monika Waszczuk is an Associate Professor of Psychology. She completed her undergraduate training at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, UK. Afterwards, Dr. Waszczuk received her MSc and PhD in Behavioral Genetics from the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, UK. Following her graduate training, Dr. Waszczuk joined the Department of Psychiatry at Stony Brook University in New York, where she completed her postdoctoral training and conducted research as an Assistant Professor. Many of her projects at Stony Brook University have been in collaboration with the World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program. Dr. Waszczuk is an executive board member of the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) Consortium and serves as a Chair of the HiTOP Genetic Workgroup. Dr. Waszczuk joined the faculty of RFUMS in 2020.

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Research Interests

The overarching goal of Dr. Waszczuk’s research program is to explicate the role of genetic vulnerability in the etiology and co-occurrence of physical and mental health conditions. Research topic include:

  • Application of polygenic risk scores to predict severity and long-term course of PTSD, inflammation, and other health outcomes in responders to the 9/11 disaster.
  • Interplay between personality traits, health-related behaviors, and trauma/stress exposure in mental and physical health.
  • Etiology of psychiatric conditions, in particular emotional disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, PTSD), in developmental and adult populations.
  • Psychiatric comorbidity, classification, and the HiTOP model, with a focus on transdiagnostic approaches.

Connect with Dr. Waszczuk on Twitter: @MAWaszczuk

Are You a Prospective Graduate Student?

Dr. Waszczuk will be accepting a student for the 2023/2024 academic year. Students with interest in research would be a particularly good fit with the lab. Candidates from underrepresented and less traditional backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

To find out what it is like working with Dr. Waszczuk, and to gain insight into the RFU admission process and students’ perspectives more broadly, you can contact current lab members.

Current Students

Elaine Schultz, MS

Elaine Schultz, MS
Doctoral Student
elaine.schultz@my.rfums.org

Elaine is currently completing her pre-doctoral internship at the Memphis VA, specializing in Neuropsychology. Her clinical interests include providing both neuropsychological and therapeutic care for individuals who have experienced brain injury primarily in a hospital or rehabilitation setting. Her primary research interests relate to how personality characteristics influence symptoms and recovery, post brain injury, how anxiety and depressive symptoms influence cognitive functioning in adult populations, and how PTSD and poor sleep impact both physical and cognitive functioning. In her free time, she enjoys dance, spending time with her nieces, and discovering the delicious foods Chicago has to offer.

Palak Singh, MS

Palak Singh, MS
Doctoral Student
palak.singh@my.rfums.org

Palak is a sixth-year student in the Ph.D. program. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Master’s degree in neuroscience at Columbia University. Her clinical interest is in neuropsychology, and she is currently completing a neuropsychology internship at the Minneapolis VA Healthcare System. Her primary research interests include examining traumatic stress, specifically executive functioning and resiliency factors that contribute to positive psychosocial outcomes. Her dissertation examines the interacting effect of social support and polygenic risk for PTSD and depression in 9/11 responders. She is a student committee member for the Society for Clinical Neuropsychology/Division 40’s Practice Advisory Committee.

Amanda Masserlie, MS

Amanda Masserlie, MS
Doctoral Student
amanda.masserlie@my.rfums.org

Amanda is a fourth-year student in the Clinical Psychology PhD Program. She graduated from RFUMS with an MS in Clinical Counseling in 2019. Her primary research interests focus on the effects of anxiety on cognitive functioning across age groups. Her clinical interest is in adult neuropsychology, specifically movement disorders, neuro-oncology, and the cognitive effects of infectious disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling.

Krista Ekberg

Krista Ekberg
Doctoral Student
krista.ekberg@my.rfums.org
Twitter: @kristaekberg

Krista is a second-year student in the Clinical Psychology PhD Program. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a B.A in psychology. Prior to entering the RFUMS doctoral program, she worked as a research assistant at DePaul University, assisting with an NIH-funded research project investigating the prevalence of pediatric myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Following her time at DePaul, she worked as a pediatric psychometrist where she administered neuropsychological tests to children and adolescents. Broadly, Krista is interested in research investigating how genetic vulnerability factors predict psychopathology and psychosocial outcomes in pediatric populations. She is currently working on her master's thesis where she will examine the extent to which genetic vulnerabilities for high BMI and type 2 diabetes are associated with depressive symptoms and body dissatisfaction in an adolescent population. In Krista’s free time, she enjoys working out, thrifting, traveling, and cooking.

Publications:

Ekberg, K.M., Torres, C. & Jason, L.A. (2021) Parent-child discrepancies in health-related quality of life of children and adolescents with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Qual Life Res. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-021-02919-w

Anakaren Elizondo

Anakaren Elizondo
Master's Student
a.elizondocarranza@my.rfums.org
Twitter: @AnakarenElizon

Anakaren is a second-year student in the Clinical Counseling MS program on the research track. She graduated from St. Edward's University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2020. Her research interests include understanding the impact of child maltreatment on personality, the relationship between genetics and personality, as well as the physiology of the stress response and its role in child maltreatment and neglect. She currently works as a Trauma Outreach Worker at Advocate Condell. In her free time, Anakaren enjoys reading, baking, and watching Netflix.

Jessica Krawiec

Jessica Krawiec
Master's Student
jessica.krawiec@my.rfums.org

Jessica is a first-year student in the Psychology Clinical Counseling MS program. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2019, with a minor in Social Work. Jessica spent two years working as a Healthcare Technician at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana before joining RFU’s Clinical Counseling Program in 2022. Broadly, she’s interested in neurological connections to psychopathology, especially concerning the development of mood disorders. Moreso, she is interested in exploring the effect of trauma, stress, and socialization on our cognitive processes and brain structures, the ways in which intersection between genetic predispositions and childhood experiences influence the development of psychopathology, and ways to promote resiliency. Outside of school, Jessica enjoys spending her free time reading fantasy books and hopes to someday write one of her own.

Recent publications (selected)

Please see Dr. Waszczuk’s CV for a complete list of her current/previous research funding and peer-reviewed publications.

Waszczuk, M. A. (2022). Insights from Dimensional Phenotypic Definitions of PTSD and Trauma in Genome Wide Association Studies. Biological Psychiatry 91 (7), 609-611.

Imbriano, G., Waszczuk, M.A., Rajaram, S., Ruggero, C., Miao, J. ... Kotov, R., & Mohanty, A. (2022). Association of attention and memory biases for negative stimuli with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 85, 102509.

Watson, D., Levin-Aspenson, H. F., Waszczuk, M. A., Conway, C. C., Dalgleish, T. … HiTOP Utility Workgroup (2022). Validity and utility of Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP): III. Emotional dysfunction superspectrum. World Psychiatry, 21 (1), 26-54.

Rogers, A. H., Kotov, R., Vujanovic, A. A., Ruggero, C., Oltmanns, J. R., Waszczuk, M. A. … Zvolensky, M. J. (2022). Anxiety Sensitivity and Pain Experience: A Longitudinal Investigation among World Trade Center Responders. Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Kotov, R., Cicero D. C., Conway, C. C., DeYoung, C. G., Dombrovski, A. … Waszczuk, M. A. … Wright, A. G. C. (2022). Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) in Psychiatric Practice and Research. Psychological Medicine.

Waszczuk, M. A., Hopwood, C. J., Luft, B. J., Morey, L. C., Perlman, G., Ruggero, C. J., Skodol, A. E., & Kotov, R. (2021). The prognostic utility of personality traits versus past psychiatric diagnoses: Predicting future mental health and functioning. Clinical Psychological Science, 10 (4), 734-751.

Waszczuk, M. A., Miao, J., Docherty, A. R., Shabalin, A. R., Jonas, K. G., Michelini, G., & Kotov, R. (2021). General vs. Specific Vulnerabilities: Polygenic Risk Scores and Higher-Order Psychopathology Dimensions in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. Psychological Medicine.

Waszczuk, M. A. (2021). The utility of hierarchical models of psychopathology in genetics and biomarker research. World Psychiatry, 20 (1), 65-66.