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OUR TEAM

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CARA PALMER, PH.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Cara Palmer is the director of the Sleep and Development Lab and the co-director of the MSU Sleep Research Lab. Dr. Palmer joined the MSU faculty as an assistant professor in Psychology in 2018. Prior to coming to MSU, Dr. Palmer completed her doctoral training in Life-Span Developmental Psychology at West Virginia University, and a postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Houston, where she was promoted to research faculty within the Department of Psychology and the Texas Institute of Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics. Dr. Palmer has received numerous awards and grants for her research from organizations including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Sleep Research Society, and the World Sleep Society.

When not in the lab or the classroom, Dr. Palmer loves to spend time with her family and friends, travel, cook (and eat!) new foods, paint, listen to science podcasts, and stay active by hiking in the beautiful mountains of Montana.

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GIOVANNI ALVARADO, B.S.

Graduate Student

Giovanni Alvarado is a first-year graduate student from Los Angeles, California. He graduated from the University of California, Merced in 2020 where he received his Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Giovanni's current research interests revolve around the relationships between sleep, stress, anxiety, and its effects on other health outcomes. During his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends or playing and watching soccer, football and basketball. If any of those three sports are not in season, he'll watch any other sport that isn't baseball.

ASHLEIGH HILTON

Project Coordinator

After visiting MSU in the Spring of my junior year in high school I knew that this was the school that I wanted to attend. I absolutely love being involved on campus, I have been in two research labs and volunteer at the VOICE Center. I have a passion for working with children and having a stronger understanding for how to be the best mental health professional for them down the line. In my free time I love watching Criminal Minds, going on hikes/walks around Bozeman, cuddling with my cat, and reading as much as I can.

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KIRRA JOHNSON

Research Assistant

I am currently a Junior at MSU studying Psychology and Human Development, and I am from San Clemente, California. After undergrad, I hope to further my education and obtain my PhD in Clinical Psychology. I am specifically interested in the relationship between sleep and chronic mental health disorders. Outside of school, I like to swim, surf, ski and hang out with friends!

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EMMA HOWARD

Research Assistant

I’m currently a sophomore majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school where I hope to continue some kind of neural research and development. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, relaxing outdoors, and traveling as much as I can.

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JOEL KUNZELMAN

Research Assistant

I’m Joel Kunzelman and I’m a senior psychology and economics student here at Montana
State. I started the Coats4Cats club on campus and turned this charity endeavor into a
nonprofit. One day, I’d hope to be a professor and do research and teach myself. That’s
why I’m excited to develop my laboratory skills and data analytics skills in the Sleep and
Development lab this year!

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TAYLOR HUFF

Research Assistant

As a Montana native, much of my childhood was spent at our family ranch. My roots lay in a BUTTEiful hometown with the Lady of the Rockies watching overhead. Recently, I graduated with my bachelor’s in Cellular Biology and Neuroscience and hope to attend medical school in the near future. I have grown to be very passionate about animals, humans, and psychology! I am more than excited to continue learning from Dr. Palmer and assisting in the SAD lab!

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ALYSSA BONSER

Research Assistant

I am a sophomore majoring in Psychology and Cell Biology and Neuroscience hoping to attend medical school. I’m from Boise, Idaho and I love rock climbing, skiing, and all things outdoors. I’m so excited about being part of this research team!

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TESS KELLER

Research Assistant

Tess Keller is a senior undergraduate student, majoring in psychology at Montana State University. Tess is interested in how environmental and genetic factors impact Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and hopes to further her career in a similar field. Outside of school, she likes being with her dog and friends as well as doing art, cooking and hiking.

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