Who We Are

Principal Investigators

Kerri Boutelle, PhD

Kerri Boutelle, Ph.D.
Program Director
Professor of Pediatrics

D​r. Kerri Boutelle is a Professor of Pediatrics at UC San Diego and is a licensed clinical psychologist. Dr. Boutelle is also on faculty at Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego. Dr. Boutelle has specialized in weight management and eating disorders since 1992. Dr. Boutelle’s research focuses on child and adult obesity treatment, and child and adult binge eating treatment. She is interested in developing new targets for treatment, disseminating current treatments and in developing novel treatments for overeating. Dr. Boutelle's current research is focused on parent management training to reduce weight, parent and child skills for reducing binge eating, neurobiological mechanisms of overeating and basic science research on overeating. Dr. Boutelle is also a clinical specialist who works with families and individuals struggling with binge eating disorder, weight management, anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, and other gastroenterological problems.Email Dr. Boutelle

​Kyung E. (Kay) Rhee, MD, MSc, MA

​Kyung E. (Kay) Rhee, MD, MSc, MA
Pediatrician
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Rhee is a pediatric hospitalist with special interest in childhood eating and weight related disorders. Specifically, she conducts research on the behavioral, cognitive and biologic factors contributing to the development and management of childhood obesity. She has multidisciplinary training in pediatric hospital medicine, childhood obesity, eating disorders, behavior modification and therapy, parent-child interactions, parenting skills training, motivational interviewing, epidemiology, and social psychology. Her work focuses on identifying novel targets for obesity prevention and treatment including, parenting styles, parent feeding behaviors, child eating behaviors, executive functioning, genetic and epigenetic influences, and gut peptides and the microbiome.Email Dr. Rhee

Directors

Martina Cotton

Martina Cotton
Director of Administration

​Martina Cotton is currently the Project Manager for the Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research. Martina has a strong background in accounting and financial management in university settings. Martina received her undergraduate degree in Communication from UCSD. Martina is responsible for the overall management of CHEAR, as well as supervising recruitment and coordination for the CHEAR programs and studies.​

June Liang, Ph.D.

June Liang, Ph.D.
Scientific Director​

Dr. June Liang is the Scientific Director of the UCSD Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research. She received her Ph.D. from the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and completed her clinical neuropsychology internship at the UCSD/VA Psychology Internship​ Program. Her research and clinical expertise includes family-based treatment for weight loss and eating disorders, culturally competent assessment and treatment in mental health services for diverse youth with various mental health disorders, and neuropsychological assessment for both children and adults. She is also involved in treatment development for neurobiologically based family therapy at the UCSD Eating Disorders Treatment and Research Center. At the CHEAR lab, Dr. Liang is the project director of the iROC (cue exposure treatment) study and oversees research on weight loss intervention for childhood obesity and treatment development, and supervises and trains clinical trainees on assessments and interventions. Her research interests are in the development of assessments and treatments in neurocognitive correlates of pediatric obesity and obesity-related behaviors. Email Dr. Liang

chear profile pic

Shari Neul, Ph.D.
Clinical Director​

Shari is the Clinical Director and supervisor of clinic trainees. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1999 and Bachelor of Science in Psychology University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1994. She is a Licensed Psychologist since 2001. Shari's clinical interests include pediatric medical conditions impacting psychosocial functioning in children, adolescents, young adults, and family members. Shari's research interests include coping and adjustment, health-related quality of life, & behavioral interventions focused on youth and families to improve physical health, emotional well-being, and interpersonal relationships. Shari enjoys reading, playing guitar and piano, sewing, exercise, creating art, & spending time with family & friends.

Research Coordinators

Monica Montoya

Monica Montoya
Community Outreach Coordinator

Monica Montoya is a Research Coordinator at the UCSD Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research (CHEAR). She has been involved in multiple research studies focusing on cardiovascular risk factors and weight management; as well as physical activity, cancer navigation programs and eating disorders among the Latino population. She was a Peer Health Educator while completing her undergraduate studies; specializing in the areas of Nutrition, Body Image and Stress Management. She graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Psychology and is planning on pursuing higher education through completing a Master’s Degree in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling at the University of San Diego. Her research interests include studying the areas of health disparities, obesity and cancer; focusing on the Hispanic and under-served communities
Email Monica if you are interested in our treatment programs.

Crystal Deng

Crystal Deng
iROC Project Coordinator​

Crystal graduated from UCSD in 2014 with a major in Human Development and a minor in General Biology. During her time at UCSD, she volunteered more than 350 service hours in the Family Maternity Care Center at the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, assisting in the care of post-partum mothers and newborn infants. She also attended clinic trips to Ensenada, Mexico with the UCSD Flying Samaritans providing free health care to underserved patients in the area. In her senior year, she observed a group of specialists on the Feeding Team at Rady Children's Hospital working with children exhibiting medically significant feeding difficulties. She also completed an honors thesis under renowned child neurologist Dr. Doris Trauner exploring early development in infants who have suffered perinatal stroke. Crystal hopes to attend graduate school in order to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and her dream is to one day be able to watch her own patients grow up into healthy teens and young adults. In the meantime, she is enjoying her time at CHEAR as the iROC Study Coordinator. In her free time, she likes to develop healthy recipes for her favorite foods, as well as clicker train her husky-golden retriever, Ari. ​​​​

Ashley Ryan

Ashley Ryan
Adult ROC & FAB Project Coordinator

Ashley's roles at CHEAR include being the project coordinator for the Families and Breakfast study and the Adult ROC study. She also spends part of her time working as a research interventionist on the iROC study. Ashley is a Registered Marriage and Family Intern (intern # pending) and works with a small caseload in the CHEAR outpatient clinic. She completed her master's degree in Marital and Family Therapy from the University of San Diego and her undergraduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studied Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development. During her time as an undergrad, Ashley worked as a research assistant completing developmental screening assessments for infants and toddlers. She also worked as a teacher at the UIUC Child Development Laboratory. Ashley completed her graduate training at the CHEAR outpatient clinic as a marital and family therapist trainee where she gained experience working with children and families affected by eating, weight and feeding disorders. She also gained experience as a research interventionist working on the iROC, PEER, TRAC and FAB studies. Ashley also worked as the clinical intake coordinator for the CHEAR outpatient clinic. Ashley's clinical and research interests include: treatment development, obesity prevention, mind-body interventions, mindfulness, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), positive psychology and eating disorder treatment. During her free time, Ashley teaches yoga as a certified children's yoga instructor and enjoys spending time at the beach. ​

Stephanie Kessl

Stephanie Kessl
CHIC Play Project Coordinator​

After receiving a B.S. in Early Childhood Studies with a concentration as a Child Life Specialist, Stephanie moved from Illinois to California. She was a professional teacher for years before returning to school to complete a M.P.H. with an emphasis in Community Promotions and Behavioral Studies. Presently, she works with Dr. Kay Rhee on an innovative intervention focused on children between the ages of 4-6 called CHIC Play. Stephanie also spends time outside of the lab promoting healthy outcomes for children and families. In 2013 she interned for the Network for a Healthy California and is currently a board member for Postpartum Health Alliance, the Assistant to the volunteer coordinator for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, and is a writer for her local newspaper.​

Post-doctoral Fellows

Teresa Monreal, Ph.D.

Teresa Monreal, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Fellow

Teresa Monreal is a post-doctoral fellow at the UCSD Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research. Teresa completed her Ph.D. from the Experimental Psychology program at the University of California at San Diego. Her past research has examined disordered eating in the Mexican-American community, and impulsivity in relationship to disordered eating and alcohol abuse. Teresa's current interests are in understanding the role of memory and attention in eating behaviors. At CHEAR, Teresa is involved in developing, coordinating, and evaluating novel interventions for disordered eating and obe​sity.

Dawn Eichen, Ph.D.

Dawn Eichen, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Fellow​

Dr. Dawn Eichen is a post-doctoral fellow at the UCSD Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research Center. She received her Ph.D. from the Clinical Psychology program at Temple University after receiving her B.S. in Psychology at Duke University. Dr. Eichen previously worked at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis where she was involved in disseminating evidence-based treatments for eating disorders and obesity. Her research interests include understanding the commonalities and parallel processes of eating, weight, and addictive disorders to try to inform novel treatments for eating and weight disorders. As a recent transplant to San Diego, Dr. Eichen loves going to the beach and taking walks around the neighborhood.

Graduate Students

Brittany Matheson

Brittany Matheson

Brittany Matheson is a fourth-year graduate student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Duke University, and earned her master’s degree from San Diego State. Prior to joining the CHEAR team, Brittany worked at the National Institutes of Health coordinating a clinical research trial on the prevention of excess weight-gain in adolescent females. Brittany’s research interests include examining the psychosocial, neurocognitive, and familial factors related to disordered eating, as well as the prevention of weight-gain and disordered eating behaviors in children and adolescents. Brittany is mentored by Dr. Kerri Boutelle and serves as an assessor and interventionist for many of the research studies at CHEAR. Additionally, Brittany is the Co-Investigator for the TEAM UP study and is interested in studying the interplay among obesity, disordered eating, and autism. ​

Chear profile picture

Zoe Mestre

​Bio coming soon!

Staff and ​​Interventionists​ ​

Melissa Mello

Melissa Mello
Research Interventionist & Clinic Intake Coordinator​

Melissa is a research interventionist on several studies including iROC and PEER. She is a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern and provides individual and family therapy in the clinic at CHEAR. Melissa is also the outpatient Clinic Intake Coordinator. She received her Masters from the University of San Diego in Marriage and Family Therapy and her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of Washington. Melissa’s clinical and research interests include the treatment of eating disorders, picky-eating, and obesity in children, adolescents, and their families.​​

Paulina Huh

Paulina Huh
Research Interventionist

​​

Paulina Huh is one of the research interventionists on several studies at CHEAR, including iROC and PEER. She is a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, who works with individuals and families in the outpatient clinic at CHEAR. She received her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of San Diego in 2015 and her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and minor in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego in 2011. Paulina's clinical and research interests include the treatment of eating disorders, emotional eating, binge eating, and obesity in children, adolescents, and families.

Adrienne Desens

Adrienne Desens
Data Manager​

Adrienne recently graduated in 2015 from the University of California, San Diego with her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry/Chemistry. Currently, she is working as a Data Manager for the CHEAR team. Her goal is to pursue a PharmD and enter the field of clinical research as an expert on the pharmacology of particular experimental drugs. She loves biochemistry and will gladly talk all about what she's learned if you ask her. In her spare time, she enjoys spending with her friends and helping out with Calvary Chapel Murrieta's college ministry, playing video games and spending time with her cats and horses.

Lindsay McCutcheon

Lindsay McCutcheon
MFT Trainee​

Lindsay is a Marital and Family Therapist trainee at the UCSD CHEAR Clinic. Lindsay earned her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, completed UCSD's Alcohol and Drug Counseling Certification program and is currently working towards a Masters in Marital and Family Therapy at the University of San Diego. Through various unique educational, cultural and personal experiences, Lindsay developed an appreciation for human connection, empathy and resilience that lead her to counseling. Lindsay believes in a holistic approach to therapy and helping others be their happiest and healthiest selves. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys hiking, camping, snowboarding and relaxing at the beach.

Chear profile picture

Alexandria Ruhl
MFT Trainee​

Alexandra Ruhl is a graduate student in the Marital and Family Therapy Masters program at the University of San Diego. She graduated from University of Southern California with a B.S. in Communications and a minor in Occupational Therapy. She is currently a MFT Trainee at CHEAR providing outpatient treatment. Her passions surround nutrition, fitness, and health & wellness. She highly enjoys working with the obese population, helping children and families to develop healthy lifestyle changes.

Sarah Speers​​

Sarah Speers​​
Research Interventionist​

S​arah is a therapist at the CHEAR clinic, as well as a research interventionist for the iRoc and PEER studies. Sarah is currently a graduate student at the University of San Diego where she is working towards a master’s degree as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Syracuse University. Prior to becoming an MFT trainee, Sarah was a research assistant at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and a personal trainer at The Perfect Workout. She is passionate about nutrition and fitness and helping persons/families improve their overall health and quality of life. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys hiking, doing yoga and paddleboarding.​

Natalie Kurniadi

Natalie Kurniadi
Clinical Research Assistant

Natalie has been working at CHEAR for over 2 years as a research assistant and has been a great asset to our team. Natalie is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and has been involved in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders for over 13 years. Primarily interested in psychological testing, Natalie conducts assessments for IROC, PEER, and FAB studies. She served as an interventionist on IROC and is currently a behavioral coach working with teen girls on the PEER study. Bringing her solid training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to our team, Natalie is passionate about helping patients learn effective coping skills for emotion dysregulation and build a life worth living. Natalie enjoys traveling, hiking, and discovering new restaurants in her free time.

Research Assistants

Cyrielle Hacher

Cyrielle Hacher

Cyrielle has been with CHEAR since 2012 and has worked on multiple studies. She is now the Senior Student Research assistant, working primarily with the iROC study. Cyrielle is in the process of earning a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology from the University of California, San Diego. She has previous experience working with children from volunteering as a child care supervisor at the after-school Day Care at Notre Dame Academy, supervising ten to thirteen year-olds. She has volunteered at Palomar Hospital in the oncology department. She also served as the Fundraising Chair of two collegiate-level organizations at UCSD: Circle K, which serves to provide volunteer opportunities to university students within the community, as well as Super Sixers, which was both a service organization as well as an organization to help fundraise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Cyrielle aspires to earn a medical degree in order to pursue a career as a pediatrician. Cyrielle's personal interests include practicing yoga, walking her Pomeranian dog named Fifi, and making people laugh.

Wagner Peng

Wagner Peng

Wagner is currently a fourth year at UCSD and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Clinical Psychology. As an undergraduate at UCSD, he has been an active member in many clubs such as CSSA, Active Minds, and VSA. In addition, he has been elected as the upcoming Psi Chi Vice President for the 2015-16 school year. Wagner's plan is to further continue his studies for a PhD in clinical psychology where he will eventually practice psychotherapy in inpatient settings and conduct research.
At CHEAR, Wagner is a research assistant who is involved in numerous studies. The primary study he works under is iROC, but has also helped out in PEER, FAB, G-MAP, and FRESH when needed. When not at the lab, Wagner spends his time volunteering at middle schools around the Greater San Diego area. There, he spends much of his time educating 6th-8th graders in topics relating to negative impacts social media has on adolescents, destigmatizing gender stereotypes, and practicing mindfulness. On his off time, Wagner enjoys writing and listening to new music, hanging out with friends and family, and going to the beach.​

Francesca Lazzaro

Francesca Lazzaro

Francesca is an undergraduate student at UC San Diego majoring in Human Biology with a minor in Psychology. She is a research assistant at CHEAR and also the CHEAR YouTube Coordinator. Francesca has worked with CHEAR for 2 years and has been involved in many different studies, but primarily focuses on iROC. In the UCSD community, Francesca has served as an officer for 3 years on the public health organization on campus known as the Student Health Advocates where she promotes student health and well-being. Francesca has also served on the student governing body in Revelle College. In the future, Francesca plans to obtain a Master's degree in Public Health and later a medical degree in hopes of one day joining the Doctors without Borders program, or maybe even working in a non-profit organization. Outside of school and work, Francesca enjoys doing yoga and spending time at the beach.

Sarah To

Sarah To

Sarah is an undergraduate at UCSD majoring in Human Biology and Human Development. She is a student research assistant at CHEAR where she helps with data and run assessments for different studies at the lab. During her free time, she likes to volunteer around the community and explore new places. Following graduation, she plans on attending medical school to someday become a trauma surgeon. In the future, she hopes to be able to work with organizations like Doctors Out Borders that will bring aid to areas where the need is greatest. ​

Mishel Navarette

Mishel Navarette

Mishel is currently a research assistant at CHEAR and also an undergraduate UCSD Revelle student majoring in physiology and neuroscience. She is originally from the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles. She graduated and received her high school diploma from Van Nuys High School in 2013. Her interests are in healthcare. She hopes to become a physician's assistant. Her personal interests include singing, shopping, and listening to music. ​​

Stephen Trac

Stephen Trac

Stephen is an Undergraduate at UCSD majoring in Cognitive Science - Human Computer Interactions and minoring in Biology. Stephen is a research assistant at CHEAR Lab, whose responsibilities include tasks such as administering cognitive assessments, managing a high level of organization within the lab, and data focused programming. Outside of CHEAR lab Stephen manages the UCSD Gameroom and works as a stagehand at the UCSD Mandeville Auditorium. In the past Stephen has volunteered in Coulson's Lab performing Computational Cognitive Assessments with a primary focus on gestures. In terms of research, Stephen is interested in how we can use computational tools to figure out the functions of the human cognition and apply that knowledge to the theory of design. In his free time, Stephen enjoys exploring his many interests such as watching documentaries, cooking, practicing calligraphy, and photography.​​​​

Jannet Chen

Jannet Chen

Jannet is an undergraduate student at UCSD working on a major in Public Health and a minor in General Biology. Jannet is a student research assistant who helps out parts of the different studies offered at CHEAR. Prior to assisting at CHEAR, Jannet helped out in another study focusing on antidepressant treatments among veterans. In the future, Jannet hopes to dovetail all that she has learned in the field of nutrition, particularly obesity. ​​

Chear profile picture

Emily Chung

​Emily is an undergraduate at University of California, San Diego. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Cell Biology and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. At CHEAR, she has assisted the studies iROC and FRESH. Outside of CHEAR, she is a Foundation Ambassador for Chi Omega Fraternity as well as a Scripps Memorial Hospital Volunteer and an active member of various clubs such as Biology Student Scholars Association and UCSD Flying Samaritans. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, music, and yoga. Following graduation at UCSD, she plans to pursue a career in medicine where she can continue to serve and provide aid to society.​

Chear profile picture

Natalie Alamo

Natalie is a third year undergraduate student at UCSD. Natalie is pursuing a degree in Cognitive Science specializing in the clinical aspects and also minoring in Psychology. Her goal is to graduate with a B.S. and then attend graduate school. Her main area of interest are cognitive disorders in children. Natalie’s role as a research assistant is to provide support for the staff and for the studies that are conducted at CHEAR. Outside of work and school she enjoys running, hiking, and spending time outdoors.

Cathy Dao

Cathy Dao

Cathy- also commonly known as Cat - is a research assistant at CHEAR and an undergraduate student at UCSD majoring in Human Biology. Cat is originally from Torrance, CA and graduated from North High School in 2013. She enjoys volunteering and has served as a volunteer at PLCM medical center in the department of Labor and Delivery, as well as a children's tutor at her local public library. At UCSD she is involved in MEMO and Kyrie Eleison. During her free time, Cat likes laughing, spending time with her family, and catching up with friends. In the future, she aspiresto become a pediatrician, work with organizations like Doctors Without Borders, as well as travel the world.

Samantha Pecenka

Samantha Pecenka

Samantha is currently a freshman at UCSD majoring in Human Biology. At CHEAR, she is a research assistant working with children in the FAB study as well as with adults in the PACIFIC study. She administers assessments and helps with data. Samantha is also a member of Revelle Hall Association, Biological Sciences Student Association, and Flying Samaritans. As a member of Flying Samaritans, she attends clinic trips to Ensenada, Mexico, providing free health care to the impoverished. In the past, she has devoted a lot of her time volunteering at Kaiser Permanente in the Observation Treatment Unit. Samantha hopes to one day work in at hospital as a Cardiologist or a Cardiovascular surgeon. Her personal interests include exploring, listening to music, and superheros (especially Batman).

Michael Doherty

Michael Doherty

Michael Doherty graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelors of Science in Public Health. He is a community outreach assistant, and helps with various roles throughout the CHEAR lab. When Michael is not working, he is usually volunteering his time for various non-profits like the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross. During his down time he loves to read and write down his thoughts. Very optimistic of the future of the world, Michael dreams of doing his small part to make the world a better place. We plans to work for a non-profit company, and travel the world whenever he has the time.