Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Preventive Medicine

Spring Laboratory

Our Research

The Spring Lab conducts research to test approaches to weight loss and smoking cessation using wearable devices and apps. Our work seeks to foster healthy lifestyles and optimize interventions to reduce risk factors for disease.  

Ongoing Studies

Current trials Opt-In and SMART are part of the lab's work in intervention development to reduce unhealthy diet and activity behaviors related to obesity. Although employing different methodologies, both studies aim to determine the optimal combination of treatment components that will maximize weight loss while minimizing resource consumption. Our work explores the efficacy of interventions on diet, exercise, and sedentary behaviors using feedback supplied via mobile technologies, including inexpensive, widely available mHealth tools. 

Familiarly known as the NUYou Study, the mHealth Intervention to Preserve and Promote Ideal Cardiovascular Health funded by the American Heart Association asks if we can develop a mobile health application that freshman and sophomore college students will use significantly, and will it help them to maintain or adopt healthy behaviors?  This social behavioral study is now in its second year. If you would like to learn more or participate, please follow this link: NUYou.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced awards for 11 Big Data (BD2K) Centers of Excellence on Oct. 9, 2014. We're proud to be part of a team of researchers from 11 universities (Cornell Tech, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Michigan, Ohio State, Northwestern, Rice, UCLA, UCSD, UCSF, UMass) and Open mHealth that has been awarded a grant for an NIH Center of Excellence on Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K). The smoking cessation study evaluates the effects of a just-in-time (JIT) stress management intervention. The eating study also uses wrist-worn sensors to generate data. You can find more details on our research agenda and learn about participating for this study and the team on the MD2K website.

Team Science and its sister project EBBP (evidence-based behavioral practices) help bridge gaps among research, policy, and clinical practice in the US and internationally and encourage needed cross-talk among diverse stakeholders. Thanks to support from the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (NUCATS), a team of faculty and staff at the Spring Lab are now involved in the Institute’s mission, in particular building on our expertise in the science of team science and creating practical tools that catalyze and empower high-functioning, multi-disciplinary teams.

Major funding comes via grants from the National Institutes of Health, particularly NIDDK, OBSSR, and NHLBI, as well as foundations, such as the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society.

For an overview of the ongoing research and work within Bonnie Spring’s Center for Behavior and Health, visit

Our Team

Research Faculty

Angela Pfammatter, PhD

Angela Pfammatter

Please see Dr. Pfammtter's faculty profile here.

Christine Pellegrini, PhD

Christine Pellegrini

Please see Dr. Pellegrini's faculty profile here.

Frank Vernon, PhD

Frank Vernon

Dr. Vernon is a Research Assistant Professor of Team Science in the Department of Preventive Medicine and NUCATS. He earned his doctorate from the School of Public Health at Indiana University and was a postdoctoral scholar and associate researcher in the Wisconsin HOPE Lab at UW-Madison. His scholarship is in team science, transdisciplinarity, democratizing research, experiential learning, and qualitative inquiry methodology.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Amanda Paluch, PhD

Amanda Paluch

Amanda Paluch, PhD, joined Dr. Bonnie Spring’s Behavioral Medicine research team as a postdoctoral fellow.  As a postdoctoral fellow, Amanda is helping coordinate the Opt-IN Study and SMART study, two NIH funded technology-based weight loss trials.  She completed her Ph.D. in Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health in 2014, focusing on Physical Activity Epidemiology under the advisement of Dr. Steve Blair.  Her work at USC involved utilizing multisensor wearable monitors to quantify health behaviors associated with Energy Balance.  This spurred Amanda’s research interests in promotion of physical activity to prevent chronic disease using wearable sensors and also the statistical evaluation of the complex data driving such technology. 

Kristen Rosen, PhD


Kristen received her PhD in health psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio (2016) and MPH in health promotion and disease prevention from Florida International University (2010). Previously working under Jennifer Sharpe Potter, PhD, MPH at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Kristen’s training included developing and managing community-based trials involving management of chronic pain and substance use disorders, and adapting evidence-based interventions for mobile delivery. Her research interests include community-based research and supporting accessibility and delivery of health interventions using novel technologies and approaches.

Graduate Students

Sara Hoffman

Sara Hoffman

Sara graduated from Grinnell College (IA) in 2012 with a degree in Psychology, and worked in the Social Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Chicago under John Cacioppo and Louise Hawkley from 2012-2013. She joined the Spring Laboratory as a Research Assistant in 2013, and in Fall 2015, was accepted into Northwestern Feinberg's Clinical Psychology PhD program. Sara works primarily on the Opt-IN and SMART interventions in the Spring Lab. Her research interests include obesity and weight loss, social influences on health behavior change, technology-supported interventions, and optimization of behavioral interventions. 

Research Study Coordinators

Gwen Ledford


Gwen came to Northwestern in 2015 as a Research Study Assistant and will now be a Research Study Coordinator in the Department of Preventive Medicine. Her previous experience includes work on an NIH-funded Demonstration Project for HIV prevention at a community health center. Gwen has a bachelor's degree from American University in Washington D.C. 

Research Study Assistants

Sasha Cukier

Sasha Cukier

Sasha Cukier graduated from Emory University where she majored in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and minored in Predictive Health. While at Emory, Sasha was a co-director of speakers for TEDxEmory, a member of Flourish Emory, and an Academic Coach, which allowed her to take an interdisciplinary approach to exploring human behavior. Sasha is currently working on the Opt-IN and SMART studies as a Research Study Assistant, exploring her research interests in Preventive Medicine and behavior interventions.  

Elyse Daly

Elyse Daly

Elyse Daly received her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Lawrence University in 2013. Since then she has been a research study assistant in the Spring Lab working on several studies – such as MBC2, Opt-IN, TRED, PACE, and SMART. She is currently the assessment coordinator for the Opt-IN Study.

Margaret DeZelar

Margaret DeZelar

Margaret graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies. During her time at Loyola, she worked with Dr. Amy Bohnert and the Activity Matters Lab, focusing on body image and self-worth among low-income, urban, ethnic minority girls. Currently, she is working on the Opt-IN Study as a lifestyle coach where she can pursue her interest in behavior change.

Kara DeWalt

Kara DeWalt

Kara DeWalt graduated from the University of Michigan in 2009. She previously volunteered at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in California, where she focused on late-stage bladder and kidney cancer research. Currently, Kara is working on the Opt-IN Study where she completes anthropometric measurements of potential and current study participants and previously worked as a healthy lifestyle coach, assisting participants in achieving their weight loss goals. Outside of Spring Lab, Kara has focused the majority of her volunteer work in Chicago in underserved areas of the city, where she ultimately hopes to serve in a primary care role in a clinic.

Susan Hood

Susan Hood

Susan has a longstanding interest in the intersection of psychology and biology. She earned her B.A. at Colorado College in Biology and Psychology, after which she researched changes in evoked potentials in Schizophrenic and Parkinson’s patients under Dr. Adolf Pfefferbaum and Dr. Judith Ford at Stanford University. She went on to earn her PhD in Neuroscience under Dr. Neena Schwartz in Northwestern University’s Institute for Neuroscience, conducting research in sex differences in the control of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Currently she is an assistant coordinator for the NUYou study about the cardiovascular health of college students that uses a mobile App.

Alexa Mitsos

Alexa Mitsos

Alexa is a recent graduate from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Human Physiology and minors in Spanish and Sociology. She joined the Spring Lab in May 2016 as a Research Study Assistant and hopes to gain valuable experience in the research field. Her top interests are in obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. 

Hannah Rumsey

Hannah Rumsey received a BS in Psychology and a BA in Music from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. She previously worked as a Research Coordinator/Assistant at VCU, studying the biological and subjective effects of cigarettes and e-cigarettes. She also conducted her own research study on anxiety’s effect on muscle activation and fatigue in trumpet players, which was published in the Medical Problems of Performing Artists research journal. Currently she works as a Research Study Assistant for the SMART study in Dr. Bonnie Spring’s lab. 

Shirlene Wang

Shirlene Wang

Shirlene Wang is a Research Study Assistant who works as a health coach for the Opt-In study. She recently received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University where she double majored in Psychology and Medicine, Health, and Society and minored in dramatic literature/theatre history. At Vanderbilt, she concentrated on health behaviors and health sciences and hopes to continue working in the area of preventive medicine and health behavior change. 

Sean Arca

Sean Arca

Sean Arca (B.S.) is a Designer specializing in web and mobile user interfaces and user experiences. He enjoys finding beautiful and creative solutions for every research study’s needs. Sean is a distinguished graduate of The Startup Institute, located at 1871 in Chicago and has now accumulated over 2 years of experience working with tech startups and the multiple studies he’s involved in.

Tech Team

Gleb Iakovlev

Gleb Iakovlev

I am the lead software engineer with background in both medicine and engineering. Currently I am helping with architecting, developing, and prototyping  Web, Android and iOS applications for multiple behavioral intervention studies in the Spring Lab  . I graduated from Russian State Medical University, faculty of Medical Cybernetics with combined track in medicine and engineering. In the past I was involved in the research and development of an early diagnostic tool for Parkinson's Disease patients at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago using mobile devices and wireless sensors. Previously I had about 3 years of industry experience working as a software engineer/system analyst at Healthcare IT department in the top IT integrator company in Russia - Croc Inc.

Gene McFadden

Gene McFadden

H. Gene McFadden has been Data Manager for Spring Lab since 2006, contributing to each of the lab’s R01-funded randomized clinical trials during that time. Gene’s research interests include health and behavioral analytics, psychometrics, and assessment. Prior to coming to Spring Lab, Gene did Teratology research in the Developmental Neuropsychology Laboratory of Dr. William Pizzi at Northeastern Illinois University.

Phillip Rak

Phillip Rak

Phillip Rak is the Team Science Project Manager in the Spring Lab. He has his MBA in IT Management from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater and has spent many years in a blended role as a web developer and project manager. He has a passion for analyzing legacy systems and bringing them into the 21st century.

Joseph C. Subida

JC Subida

J.C. is a software developer with a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. While there he worked on a Human-Computer Interaction research study focused on measuring a user's perceived application utility. Currently, he is contributing to the NUYou, SMART, and K07 studies.


Howard D. Allen, PhD

Howard Allen

Howard is the Manager of the Behavior Change and Technology Program and provides ongoing support to the coordinators of the Spring Lab’s research studies. He received his B.A. from Northwestern University and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley where he trained with cultural sociologists Victoria E. Bonnell and Ann Swidler.  Currently he is involved in a participant-observation study of a clinical research lab.

Katya Klyachko, PhD

Katya Klyachko

Katya provides coordination and support to the Team Science Program's efforts focused on building multidisciplinary research teams. Prior to joining the TS program, she organized and managed multidisciplinary research programs and grant applications in the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute. Katya received her PhD in Microbiology from University of Illinois and a Masters in Clinical Research and Regulatory Administration from Northwestern University.

Alejandra Povedano

Ale Povedano

Alejandra joined Northwestern’s Department of Preventive Medicine as an Administrative Assistant II, working with Drs. Spring, Carnethon, and Alsurafa. She was born and raised in South Florida and majored in English and Philosophy at Providence College. Since moving to Chicago, she has volunteered with Second Sense, Lincoln Park Village, and the Lincoln Park Community Shelter.


Rich Gaulthier

Rich Gauthier is enrolled in Northwestern’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Clinical Psychology Program. He has worked as a management consultant specializing in consumer psychology and has designed and led many large-scale research projects. He has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, an MA in international political economics and a BA in economics from the Catholic University of America. He is currently a volunteer research assistant in the MD2K project at Northwestern and intends to pursue graduate studies in clinical psychology when he completes his post-baccalaureate coursework.  

Ashley Hanviriyapunt

Ashley Hanviriyapunt recently completed her B.S. in Biology at Bradley University. Previously she worked with Dr. Stover, an associate professor at her alma mater studying spliced leaders in Hydra. She is currently a volunteer research assistant in the NUYou project at Northwestern and is hoping to attend medical school in Fall 2018 with the aspiration of becoming a pediatrician.

Volunteer Opportunites


Dr. Bonnie Spring, a clinical health psychologist in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Feinberg, is currently seeking volunteers for her lab. Volunteers will have the opportunity to partake in a multitude of research experiences within her multidisciplinary lab. Click here for the current volunteer positions available, prerequisites and requirements, and contact information.

Bonnie Spring

Bonnie J Spring, PhD, ABBP

Dr. Spring is a Professor of Preventive Medicine, Psychology, & Psychiatry and also the Director of Northwestern University’s Center for Behavior and Health.  She also serves as the Chief of Behavioral Medicine in Preventive Medicine, Co-Program Leader for Cancer Prevention and Director of Team Science, NUCATS.  For more information, visit

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