Skip to Content

Doctoral Students

Em AdamsEm Adams

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management 
PhD Recreational Therapy
Chair: Dr. Marieke Van Puymbroeck

Em's research has primarily focused on leisure constraints and constraint negotiation. She is currently studying the applications of positive psychology to improve leisure constraint negotiation, and promote high quality of life for older adults. Em's dissertation will explore how yoga interventions for older adults effect the frequency and intensity of positive emotions for older adults, and how positive emotions relate to negotiating perceived leisure constraints.

Sruthy AgnisarmanSruthy Agnisarman

Department of Civil Engineering
PhD – Construction Engineering and Management
Chair: Dr. Kapil Chalil Madathil

Sruthy has done a number of research projects investigating the barriers that prevent older adults from using telemedicine platforms. Further, she co-authored a paper investigating the needs of informal caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients through content analysis. You can read more about Sruthy’s research interests here.

Felicia BowensFelicia Bowens

Parks Recreation and Tourism Management
PhD – Online Recreational Therapy Program
Committee Chair: Dr. Brent Hawkins
Committee Members: Dr. Marieke Chancellor, Dr. Brandi Crowe, Dr. Cheryl Dye

“Moving Beyond Medicine - HeartMath for symptom management of Lupus: Implications for Recreational Therapy”

Lupus can have a major impact on quality of life.  For many older adults, in addition to decreased mobility, the effects can dramatically limit independence.  This loss of independence can be due to incontinence, instability with walking, anxiety, stress, or depression. Most often, the remedy to alleviate secondary symptoms of Lupus is medication.  HeartMath offers an alternative to the traditional management of symptoms.  The purpose of my research will be to investigate the impact of HeartMath on the management of symptoms of Lupus and explore the impact of this intervention on the ability to decrease or manage symptoms.

Janet DonnellyJanet Donnelly

PhD - Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Committee Chair – Dr. Mary Anne Taylor 
Committee Members – Dr. Jennifer Bisson, Dr. Cheryl Dye, Dr. Patrick Rosopa

“Examination of Objective and Subjective Financial Factors in Predicting Financial and Retirement Satisfaction in Male Retirees”

My research interests stem from seeking a better understanding what impacts post-retirement adjustment.  My dissertation seeks to examine the role of various financial considerations in retirement and financial satisfaction among retired men with a partner or spouse, as financial well-being is an important factor in retiree adjustment. My research also hopes to shed more light on the impact of the Great Recession on adjustment, given the relevance of this event to financial well-being.

Janet Donnelly is a doctoral candidate at Clemson University.  Her dissertation involves examining objective and subjective financial factors in order to predict financial and retirement satisfaction in retirees. Additionally, she worked as a research assistant on the HEHD Interdisciplinary Research Innovations grant, which examined how cognitive and sensory engagement of Alzheimer’s caregivers and care receivers impacts and predicts stress levels.

Brian HelselBrian Helsel

Public Health Sciences
PhD Applied Health Research and Evaluation
Committee Chairs: Dr. Joel Williams and Dr. Karen Kemper

Brian’s research interests are in nutrition and physical activity epidemiology  across the life course. He is interested in exploring an alternative physical therapy care model in older adult fall prevention using the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries (STEADI) framework and group-based wellness classes. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury in older adults over  the age of 65 years and unintentional injuries are the 7th leading cause of death in the elderly. Traditional physical therapy uses home-based exercise following individual therapy, but unsupervised home-based exercise often lacks patient engagement and social  support, which decreases a patient’s motivation to continue the exercise. Discontinuing exercises will exacerbate fall risk, increase the risk for developing chronic disease, and increase the likelihood a patient will need to return for individual therapy.  Brian is also interested in how sarcopenic obesity and frailty syndrome in older adults affects their fall risk and how muscular resistance and balance training can overcome these risk factors.

Snehal LopesSnehal Lopes

Public Health Sciences
PhD Applied Health Research and Evaluation
Committee chairs: Dr. Lu Shi and Dr. Cheryl J. Dye

Snehal has authored a research paper focused on analyzing the needs of caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and the kind of social support mechanisms that caregivers have access to through online communities. The research also helped gain an understanding of how caregivers interact with other people in like situations using technology, and the benefits and problems they experience whilst communicating and seeking help online.

Pai LiuPai Liu

Planning, Design, and the Built Environment
PhD Restoration, Sustainability, and Land Ecology
Committee Chair: Dr. Matthew Powers
Committee Member: Dr. Cheryl Dye, Dr. Ellen Vincent, Dr. Mary Padua

“Culturally Sensitive Senior Center and Chinese Well-being Investigating senior centers designed for Chinese elders in the United States”

Pai’s research interest is to improve the elder care services for ethnic groups living in the United States through the design of the built environment. Elders of minority groups have cultural demands differentiating from the majorities, especially when they gradually aging. Pai’s dissertation will explore the Chinese elderly immigrants’ preference of the outdoor environment in a culturally sensitive care facility setting.    

Kaitlin MuellerKaitlin Mueller

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management
PhD in Recreational Therapy
Chair: Marieke Van Puymbroeck, Ph.D., CTRS, FDRT

Kaitlin's research interests are primarily in transitional care of older adults. She had impactful experiences while working as a recreational therapist in sub-acute rehabilitation that sparked her interest in studying why some older adults flourish or decline in their time of transition from the community into a long-term care facility. Kaitlin has further experience with transitional time of older adults moving from the community into assisted living facilities and assisted living memory care units. Kaitlin's first research study on this topic analyzed family perceptions of stress levels of their loved one when they moved from the community into a long-term care facility. This research is to be furthered in Kaitlin's upcoming dissertation where she wants to explore what recreational therapy psychosocial interventions can help decrease levels of stress for an older adult in times of transition.

Shraddhaa NarasimhaShraddhaa Narasimha

PhD - Human Factors (Department of Industrial Engineering)
Committee Chair – Dr. Anand K. Gramopadhye
Committee Co-Chair – Kapil Chalil Madathil

Shraddhaa’s research primarily focuses on Alzheimer’s patients’ caregivers. Several caregivers look for support on online peer support groups. The motivation and kind of knowledge that is being provided by users on online peer support groups forms the crust of Shraddhaa’s research. The research will further aim to simulate this knowledge from caregivers through a technological medium. This intervention will serve as a means for new caregivers, several of whom are themselves older adults, to experience care giving. In the past, Shraddhaa’s research has focused on the cognitive issues faced by older adults in using video telemedicine systems.

Amal PonathilAmal Ponathil

PhD – Construction Engineering and Management (Department of Civil Engineering)
Chair – Dr. Kapil Chalil Madathil

Amal’s research is focused on learning the effects of aging on the design of interfaces of Family Health History collection tools. Previously, Amal has worked and co-authored a paper on the information sought by caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients by using content analysis.

Caitlin TorrenceCaitlin Torrence

Public Health Sciences
PhD Applied Health Research and Evaluation
Committee chair: Dr. Cheryl J. Dye

Caitlin's primary area of interest is Alzheimer's and dementia research. The negative effects of the disease extend beyond the patient to those who provide care, often family members. Therefore, she is focused on researching and providing evidenced based resources to caregivers and promoting cognitively stimulating activities for those who have dementia.

Alysha A. Walter, MS, CTRS, LVCYTAlysha A. Walter, MS, CTRS, LVCYT

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management
PhD Recreational Therapy
Chair -Dr. Marieke Van Puymbroeck
Committee members - Dr. Jasmine Townsend, Dr. Sandra Linder, and Dr. Arlene Schmid

“Select Psychological and Physical Impacts of Therapeutic Yoga for Informal Caregivers: A Feasibility Study”

My research interest and passion is to improve the lives of older adults through complementary health approaches. Therapeutic yoga is the specific complementary health approach that my dissertation will be on for informal caregivers and their loved one with Alzheimer's disease.