Jessica Thomas, LCSW

Research Project Coordinator

Jessica Thomas graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Arts in French and from the University of Chicago with a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration (equivalent to Master of Social Work). Prior to discovering the world of research, Jessica worked primarily with children and adolescence in community and school settings. She initially came to Northwestern University to work on a study involving a technology-based intervention for men with advanced prostate cancer. During this study, Jessica learned that she enjoys group work with older adults, and that the psychosocial aspects of living with cancer are often just as challenging as the physical aspects, if not more so.  Jessica has also contributed to the adaptation and development of a similar intervention for gay and bisexual men and trans women living with both HIV and cancer, as well as other cancer-focused translational research work. Most recently, Jessica has started working with a neuroscience lab, using her clinical skills to administer cognitive function and memory screening tasks. Jessica has not yet worked with couples going through the diagnostic process for cancer, so the Couples Cope study will be an exciting learning opportunity for her. She also oversees the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy study. When not at work, Jessica enjoys traveling, taking long walks, listening to music and podcasts, and spending time with her family (in particular, FaceTiming with her adorable nieces and nephews).

Pearl Ye

Research Assistant

Pearl Ye graduated from Rice University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences in 2018. Recently, she graduated from the University of Chicago Master of Arts in the Social Sciences Program, where she worked on a master's thesis project examining how immune and social motivations compete or work synergistically to influence one's affective states after exposure to social threat. With prior research experiences in psychoneuroimmunology and psychophysiology, she has developed interests in navigating the impact of chronic stress and experience of major life stressors on mental and physical health disparities. In particular, she hopes to explore the role of psychosocial and demographic characteristics as determinants of mental and physical health outcomes in ethnic/racial minority populations. Working for the Couples Cope study is an invaluable opportunity for her to learn more about how individuals cope with a stressful experience and build resilience together. In the future, she plans to apply to clinical health-related PhD programs and develop well-informed interventions to address mental and physical health disparities as an independent researcher. When she is not reading papers, coding data, or thinking about what new snacks to try, she can be found watching random TV shows, exploring new Chicago neighborhoods by foot, and cooking too much food.  

Ashley Maras is a first year medical student at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. She recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Throughout her undergraduate career, she was involved in health disparities research focused on developing and implementing a culturally tailored childhood obesity intervention in the Latinx community. In medical school, Ashley is pursuing research in health disparities focusing on the cultural aspects that affect quality of life for Latinx cancer survivors. As the daughter of a Honduran immigrant and a cancer survivor herself, this research hits close to home for Ashley. It is a great opportunity for her to explore potential solutions for the barriers faced by minorities within the healthcare system. In her free time, Ashley loves to go to the movies, explore new places in Chicago with friends, and watch TV.

Ashley Maras

Medical Student Researcher

Caroline Leong recently graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. After taking multiple social and positive psychology courses during her undergrad career, Caroline became more interested in exploring the science behind relationships and how positive psychology interventions can be used to increase general wellbeing. She plans to begin medical school in 2020 and is taking the next two years to gain more research and clinical experience, as well as to travel. While interning at Northwestern’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Caroline will be working on the Coupless Cope study along with studies analyzing the use and effects of juice cleanses, cannabidiol (CBD), and resilience interventions. To relax, Caroline loves to take barre classes and try new restaurants with friends.

Caroline Leong

Research Assistant

Fiona graduated from Colorado College with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, and is a current student at Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies Preclinical Psychology Program. Previously, Fiona spent time working in non-profit and pursuing her passion of long distance backpacking. Her interest in psychology developed as she searched for a way to more directly impact the lives of others. This led her to Northwestern’s Preclinical Psychology program, which offered the ideal opportunity to change academic tracks. Fiona is interested in how the principles of positive psychology can be applied in the clinical setting, and is particularly curious about the impact of meaning and purpose on health outcomes, life satisfaction, and overall wellbeing. She plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology. Fiona is excited to contribute to the Couples Cope study at Northwestern’s Department of Medical Social Sciences where she can both develop her research skills and contribute to the understanding of the emotional impacts of a cancer diagnosis. In addition to this working on this study, Fiona volunteers at Northwestern’s Social Cognition and Intergroup Processes lab under Dr. Sylvia Perry, and works as a Research Assistant at Children’s Research Triangle. In her free time, Fiona enjoys volunteering at PAWS Chicago, going on urban bike adventures, sampling Chicago’s breweries, and hunting down the best vegan food in the city. ‚Äč  

Fiona Horner

Research Assistant

Esther Kwon graduated from Northern Marianas College with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She got her Master of Arts in Educational Ministries from Trinity International University, where she also studying a PhD in Educational Studies. Her dissertation focuses on critical thinking development in first generation college students. During her graduate studies, a family member’s health crisis kindled Esther’s interest in medicine. In June 2019, Esther enrolled in Northwestern University’s postbacc pre-medicine program in order to pursue medicine after her doctoral studies. Her involvement in Dr. Moreno's studies (Couples Cope, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Head and Neck Cancer) within the Department of Medical Social Sciences has been an indispensable opportunity for her on her path to becoming an empathetic physician. Listening to the narratives of cancer patients enrolled in these studies, and observing and taking part in the team’s thoughtful communications with the patients, Esther has been learning how to approach medicine from the patients’ perspective. She enjoys these studies’ integration of social science and medicine as well. In her free time, Esther loves to cook Korean food, take walks, and watch documentaries on health, architecture, and education.

Esther Kwon

Research Assistant


Julienne E. Bower, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

David Cella, PhD, Northwestern University

Elaine O. Cheung, PhD, Northwestern University

Ann Marie Flores, PT, PhD, Northwestern University

Sarah C. Flury, MD, Northwestern University

Sarah M. Friedewald, MD, Northwestern University

William J. Gradishar, MD, Northwestern University 

James W. Griffith, PhD, Northwestern University

Sheetal M. Kircher, MD, Northwestern University

Shilajit D. Kundu, MD, Northwestern University

Joshua J. Meeks, MD, PhD, Northwestern University

Bharat B. Mittal, MD, Northwestern University

Judith T. Moskowitz, PhD, MPH, Northwestern University

Frank J. Penedo, PhD, University of Miami

Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

Edward M. Schaeffer, MD, PhD, Northwestern University

Annette L. Stanton, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

David Victorson, PhD, Northwestern University

Betina Yanez, PhD, Northwestern University

© 2023 by Patricia I. Moreno, PhD.